Sage Advice US

Your four-step checklist for refining your business plan

Does your business plan need an update? While a solid plan is important early on, you may find that as you start to actually do business, your plans feel too stifling – or not robust enough. The good news is that it’s YOUR business, so you can set the pace, make changes on the fly – change up your plan.

To get started, follow these four steps to refresh and refine your plans, and your approach to your small business.

Re-evaluate your approach

In the early days of your business, you had a broad idea of who your target market would be. Over time, you’ve gathered experience in who exactly buys your products and services. You should update your business plan to show the shifting demographics of your customers. Then, you’ll want to determine whether your products and services still fit that target market. If not, some changes are in order.

Review your payables

Now that your business has been in place for a while, it’s a good time to take a look at your operating costs. Even if you’re tracking them carefully, some unnecessary expenses can slip through the cracks. Pay special attention to some of your earliest purchases. Back then, you may have invested in products or services that you thought were “must haves.” Get rid of those “nice-to-haves” and put that money back into the business.

Also, consider shifting monthly payments to annual billing, especially if those vendors provide discounts for doing so. Even a few percentage points of savings on multiple bills add up over time. By taking control of your bills with a new business plan, you avoid the dreaded mistake of long-term overpayment.

Raise your prices

While your business plan likely projects steady growth through winning over new clients, consider growing revenue through a new pricing strategy as well. Why? Organizational inertia can work in your favor. If you raise rates strategically, you can probably keep most (if not all) of your clients while still increasing revenue.

Also, take note of the pricing from your competitors. Are you losing out on revenue by charging too little, or are you being severely undercut? The key is to find that sweet spot for your pricing that is fair to your margins as well as your customers.

Refresh your marketing plan

The business plan you created when you launched your business almost certainly includes a marketing plan, and hopefully that plan includes a social media strategy. After all, Facebook and Twitter let your customers speak with you directly. The problem is that what’s popular on the Internet is a moving target. Today’s Instagram may become tomorrow’s MySpace. Where should you focus your time? It depends on where your customers are hanging out. If they are active Snapchat users, for example, you’ll want to refresh your marketing plan to leverage this new platform.

Your business plan is a guide, not a legal document. You’ve got to refine it from time to time. Make it a point to do a quarterly or semi-annual review and refine your plans for better results!