Build a Profitable Business Plan in 2 Hours | Nick Armstrong | Skillshare

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Build a Profitable Business Plan in 2 Hours

teacher avatar Nick Armstrong, I make marketing FUN.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Introduction: 2 hours and 10 pages? Yup.


    • 2.

      Why are most business plans 50 pages?


    • 3.

      Who is your business for?


    • 4.

      What is the value of $1?


    • 5.

      Exercise 1: Create a Mission, Vision, Values Document


    • 6.

      What is a Market Topography Guide?


    • 7.

      Exercise 2: Create a Market Topography Guide


    • 8.

      What is your scope?


    • 9.

      Exercise 3: Create a Scope Statement


    • 10.

      Peer Review Is Important


    • 11.

      Financial Plan Overview


    • 12.

      Exercise 4: Create a Financial Plan


    • 13.

      Marketing systems overview


    • 14.

      Exercise 5: Create a Marketing Plan


    • 15.

      Wrap-up and A Note On Timing


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About This Class

The average business plan is about 30-50 pages according to the Small Business Association. Yikes!

If you’re a freelancer or solopreneur, writing 50 pages about your business and all the things you “plan” to do will take up so much time you’ll have none left to find clients!

What if you could create everything you needed to effectively guide your business with just 10 pages in around 2 hours?

It’s time to get real. Bootstrapping freelancers and solopreneurs don’t need crazy-long documents. What they need are actionable plans like trail maps that point you in the right direction. When’s the last time you saw a 50-page trail map?

In this class, we’ll cover the 5 most important planning documents you need to have at the start of your business: a 1 page financial plan, a 2-3 page marketing plan, a 2-3 page market topography guide, a 1-2 page statement of services/pricing/scope, and a 1-page mission/vision/values statement. As a special bonus, I've also included my marketing campaign planning template.

For our math-challenged friends, that’s about 10 pages MAX. I’ll guide you through each step in the process, walking you through the exact same documents I’ve created for my own business.

And, just like how trail maps don’t stay valid forever, your business plan sure won’t either. Everything we create will be designed to last about 6-months before you’ll want to review and update.

Ready to have a business plan that’s both useful and makes sense? Let’s get started.

PS - for extra help and support while working through the exercises, please join my BrainyBiz Facebook Group!

Who is this guy and what does he know about business?
I’m Nick Armstrong: the Geek-in-Chief behind WTF Marketing, dad, author, Ignite, PechaKucha, Startup Week, and TEDx speaker, audio drama enthusiast, and award-winning entrepreneur. Through WTF Marketing and partner organizations, I’ve served a wide array of happy clients ranging from mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 100’s over the last 10 years. I’ve co-organized community events like Fort Collins Comic Con, Startup Week Fort Collins, TEDxFoCo, Ignite Fort Collins, LaidOffCamp/CareerCamp, PodCamp Fort Collins, and more. My local efforts landed me a prestigious spot as one of BizWest’s 40 Under Forty for 2016 and the Colorado Association of Libraries’ Library Community Partnership Award in 2018.

If you're launching something new, my classes can help you:

Meet Your Teacher

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Nick Armstrong

I make marketing FUN.


I'm Nick Armstrong and I make small business FUN.

I'm the Geek-in-Chief behind WTF Marketing, Fort Collins Startup Week, and Fort Collins Comic Con. I'm a dad, author, speaker at Ignite, PechaKucha, and TEDx, audio drama enthusiast, and award-winning serial entrepreneur.

More than anything, I love to make people laugh, especially while I'm teaching.

I want YOU to learn how to have fun in every aspect of your business and my classes are built specifically around fun, actionable projects.

Ready to make your business fun? Check out my courses below...

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: 2 hours and 10 pages? Yup.: I have a question for you, how long is your business plan? Did you say something like 25,30 pages? If so, it's ridiculous. Did you know that the average small business business plan according to the SBA, the Small Business Administration, is 30 to 50 pages long? How long does that take to write? How much dust is that collecting between the time where you write it and the time when you actually read it? I think that's ridiculous. A small business owner, a freelancer, going out and writing a 50 page document for their own business amidst client work and marketing and trying to get their next sale, that's going to take months. What if I told you that you could plan everything you needed to know in the next six months around your business plan with just 10 pages or less? What if I told you and it only takes you two hours to complete? It's true. That's what we're going to be doing in this class. I'm going to walk you through every single document you need to have. I've got all the templates here in Skillshare right here for you to be able to use, and they're the exact same documents that I use. So who am I to be talking about business planning? Well, I'm Nick Armstrong. I'm the geek and chief behind WTF Marketing. I've been in business for 10 years serving Fortune 100s, mom and pop shops, local businesses, you name it. I'm an award winning entrepreneur and through Fort Collins Comic-Con, alongside an amazing team, we've raised a $100,000 for the [inaudible] Public Library districts, Children's Literacy Efforts. But that's enough about me. I want see what you do, when you have the leverage of really good plans behind you. For the next six months, you're going to have the most organized plan you will ever have in your business to date, and you're going to be able to repeat that in the next six months and the next six months after that. Why six months? Because trail maps don't stay valid forever, your business plan absolutely will not stay valid for more than six months at a time. Speaking of trail maps, when's the last time you saw a 50 page trail map? If you're ready to start your business plan off on the right foot, or even rewrite your documents so that you have a better idea of where you're going in the next six months, let's get started. I want you to do your first assignment right now. Go into the comment section, tell me about your business. Whatever you want to talk about, just say, "I do this," or "My business is all about this." Tell me about your business in the comment section. Go do it right now, and I'll see you in a minute. 2. Why are most business plans 50 pages?: Before we get too far in, I just want to make sure that you did your first exercise and you commented in the comment section about your business, who you are, what you do, what your brand is, your website. I really do want to get to know you and see how you progress through this course. So please stop right now, press pause and go and do that. I'll sit here and wait, don't worry about it. Why do you think that most business plans according to the SBA, are 30-50 pages long? I think that if you are a manufacturing or product-based business, you absolutely need to talk about logistics, and supply and demand, and who your vendors are, and who your suppliers are, and that can take up a lot of space. Service-based entrepreneurs though, only need to know what's going to be happening about the next six months. As long as they have some long-term goals to guide them toward the right process, the next six months are critical in terms of guiding and making minor course corrections to those big picture goals. So if you are in the realm of 30-50 pages, you're just righting a fluff. But if you're in the realm of about 10 pages or so, you're much more action-oriented, you're ready to go, and you're focusing on that lean methodology of just the information I need to know at the moment to course-correct towards my larger goals. That's what we're aiming for with these 10 pages and that's why I think that you don't need a massive business plan. Even if you're looking for investment, if you're looking for somebody to come and fund your business, then you might need a little bit more information, they'll need to see some bank statements, they'll need to see your cash flow analysis, they'll need to see all of the other planning elements to it. But if you're just a bootstrapper you don't really need to worry about those pages in your business plan and it serves as an actionable plan for your next six months. Every six months, you make minor course corrections to get you back to your longer-term goals. No fluff, no dust collecting documents sitting on a desk somewhere. All it is, is an actionable plan with the next six months of goal posts that help you course correct, in order to get to your long-term goals. If you can achieve your long-term goals by way of your short six-month business plan, it is working exactly the way that it should. In the next lesson, we're going to talk about who is your business for? It's the second most important question in marketing and we're going to talk about how to answer it. 3. Who is your business for?: [MUSIC] Without delving too much into the specifics of marketing, the second most important marketing question that you can ever answer is, who is your product or service for? If you know how your target customer perceives the world, and in particular how they frame the problem or the issue that you're attempting to solve with your product or service, then you know how to word it to them effectively. Let's take mouse traps as an example. A lot of folks may not want anything to do with mouse being in their house. They might call a service provider to tackle them. Now, some folks who are hands-on, they're going to go out and they're going to find a particular type of mouse trap that fits their worldview. If they like animals, they're going to want a catch and release type mouse trap. If you think about how your customer perceives the problem in their worldview and their environment around them, how they talk about that product or service is how you need to talk about your solution. You need to convey the thing that your business provides to them in their own terms. Otherwise, they'll never know to find you. They'll never think about how to work with you or how to find you, because they'll be searching for something completely different. If you've been in business for a while, you might have some idea about the demographics and psychographics of who you're trying to work with and who likes to work with you and who you like to work with, and you've got testimonials talking about that fact, you're on the right track. If you're just starting from scratch, you might not have any idea about that. You'll have to look at examples that already exist in your niche or somewhere else in the marketplace that are identifying and tackling similar problems and how they're talking to in addressing their customers. Hopefully you're picking examples of folks that are already successful doing those things. Maybe the most important consideration among all of these different ideas about who your target customer is, is what is their aspiration identity? Who are they hoping to become? What is the ultimate version of that person? What will make them most proud? When we see things in the marketplace that are identified to us as things that will help us quickly get to our aspiration identity. We like to buy those things. We like to take ownership of those things. We like to hire those service professionals because it gets us closer to our aspiration identity. Nobody likes to have the run-down house so they find a painter who does a really nice job or specializes in really nice colors and helps them pick out a really good color scheme. Maybe they're already artsy and they just need somebody to implement their exact design specification. They find a painter who will not do any of the design work. They'll do it exactly on budget, exactly on time, and they'll submit all the professional proposals for the HOA to approve and whatever else. But they're closely identifying to the thing that will get them to the next step of their aspiration identity. That's why who is it for is the second most important question in marketing. In just a minute, we're going to talk about the first most important question in marketing, which is, what is the value of a $? [MUSIC] 4. What is the value of $1?: Let's talk about the most important question in marketing. If not in business, then at least in marketing. What is the value of a? When somebody gives you a $ , what happens to that $? What happens to their money? What value do they get out of that? I'll show you this graph. This is a person's quality of life. Over time, their quality of life stays stagnant until they hit a pin point. That pin point is an opportunity for growth, for them to get closer to their aspirational identity. When you help them, their quality of life goes from down below to way up high. It hopefully, sustains if you've done a good job at helping them maintain their new quality of life, where you've provided services or other things like that to help continue their quality of life upward. That point a pin and how the target customer describes it is what we talked about in the last lesson. This lesson is all about the difference between those two points of quality of life, and how your target customer talks about the difference between those two points, and what changed in their life to make that thing possible? Ideally, it's you, maybe you helped them discover something new about themselves, or you equip them with a new tool, or you helped them with something that they were trying to overcome and they finally did it. Those words that they use to describe the difference between those two points of quality of life, are your most effective marketing tools. When somebody says, "I gave so and so a $, and they made my life quality go from here to here, " When they use those specific terms about how you change their life, that's the ultimate testimonial, and that's how you market the solution to folks who are struggling with that same problem in your target demographic. When someone gives you a $ , they're hoping for a particular type of leverage. It's so easy to get them to pay you money if they understand the leverage. But they can only do it if you put it in the terms that they understand that match their worldview, that match their understanding of the problem, and it closely ties to their aspirational identity. When marketers advise you, you really shouldn't market to everyone. This is what they're talking about. What they mean is, you will see the most success if you closely tie your description of the problem, your description of the solution, and your description of the leverage that they get when a customer pays you a $. If those three things closely align to the customers worldview, and understanding and their aspirational identity, no questions asked. They'll get you that money right away. I know this is a heady topic, especially combined with the who's it for, and what's the value of a $? These are big questions that you have to answer. Luckily, most of these things can be framed in 1-2 sentences about what you believe and what you understand about the world. In the next lesson, we're actually going to cover one of the template documents. The mission, vision values document. Each one of those aspects is only going to be one sentence long. You're going to get 75 percent of the way to where you need to be to answer those questions of who's it for, and what's the value of a $. These things will really help you articulate. If you're not happy with how these turn out, remember that you can rewrite them. They're only a sentence long. They're going to be difficult sentences to write, but every six months, you're going to get a chance to redo them. Don't fret or sweat too hard on this. Just get it as close as you possibly can to your understanding of the business, and you're understanding the customer demographic that you have right now. 5. Exercise 1: Create a Mission, Vision, Values Document: This is the mission of vision values template and to be honest, all of these templates are not going to be a perfect fit for your business. Feel free to modify them to meet your needs. Also, this type of format works really well for me, but it may not work so well for you. If you're more of a visual learner or like to put things on a whiteboard instead, feel free to do that and use that to help mold your business plan. Really, here's no wrong way to create a business plan as long as you're getting the right questions answered. First, let's talk about your mission. A mission is really a 1-2 sentence, short description about why you exist and it's easy to understand in plain English. Take Honest Tea, for example, to create and promote great tasting, healthy organic beverages. That's their mission. Or IKEA's; to create a better everyday life for the many people. Moving on a vision; It's a 1-2 sentence. This is how the world should look statement that's easy to understand. For instance, Charity Water believes that we can end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life's most basic need, clean drinking water. Super-simple vision, easy to understand, easy to get what they do. Let's talk about your value. When somebody gives you a dollar what happens? When you combine your vision plus your mission and apply it to action, this is usually called the value proposition. You're going for a cause effect. Square's "start selling today" and Evernote's "remember everything", are really good and pithy, but they're not specific enough for our exercise and they're not good enough to answer a question for your customer. When somebody gives you a dollar, what happens? I would actually modify Mailchimp's value to be when a Mailchimp customer subscribes, we can boost their e-mail based conversion by 10 percent because our e-mails are structured better, they're prettier and they have a higher delivery rate. It's a really simple way to understand what happens if you give Mailchimp a dollar. Who is your business for? What are their rough demographics? Their needs and their wants? How do they explain the problem? How do they understand the solution? What context do they view the problem through? What do your customers believe? When we ask questions like what are the contexts that they understand the problem through? What we really mean is, what's their worldview? Is the problem catastrophic or is it just a minor inconvenience? Does it make social activities more awkward? Does it limit them from being able to do something? When you answer that question and consider the context of how they view the solution, you'll understand better how to serve them and where your position as a solution fits. Equally important to who is your business for is who is it not for? What do those folks believe? Remember, this is not a good versus bad thing. Your business can't be for everyone. Your solution is not going to be right for everyone, and that's just fine. It's going to be great for the people that it's for. Finally, what do you bring to the table that's unique? This is usually referred to as your unique selling proposition. In this case, it's specifically worded around the people who you're business is for. Avis' 'we try harder' is not necessarily a specific as it needs to be, but FedEx is "when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.", is very specific and that's perfect. Let's also look at TOMS Shoes, "For every pair of shoes a customer purchases, the company donates a pair to a child in need." That's a huge benefit for people who are community minded. As you work through this document, please remember to not get frustrated. It's going to be super easy to think that you've maybe got the wrong answers or to get frustrated with trying to cut downwards here or there. Don't do that. Done is better than perfect. Get it close enough. Get the answer down on paper that you think is as close as possible to the right answer and don't worry about it because in 3-6 months you're going to be looking at it again and updating it as you have more information. This is especially true if you're just starting out in business and don't know what to do next. Just getting some basic answers down will put you ahead of the game by far. 6. What is a Market Topography Guide?: One of the most useful features of maps is that they show you the topography, or the layout of the land that you're going to be going over. When you explore a market for your business, you need to know the exact same information. Are there cliffs? Are there waterfalls? Are there places that bears are that I shouldn't go? When you think about the marketplace for your business, you need to create a topography guide for yourself. Who are your competitors? Who do they serve? What do they offer? How did they describe the problem that you're solving? How did they talk about the aspirational identity? How did they weave your customers aspirational identity into their narrative? How did they word those things, and what bothers you in particular about the marketplace as it exists? What bothers you about your competitors as they're solving the problems? Do you think that they're ignoring a crucial aspect of the post service phase? The customer is always end up relapsing into the need. Is there some aspect of their service model that drives you nuts? What is it that you would change, if you could change anything? Where areas on the map where it's like here there be dragons, because people haven't explored them so much. What are the cracks in the map that people haven't gone to solve yet? Where can you find opportunities that exist on the topography as you understand it? If you're just getting started, you might have to do a little bit of study on this. You might have to go see your local business librarian to find out who exists in this marketplace. What are they doing? How are they talking about the problems, how are they solving? You might have to do a little bit of competitor analysis to find out how your competitors are talking to their clients and their customers, and it may not be exactly aligned. You may not be perfectly aligned to your competitors, and hopefully you're not. Because if they've already got a lock on the market, you might need to change your business plan, and it's really telling to see things out in the marketplace that already exist, already making money or not, and are successful or not. Because it helps guide you to make those minor course correction so that you can achieve your goals, and also helps you understand the scale that's possible in your goals. Because maybe there's somebody out there who's already doing a version of what you would like to do, but maybe not exactly and they're already 10 times as successful as you had ever hoped to be. Now you can adjust your goals. You might know that it takes an extra 10 years or another five years or an extra two years to get to where you want to be. But if you study the marketplace and create this market topography, you'll know where you need to be, and where you can exist in this marketplace with a unique perspective and a unique value. 7. Exercise 2: Create a Market Topography Guide: This is the market topography guide, template, inside or most of the questions that I found useful when I was answering them for my own business. We start with how big is the market and how many customers are there? Do we target locally, regionally, or globally? Are we location dependent? What are the dangers in the marketplace? Are they bothersome, or are they helpful? Are there opportunities or trends that we want to be able to take advantage of? What's the source of those dangerous, and trends, and opportunities. Next, let's talk about the demographics of our customers. How many different types of customers are there? Are there different age ranges? Are there different beliefs or family compositions? For each, what are their needs? How do they talk about the solution? How do they talk about the problem? How do they talk about the context of the problem and the solution? Are they even aware that there's a problem? Or are they aware that there are solutions in the market? Is there confusion, rumors, roadblocks to understanding all of these things are opportunities that you might be able to take advantage of and curve out a unique position in the market. Next, Who are your competitors? For each competitor, you can talk about their specialty, their price range, what they're better at [inaudible]. But the thing that I find really valuable is, what drives us and the customers nuts? By identifying the things that drive you nuts, you might have identified some of the things that drive customers nuts as well. Next, we talk about who our partners and vendors and suppliers are. For each we list their specialty, price range, and time frame for delivery. What are some things that they do and don't do, and what do they include as part of their package? Or what are some issues or warning signs that things are going off the tracks? When you write this down about your partners and vendors and suppliers, it makes it really clear when to identify problems and when you might need to switch vendors or partners. Finally, you can also address viable alternative providers. For instance, somebody might not want an entire website redesigned. They might just want some graphic design done and in that case, that graphic designer is a viable alternative provider to you, if you are a web designer. Having this information down is super helpful for your customers when you need to refer them out to an external provider. You'll know exactly how much somebody costs and what the range should be for the customer when you give that information. All of this information combined, gives you a really nice map of the marketplace. It also allows you to make really good recommendations to your customers about who to work with, who to avoid working with, and also what information about your business that they might possibly need. 8. What is your scope?: Now that you understand your market topography and your place in the marketplace, let's talk a little bit about your scope and what you like to do. How is it that you do your work? What is it that you include? What is it that you don't like to do? What is it that you charge extra for or that you hate so much that you want to outsource it. Just like there are many types of doctors, you don't necessarily want to go to a general practitioner when you need a specialist. Maybe you are a specialist in your particular type of field. There are lots of different types of graphic designers. There are lots of different types of writers and editors. There are lots of different types of coaches. You don't go to a finance coach if you have a marketing problem. Along with that, what do you charge and why? Are you a premium brand? Are you going more for the commodity approach? Do you charge more for certain things that you can leverage and take up less of your time. How do you charge? What is your pricing structure? What things do you include in that pricing structure? What things are excluded that the customer has to pay more for? What things will help your customer get closer to their aspirational identity? Are there any got you moments in your pricing based on your customers worldview that you need to be aware of? All of these little considerations are only useful if you've done the previous exercises. If you know roughly how your customers perceive you, your business, your solution in the marketplace, how they perceive the problem, you know exactly where those got you moments are going to be, or at least they'll become really apparent as soon as you start offering your product or service in the marketplace. People will tell you, "I don't like that," that you charge more for that. Or they will roll their eyes at you when you list your prices off. Finally, what things do you outsource? It's okay not to be a jack of all trades. It's okay to be a specialist. If you decide that you are a specialist with a couple of different specialties, that's just fine too. But you need to know where to draw the line between your business and where you need to hand off to a partner business to help finish up the thing that the customer is trying to accomplish. Because a web designer who just focuses on code but not design, is going to need a graphic designer to help get the customer to where they need to go in order to complete the project. If you don't have that aspect and you also aren't working with a copywriter or an SEO person, or a web host or any of those other services and you just do the code, then you're going to need all of those other people, those puzzle piece businesses that align with you to help you finish up that project. Those partners are helping you deliver the aspirational identity. If you only deliver half of product or an incomplete product, you're not going to be able to charge as much as otherwise. That needs to be incorporated into your business plan. You need to be honest about those things. All of these questions help you determine your scope. Your scope is one of the most important things in your business because it tells you what you will do and what you won't do. If you decide to take on a project for something that you are not good at and it's not in your business plan, and you haven't adjusted for it, or accounted for it, and you haven't accounted for it and you're struggling, you don't have to look very far to understand why. It's only six months away from you looking at your business plan again and saying, "Man, I really shouldn't have done that because it's not in my business plan, it's not something I want to take on, it's not a service I want to provide." In our next lesson, we're going to outline our scopes specifically and put it on paper so that we know exactly what our business does. 9. Exercise 3: Create a Scope Statement: This is the template for our statement of services, pricing and scope. It outlines the services that you provide and you can actually copy and paste this for each different service that you provide. If your business is product-based, you can feel free to get rid of the service category, and vice versa. Logistical considerations are important in service-based businesses, but you might not have all of these different considerations, or you might have different considerations depending on what kind of business you have. So don't worry about modifying this document to fit your needs. Finally, we have 10 general services and products we don't provide. This is where you figure out what types of things you outsource. If you don't want to handle it in-house, for example, if something that's really frustrating for you personally or if you just don't have the bandwidth or capability to tackle things that are on this list, then you know who to outsource them to, what the rough cost is going to be and who is going to be in charge of that client relationship, which is a huge consideration when you go into partnership with someone. Altogether, it gives you a nice example of what your business does and how much you charge for it and what's included as part of those services or products. It also tells you where your boundaries are and what types of things you'd like to outsource and when you do outsource, who you're going to be working with when you do, and what types of information you need to give to the customer in order to make those decisions. As with all of the templates, if you decide that you need to modify this to include extra information, feel free and let me know what information I was missing, so that I can add it into the next version of this class. Sticking with the idea of don't get frustrated as you're filling out this document, get as close as you possibly can with the information that you have on hand. As things in information change in your business and you learn more based on customer interactions, you might actually have to change up some of this information. For example, if you want to use only one shipping provider as opposed to two or three. 10. Peer Review Is Important: Let's pause here and talk for a minute about the importance of peer review. If you are not a master of finance in your own business, that's okay. Entrepreneurs, especially bootstrapping entrepreneurs end up getting mired in a lot of the different hats that we have to wear. Whether you're the janitor or the CEO or the CFO or the CMO that day. It gets really tiring because when you're trying to do everything yourself, because either you don't have the time, the money, or the ability to outsource just yet. It can be really trying to get that expertise that you need in order to succeed and have the right advice. What I would tell you is that if you're not a master of finance and you're wary about creating the financial plan here, don't be too worried about it. Or if you're not a master of marketing and you're wary about creating the market topography, or the marketing plan, don't worry too much. What is important here is honest intent. That is, that you get what you want down on paper, what you want out of your plan, you need to get that down on paper. The steps may not be perfect, the terminology may not be exactly correct. That's okay. Because if you have peer review where you as a certain type of entrepreneur can go to your fellow entrepreneur and say, I thought about including this in my business plan. Can you review it real quick? In turn, I'll review something in your business plan, or I'll help you write a guest post or I'll help you, whatever your specialty is. I'll help that in trade for doing this other thing. Peer review is a really important tool in your tool belt, because it means that you don't have to be the jack of all trades. You could just have to be good at the thing you're good at and have honest intent written into your other documents, so that you get close enough. You've got the general idea. Then somebody who is specialized in that particular area of expertise can come to you and say, well, you're pretty close. This is what you need to do instead, and this is how we should angle this and all of the specifics that you might not have the specialty to know. They will help you figure it out. Don't sweat the small details. Just get the document done and remember that you're not stuck with something that you write. You are going to look at this again in six months and redo it, or update it or change it as necessary to make a minor course correction to get to your goals. That is as good as we need to get for right now. Done is better than perfect. 11. Financial Plan Overview: The're a lot of various methodologies about how to accept payment into your business and your financial plan when it comes to your business. The most important of these, will probably end up in your contract, how you invoice, when you invoice, what payment methodologies, you accept card or cash, how often your clients can expect to be build? What is the payment structure? Do you get 50 percent up front, 50 percent on completion? Or what is the structure that goes into your project or your hourly rate? How much do you charge for what you do? What's included, what's not included? How much leeway time between sending the invoice and payment do you expect? Have all these things been communicated to your client? The most important questions have been answered, then you can start moving into other aspects of your financial plan, which are things like, how often do your subcontractors get paid if you have subcontractors? How often do your vendors get paid if you have any? Are you leaving enough for your taxes, your healthcare, your insurance, and all of business expenses in your rate? Are you properly setting up your financials? What is your business structure? Are you an LLC, an S Corp, a C Corp? How are you structured? What does that mean for your taxes? Do you pay quarterlies? Do you pay annual? Do you have a plan for how much you need to set aside? Is there a percentage that you need to pull out in order to maintain your ability to have profit and pay taxes, and pay yourself, and all those other things. Now those things sound like niceties. Oh, I want to have a vacation fund and I want to have some savings and I wanted to have a 401 K through my own company. If you're not accounting for those things in your rate, in your project rate or in your hourly rate, those will never happen. One of the best books I've ever seen on this topic is called Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. I will not torture you by spelling his last name, but his website is I mention Mike's book because, along with that methodology is how you set up your accounts. Do you have a business savings account? A business checking account? Do you have a structure of how that money goes and it's allocated into different funds, how do you handle refund requests from your customers? Is't in your contracts? Has it been explained to your customers? What happens if they do request a refund? Whatever policies you put in place have to be fair and actionable. When I say fair, I mean, fair to you and to your clients because if it's not, that word will spread. You want to have your policies clearly written out and that's the importance of having this financial plan. You don't have to account for every scenario, but you do have to account for the major things that will happen. Refunds will happen, bad clients will happen. You need to have a system to account for it, or at least a statement of, this is what I intend to do. Once you've thought through those problems a little bit, let's write them down and put them into the financial plan. 12. Exercise 4: Create a Financial Plan: This is the financial plan template. It outlines how you get paid, in terms of logistics of how you get paid, when you invoice, how the invoices are generated, how much leeway you give customers to pay. For instance, do you charge a late fee, [inaudible] , what payment methods you accept, if you allow for refunds, what types of information gets conveyed to the customers, are customers aware of those rights that they have until they've paid in full and so on. It also outlines useful information about your sub-contractors and vendors. If you create policies in here and write them down and then share them with your vendors and subcontractors, there will be no reason for confusion when you have to outsource a particular aspect of a project. Those disagreements can cost you a lot of time and money and so having a policy written down in place in advance, can save you a huge headache. Finally, we talk about overhead and operational considerations. Paying yourself and paying your taxes are really important, but also having money saved aside for health care costs, insurance and other operational expenses is a good consideration. You have to make sure that you're taking that into account. If you have this plan written down and advance, it makes it a lot easier to save and allocate the money in the ways that you intended, when you get paid by a client. Something to consider here is peer review. If you're not a financial expert and you only have your basic intent written down as opposed to the exact logistics, I think that you've done a good enough job to hand this off to a professional advisor who can then take a look at your work and what your intent was and then write your specifics down for you, to help you consider exactly how to do all of these things and implement them. You might want to talk to your CPA or a financial planner, or even a business consultant to figure out how to answer some of these questions. But as long as you get your intent down in writing, that's the end goal, and done is better than perfect. 13. Marketing systems overview: Let me ask you a personal question, what numbers right now are on your stats report for your business? I don't mean how many Facebook likes you have. What I mean is, what numbers you paying attention to in order to make decisions about your business, to make it more profitable or to have a bigger impact or whatever your goal is. How confident are you that those numbers that you are measuring are the actual correct ones that you should be measuring? See, I think we have a big problem today in marketing and that we have so many stats that we have access to that we can measure. We never really take the time to examine, are those the correct stats that we should be measuring? Do we actually care? What our Twitter engagement percentage is, do we actually care how many likes we have on Facebook and why do we care about those things? If we start asking the right questions, we can build a much smarter marketing strategy that is firmly rooted in action. That's what I'm going to teach you how to do next, but first, I have to talk to you a little bit about the structure of your marketing systems. I always start with an action-oriented plan that's built around smart goals. From there, I create groups of projects called a strategy. The grouping of those projects will always relate to accomplishing a particular smart goal or a goal or two. I always try and group those things together because it allows me to understand how my resources are being allocated. Individual portions of the strategies are called campaigns, and each campaign is a set project with an end and a start, and it has a budget and resources and a to-do list that I have to accomplish in order to make sure that I'm getting to the end. If I have all of those things in place, I have a complete campaign. Before I even start working on the to-do list for the campaign, I think it's really important to ask myself a series of questions. What are the important things to measure and who is this campaign for? Each campaign should have a specific audience and I should be measuring something specific, not necessarily whether something on the to-do list is checked. But if something on the to-do list was checked and if it had an impact and if the campaign as a whole was successful because they answered some more important question, like if we put up a pull tab poster on this particular intersection, do the pull tabs get used? Do people take the thing and call the number that we have on the poster, or is it totally ignored? If so, then either way, we've gathered a useful metric and then we'll know if our marketing on this corner is effective or not. Awhile back, Seth Godin published what I think is a really useful framework for creating marketing campaigns and it's called the hierarchy of success. The way it works is this. First you outline your attitude and approach, which is how you perceive the world and what you intend to do about it. If that sounds a lot like mission vision values, you are spot on. It's just a more action-oriented version of mission vision values. You then outline your goals, which are almost always going to be and should almost always be smart goals that are somewhere in the realm of 6-12 months and maybe a little bit longer, like 18 months, if you can chunk it down. I like to chunk bigger, smart goals that are about 24-18 months in length into smaller sets of goals so that I don't lose focus on what the big picture is. I also don't like to allocate resources for that long because I don't necessarily know that all of the resources I'll need will be there or what type of work will be required in order to gather those resources or if my goal was actually too low or too lofty, and I need to readjust. Setting goals for that length of time can be really tricky and it's better to do it in chunks. Next, Seth talks about the strategy and the tactics. That sounds like strategy and campaigns and execution and measurement. Whenever you have a to-do list in front of you, particularly a marketing campaign to do list, it really helps to ask the question, what matters in this context? That context also has to include the who is it for, and what's my particular value? What's the value of a $ when somebody pays me? Asking those questions with that context, what matters, based on who I'm marketing to, and what they understand of the problem and what my value is in the market place will get you to a metric that will help you become more profitable or more engaged with your audience. That's the ultimate goal of a marketing strategy to begin with. As we work through our marketing plan, you're going to see, attitude, approach, smart goals, strategy, campaigns, and execution and measurement. That's how we create an action oriented marketing plan, that avoids all theory, it avoids all fluff, and it avoids confusion about what we should be measuring and why. 14. Exercise 5: Create a Marketing Plan: This marketing plan template is very action-oriented. We start out with your attitude and approach. Your attitude is what you believe about your customers, the market, and your place in it. Your approach is how you believe you should act in the market based on your attitude and value. Then we outline our smart goals. Smart goals are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely. That is they have a deadline that they have to be completed in. For example, if we want to grow our client base from 15 customers to 25 customers, we have to give it a deadline, March 31st in this case, we have to outline exactly how we intend to do that. We're going to use targeted ad campaigns, expanding a brand to a new city, and launch our new content writing service. Typically, I recommend you don't schedule any more than 3 - 5 goals in a six month period. It's a lot, even if your goals are structured well, remember that strategies are groupings of projects or campaigns that you intend to use to achieve a particular smart goal. Here I've outlined the markets, whether it's an internal you facing strategy or an external customer facing strategy, which smart goal this strategy relates to? What campaigns are part of this strategy? Who's in charge of the overall strategy and can make the decision on whether it's time to quit, or move on, or modify the strategy. What's the total budget and resource allocation for this particular strategy? Finally, when is it time to review and update the strategy? Next I have 2 - 3 campaigns that you can outline per strategy. Now you don't necessarily have to stick to 2 - 3 campaigns in a strategy, but the more projects and campaigns I have in a particular strategy, the more likely it is I did a poor job planning and I need to chunk out my strategy to have a more specific goal in mind. I've included a campaign planning template in the documents to go along with this. But the basics of a campaign should include a timeline, a target market, a goal, what's being measured by whom, and how often? How do we know it's working? A to-do List, a budget, and resources, and who's in charge of deciding when we quit or when to move on. The campaign plan template is really simple and like all of the other templates, it may or may not fit your needs if it's not visual enough, or if it needs to be a little bit more creative we asked different questions. Feel free to modify your campaign template to fit your business needs. Because on our marketing business, I like to give each of my campaigns and strategies code names. I also like to outline the premise, so what am I doing and why? I also talk about specific goals, who's it for, what's important to consider. These are environmental and contexts questions. I also like to know who's in charge of deciding when we're done or when we should quit. For certain campaigns, it's also useful to outline your partners who might have tasks related to getting the campaign done. I also like to guess on impact and my return on investment goals and how to measure the ROI. Typically I can answer the how to measure the ROI question and what return investment goals I have by remembering who's it for and what's important. I also like to outline when a campaign begins and ends and how often it's going to repeat if it ever does. Typically at the beginning of a campaign, I'll also outline how many resources are required if I need to dedicate time or money to it. I also like to outline the to-do list. The to-do list might change as we go along and execute on the campaign, but typically knowing what you're doing before you do it is a good idea. If there are similar examples in the marketplace, I also like to outline those two, so I know not to step on somebody else's creative toes or so I can make a good comparison on ROI. Finally, I like to explicitly define winning and losing, so I know when I'm done or when I need to quit. Even a really simple outline answering just a few of these questions for most of your marketing campaigns, can help you make better decisions and save resources in the long run. 15. Wrap-up and A Note On Timing: Hopefully creating those documents wasn't too hard of a task. Here's what I think that you should do next. Go into your calendar right now and set a three month timer, and a six month timer. In three months and six months, you should review your business plan. See if you're still on track, see if you need to realign your work to your goals or see if you need to change up your goals, because they're not specific enough or they've already been accomplished. You've dedicated all your resources to it. You've done a lot of work. Now, what do you need to change up? What have you learned in the last three or six months that relate to changing up your business plan? Do you need to make minor course corrections to get to your larger goals? Reviewing your business plan every six months is as simple as setting a calendar item to review it, and then making the updates to your business plan, which as we've seen, doesn't take very long to do. As you learn more incorporate it into your business plan. Your business plan can grow with more documents if you need to. I have some documents that are specifically related to my business and my marketing that I've incorporated into my business plan, and one of those is a skill share course planning document. As you grow and as you change your marketing or as you change your business in general, you might learn new things that you need to incorporate into your business plan and make sure that your employees, or your subcontractors, or that just even you, remember the goals that you had in mind when you set out to do a project. In my mind, there's not much worse than a wasted resource, whether that's time, or money, or effort. If you're putting your time and money and effort into the wrong ends, it's better to know at every three to six months as opposed to once a year, once every five years when most people review their business plan documents or never, it just collects dust in their file cabinet and they hope that somebody somewhere might find some value out of it if they decide to buy that business in the future. It's much more useful to use a business plan as an action guide to get you to where you need to go on a six month basis, and then review that religiously. The more that you can dedicate yourself to doing that, the more on track you're going to stay, the more of your goals you're going to accomplish and the more effective you're going to be in the marketplace. The one additional time that you may want to review your business plan, besides every three or six months, is when you have a client cause you a headache. If a client causes you a headache, it's time to adjust and account for that knowledge and you need to document that knowledge into your business plan. If there's something that went wrong or something that was unexpected or something that was surprising, it's a good time to put that into your business plan so that you know how to account for it in the future. If you don't document that knowledge, it's gone, and maybe it'll be used by a competitor, maybe it will be used against you by your clients in the future, that's a big problem. It needs to be in your business plan. I wish you nothing but success and please do comment on the project to make sure that I know if I've left something out or if you think that there are other questions I should answer, I'll add them as additional videos.