When it comes to starting a business, it all begins with a plan. And that plan can’t stay in your head, it must be written down.

Not only does a well-crafted business plan guide your venture, it also helps secure the financing you need to launch and scale your business.

You know you can’t just wing it when it comes to business—you need a roadmap. And not just any roadmap, but an effective one. Not sure if your plan passes the test? Check out these seven tips for developing a successful business plan.

  1. Know Your Audience

Create your business plan with your audience in mind. Though some experts feel that you should have different versions of your business plan for individual investors, venture capitalist, bankers, and any other group you may submit it to, that isn’t necessary.

If you develop a strong and compelling plan that clearly explains your purpose, goals, and capabilities, any audience will grasp it. If you’re giving an oral presentation, then you can customize it for the specific audience.

  1. Know Your Competition

While you’ll probably have no problem explaining your products and services, you must show that you have a thorough understanding of your industry and competition.

Investors will want to know what sets you apart from the competition, and how you will grab a market share. Make sure you point out how your competitors fall short and explain how your products or services will meet needs.

  1. Be Simple and Concise

Let’s face it, no one wants to read a business plan that’s as long as a Stephen King novel. You can cover everything you need in 20-25 pages.

Having a difficult time keeping it to that length? Then you’re probably too wordy or too detailed. Your business’ potential investors or partners are looking for specific information and aren’t going to read every word of the document.

Keep it concise in order to keep it compelling.

  1. Make Realistic Projections

A key element of your plan is financial projections, which is what investors home in on. Don’t try to impress them with the numbers. Investors know that it’s impossible to accurately predict sales.

Your best bet is to get an accountant to help you make projections and lean toward conservative numbers. Instead of trying to boast about potential market share, focus on why the numbers you included are relevant and realistic based on your research.

As the Small Business Administration mentions, you should include both historical financial data—if you’re an established business—and projected earnings in your plan.

  1. Choose Substance over Style

You may have an incredible graphic designer on your team who can create dynamic charts and graphics to explain your financial data and growth strategy. But you won’t get funded because of artistic expression.

It’s fine to include some design elements and images of products, but your plan isn’t about the presentation as much is it’s about what’s in it. Make sure your graphic elements add value to the plan, not just art.

  1. Answer Objections

Put yourself in an investor’s shoes. Read your plan with an objective mind, and think of what questions and objections someone would have before parting with his or her money.

Dig deep to poke holes in your plan and question everything. Once you do that, make sure your plan answers every objection. You won’t think of every question an investor will have, but your increased scrutiny will still make it a better document.

  1. Have Someone Review Your Plan

After scrutinizing your work, there’s nothing better than having someone else read it to give you feedback.

Make sure you give it to a few people, especially those who don’t know about your business. Does it make sense to them? Do they clearly understand how your business will be competitive? Fresh eyes can give you an invaluable perspective on your plan.

Final Thoughts

Developing your business plan can be stressful. You want to make sure you get it right so investors buy into your vision. But a business plan is an evolving document. You’ll constantly update it and improve it. As you write your plan, make sure you apply the above tips to increase your chances of success.

If you’re ready to get started on an effective business plan, download LegalNature’s business plan form to create a comprehensive and industry-specific plan for your business.