For an entrepreneur, a virtual business can be an attractive alternative to a traditional brick-and-mortar company. Since a virtual company operates almost entirely online, you can start with less funding and get up and running quickly. In fact, you probably have all of the equipment you need at home: a computer, cellphone, and internet connection.
Although an online business feels like an easy option, it still requires a strong foundation. Writing a business plan helps you think through each step of development, anticipate possible problems, and plan for future growth. If you’re just getting started, the plan can help you design an online store that’s easy to scale down the road. If you’ve been in business for years, it can help you target new audiences or adjust goals to boost sales.
This section describes your virtual business. It should describe your products or services and explain your competitive advantage over similar companies, such as lower prices, higher efficiency, or better material quality. Describe your legal structure, and define your role in the company. Finally, talk about your company’s current state of development.
For a virtual company, the business strategy section is the most important part of an online business plan. In writing this section, you can set specific goals for growth. Include items such as:
- Short-term goals for six months and one year
- Long-term goals for two years, three years, and five years
- Key milestones for each goal
- Metrics to track progress
These goals help you stay focused and use your resources efficiently. If you want to boost online sales by 25 percent over two years, you might focus on marketing and inventory supply rather than new product development.
The operational plan helps you determine the resources you need to support your business development goals. For a virtual business, this section should cover issues such as website hosting, purchasing server space, planning for spikes in web traffic, and scaling your online store. Consider the things you need to enable growth, such as hiring support staff, outsourcing accounting, or bringing in an IT professional to set up security and manage technical issues. Provide cost estimates for each item; depending on your company’s size, it can be helpful to go into detail about forecasted cash flow, fixed expenses, and variable expenses in a separate financial projections section.
Since your virtual business does not have a physical storefront to bring in customers, marketing is crucial. This section of your small business plan should explain how you want to market your company. Start with your web presence, which brings in customers through search results. Include a description of your SEO strategy, social media presence, and blog. Then, discuss your plan for digital marketing elements such as paid social media ads, web banners, and pay-per-click advertising. Finally, explain any print advertising and marketing.
Business plans can vary based on your company’s needs. If you’re planning to go after investors, you might add sections detailing your financial forecasts, human resources plan, and social responsibility strategy. If you want to build the company and then sell it for a profit, include an exit strategy to help you decide the best time to leave. A detailed market analysis or a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis can help you target specific customers and adjust your operations to meet market needs.