Role of Branding in Business Plans

As a small business entrepreneur, you’ve probably had one or more of the following needs to prepare a business plan.  To:

  • Help start up a new business.
  • Get capital for an existing business to fund growth.
  • Recruit investors.
  • Obtain a grant.
  • Develop strategic alliances with potential partners.
  • Sell a company.
  • Expand into a new area of operation.
  • Attract employees.
  • Plan for the future.
  • Etc.

If so, you already know that most templates and discussions about appropriate content seem to contain similar advice. 

Being a bit different can help you stand out from the crowd.

For example, Indeed.com offers the following:

10 essential components of a business plan

Effective business plans must contain several key components that cover various aspects of a company’s goals. The most important parts of a business plan include:

  1. Executive summary
  2. Business description
  3. Market analysis and strategy
  4. Marketing and sales plan
  5. Competitive analysis
  6. Management and organization description
  7. Products and services description
  8. Operating plan
  9. Financial projection and needs
  10. Exhibits and appendices”

(See https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/parts-to-a-business-plan#  for more information.)

If you go to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_plan), you will find a very similar general outline, though with a few variations such as a separate subsection for the company Mission Statement.  However, I personally have not found that many of these discussions and templates have chosen to overtly incorporate a discussion about branding.

Frankly, mine have, and yours should!

Specifically, consider including a section labeled “Branding” that incorporates a discussion of the current status (showing any research done) as well as plans and expectations for the future.  These days, brand has a very real and monetary value.   I’m sure all of us have heard of someone buying another company “for the name” because the reputation associated with that entity has value in the marketplace.  These days, I believe you should think of brand similarly.

 Although I do believe brand can be appropriately included as a separate named section, you can also build your content into several of the sections traditionally included in most Business Plans.

For instance:

Business Description – Since your brand encompasses both your product and the services used to deliver that product, any Business Description will benefit by including a discussion of this kind.  Also, the process of defining your brand identifies your audience which, in turn, clearly suggests the needed distribution channels.

Market Analysis and Sales Plan – Your chosen niche within the marketplace is defined by the way in which you identify and communicate your brand.  By discussing your market in this way, your analysis will be more precise and your strategy will be more persuasive.

Competitive Analysis – A well-formed brand communicates the way in which you’ve chosen to differentiate yourself from others and highlight the sales advantages you’ve carved out for your operation.   If you try to write this section without incorporating your brand (i.e., who you are), a clear description of your competitors (those who share some of the same products and services) will not be possible.

Products and Services – This section generally includes additional details about the products and services provided by your company, so highlighting the qualities that distinguish them (i.e., their branding) is both appropriate and useful.  Also, a discussion of your brand can illustrate some of the “spin offs” that can evolve to take advantage of the existing audience of your brand.  Furthermore, part of the brand of your company is your underlying service philosophy and the standard of excellence you establish.  Such qualities are the ones that help create a corporate culture associated with your brand in the eyes of both your customers and your staff.

Operating Plan – In discussing the day-to-day operations of your company, including how you go about delivering your products and services to consumers (number of employees, equipment required, etc.), be sure to highlight the ways in which a strong, branded corporate culture supports those activities as well as describing any visual clues you might be using to help define yourself.  For example, will uniforms be required?  What kind of signage will support operations?  What form of communication will be put into place to set customer expectations and ensure smooth trouble-free operations?  If a separate section for Risk Factors is not included, that content might become part of this section, and the success and failures of your branding play a huge part.

Exhibits and Appendices – Among the typical exhibits you might find in the appendices are brief bios of key staff, organization charts, flow charts, etc.  Similarly, you should consider including any research done to support the success of your branding.  For example, results of a survey that suggest a high degree of name recognition within the community would be very useful as well as commentary from focus groups that suggest your brand has positive connotations.  I would also consider adding a page about your Brand Style Guide or perhaps a copy.  (See https://brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.com/2019/09/17/brand-basics-part-3-the-role-of-a-brand-style-guide/.)  Finally, your Brand Plan should be addressed similarly.  (An upcoming article will be devoted to the creation of this separate document.)

As these examples suggest, a company’s branding can play a part in virtually every section of your business plan.  When drafting a section, you just need to continuously remind yourself to consider whether some thoughts about the role of branding should play a part.  Nine times out of ten, the answer will be “yes,” though the references can range from the incidental to the extensive.