By Dee Karawadra
December is traditionally the slowest time of the year for merchant level salespeople. Merchants are busy trying to take advantage of the holiday rush and don't have time to re-evaluate their merchant processing.
This is a great time to dust the cobwebs off the business plan you put together for 2007 and plan for the next year. Review the goals you set for the ending year, and evaluate your performance.
Did you meet or exceed your goals? If not, why? Look for new approaches to meet those goals in 2008. End your year with a great plan to start your new year off right.
The perception is that business plans only raise capital, but in reality they are a good way to measure success. Your plan should be a work in progress. Even successful, growing businesses should update their plans regularly.
As any good salesperson knows, you have to know everything you can about your products or services in order to persuade someone to buy them.
To fine-tune your plan, you must be willing to roll up your sleeves and get a little bit dirty looking for information.
Since not all information gathered will be relevant to the development of your business plan, it will help to use good references like The Green Sheet archives to obtain data.
Business plans come in many formats and styles. Use a format that best fits you. It is not necessary to put an elaborate business plan together.
However, make sure you have the following key components.
The executive summary is the most important section of your business plan. It provides a concise overview of the entire plan along with a history of your company.
This section reveals where your company is and what direction you want to take it.
More than anything else, this section is important because it tells why you think your business idea will be successful.
Be sure to have a mission statement that briefly explains the thrust of your business. It could be two words, two sentences, a paragraph or even a single image. It should be as direct and focused as possible.
Winston Churchill said, "If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time; a tremendous whack."
Yell out what your mission and goals are.
This is also the section were you can start targeting your potential partners.
The market analysis section should show your knowledge about the industry. It should also present general highlights and conclusions of any marketing research data you have collected. Again this is a good time to use The Green Sheet as a resource.
Your target market is simply a group of customers you want to pursue. When you are defining your target market, it is important to narrow it to a manageable size; many agents make the mistake of trying to be everything to everybody. Often, this leads to failure.
Distinguish what your niche is going to be for the coming year. This section includes information about the critical needs of your potential merchants, the degree to which those needs are (or are not) currently being met and the size of the primary target market.
This is where to define the levels of your pricing to merchants and your buy rates.
In the service and product offering section, describe your service or product, emphasizing the benefits to potential and current merchants.
Break out what your core products are and what value added products you plan to push for the year. How will these bring you more opportunity to sell your core products?
Focus on the areas where you have a distinct upper hand. Identify the key advantages your products have for the target niche you are focusing on.
The financials should be developed after you've analyzed the market and set clear objectives.
That's when you can allocate resources efficiently. If you have been in business for at least a year, show your numbers from the previous year and carve out a projection for the upcoming year based on your track record.
This is a great place to determine how many new merchants you would like to obtain in the next year.
It is also good to break it down by merchant volume as well. Include any potential bonuses and residuals.
A good business plan is more than a road map. It is your navigation system. It is crucial to stay up-to-date on the industry trends and new opportunities with value added products.
You want to be on a constant lookout for the right product mix. I wish you tons of success in 2008.
Safari Njema. Safe journey.
Dee Karawadra is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of Impact PaySystem, based in Memphis, Tenn. He and his team have a wealth of knowledge on the merchant services industry, with a niche in the petroleum market. Dee's experience on the street as an agent has guided him in laying a foundation for an agent program that is both straightforward and lucrative for his agents. Contact him at 877-251-0778 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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