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Business Plan Guide:
5. Product/Service Descriptions

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Keep descriptions of offerings (products and/or services) relatively short and confine them to broad groups.

Briefly explain what they do and who will use them. Indicate advantages/benefits they offer or the needs they meet. Avoid getting into technical terms and details – put this in appendices. Summarize any product test results and product approvals (secured/needed).

Introduce competing products/services and explain what makes yours special.

Append any brochures or price lists to the plan (as an annex).

Try to add a few pictures to the text and, if practicable, offer to make available a sample product or mock-up. Consider augmenting this with a good-quality video or computer-based slide presentation.

Suggested Length & Structure:

Two to four pages should suffice for this section. Confine to one page for a basic/short plan.

The subsections below are for general guidance only. They could result in some undesirable duplication or overlap. Accordingly, you may prefer to:

  • Amalgamate some of them (e.g. Description & Features).
  • Use less obtrusive sub-headings like General Descriptions:
  • Delete all sub-headings and cover all relevant matters in a series of short paragraphs.

Note: Free-Plan, a comprehensive 150-page Business Plan Guide and Template based on this business plan guide, can be downloaded for free here.

 
 
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5.1. General Descriptions

Devote three/four paragraphs to explaining what your offering are and do. Explain where and how they are used, and why customers need them and (will) buy them. Avoid detail and minimize technical terms.

5.2. Key Features

Introduce the key features of the proposed offerings. Use bullets or simple tables.

If relevant, present outline specifications or internal/external test results. Mention any certifications secured/needed.

5.3. Main Benefits

Identify the main benefits for users of your offerings in terms of savings, convenience, quality and so on. Use bullets to list benefits. Take care to distinguish between features and benefits. For example:

Features

Benefits
(Related to Real Needs)

Our recorder weighs only 6 oz.

Our recorder can be carried in a pocket.

Our software includes extensive wizards, online help and manuals.

Our software is easy-to-use and well-supported.

Our holiday homes have dishwashers, washing machines, dryers etc.

Our holiday homes are fully equipped with labor-saving appliances.

Our vehicles have anti-roll bars, air cushions and four-point belts.

Our vehicles are extremely safe.

For some industrial products, it may be worthwhile including a (simple) cost-benefit or return on investment analysis. For example, explain how customers could get a payback on their investment within xx months/years as a result of using your offerings.

Some further considerations:

  1. Demonstrate that your offerings fulfill a real (rather than perceived) need in such a way that their benefits are attractive to customers/users. This is your value proposition.
  2. If you cannot address either an unresolved "pain" or "longing" that prospective customers are currently experiencing then it is doubtful whether they will see the benefits of your offerings.
  3. Identify your offerings' Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in terms of benefits that you can easily and persuasively communicate to prospective customers/users.
  4. Throughout the balance of your plan, strive to sustain these USPs by maintaining worthwhile competitive advantages through marketing, cost control, innovation, delivery, performance, quality or whatever.

5.4. Pricing Plans

Outline your proposed pricing plans. Cover markups, volume discounts, commissions etc. Use simple tables and place any detailed price lists in an appendix.

If relevant, explain the pricing/discount structure within your targeted distribution channels. For example, show how markups are applied as your offerings move along the distribution chain.

5.5. Competitors' Offerings

In this subsection, concentrate on describing your competitors' offerings as distinct from discussing their business activities. First, identify your main direct and indirect competitors and then introduce their offerings.

If you have no direct competitors, explain how prospective customers are likely to react to your offerings and relate your offerings to nearest equivalent competitors or solutions. If you cannot do this, it is possible that your offerings are solutions in search of problems!!

Highlight similarities and differences between your offerings and competitors' in terms of price, specs, quality, availability, design, features etc. Summarize using simple tables and place supporting analyses in an appendix.

5.6. Competitive Assessment

If appropriate, use this subsection to review the competitive advantages (and drawbacks) of your offerings relative to competition and to explain why your offerings will be (more) attractive to prospective customers/users.


Additional Help

If you need 'expert' help with assessing your product/service offerings relative to the competition and customer needs, have a look at the Quick Insight (for smaller businesses) and Business Insight (for larger businesses) software packages.

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