What to Include in a Product Plan

Here is a list of common information components for the business who is offering information in a business pitch or formal plan:

  1. To the level of detail required by the business plan event, list products and services and relate them to sales projections and (if you have it) past sales. Be sensitive to what your audience wants. Bankers want to see history that validates financial performance, and investors want to see future growth. Too much detail gets in the way. For big lists, consider including a summary in the pitch or formal plan, and leaving the details for appendices.
  2. Include product road maps showing growth and development plans for the future. List new product launches, or new versions of existing products, on a timeline showing when they are scheduled.
  3. Describe technology and sourcing. Of course the details here depend on the context, but technology platforms and development are critical for most high-tech products, apps, and websites; and sourcing is often important for physical products.
  4. Show your business’ intellectual property. Patents are sometimes the best guarantor of defensibility, but only good patents written well enough to ward off imitations, along with a legal fund to defend them. Existing market position, trade secrets, and relationships can sometimes work like a secret sauce.
  5. Unit economics and scalability. The unit economics show what it costs to deliver your product or service to a customer, what you charge for it, and margins through channels of delivery or affiliate sites and sales structure. Investors prefer product businesses that are scalable. In a classic professional service business, for example, doubling sales requires doubling headcount and fixed costs. This goes for consultants, accountants, attorneys, and many other professional services. And some service businesses, such as web tools, are easily scalable. Achieving scale means you can add sales volume that’s disproportional to overhead and fixed costs.
  6. Bankers will want to see sales history, steady growth, clear distribution channels, stability, and easy sourcing. Existing companies will have distribution agreements, vendor contracts, and other evidence of stability.
  7. Startups seeking investment need to offer validation any way possible. Show sales if you have them. Sales made through a Kickstarter.com or similar crowd funding site are excellent early validation. Contracts with buyers, or even signed letters from potential buyers or distributors, can help immensely.

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