A business plan is a written document that summarizes the basic goals of a business and how the business can fulfill those goals. Business plans are often used as a way to market a business and attract investment and strategic partnerships. Business plans typically include several sections, including an executive summary that defines the business and its mission, a market analysis that describes the company's target market, and a financial analysis that describes the company's earnings, expenses and assets.
Surveys and questionnaires are commonly used to help business managers assess markets to conduct a market analysis. Managers might see great potential in a certain product, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the target market will be interested in buying the product. Surveys can provide a variety of insights into the minds of a company's target market. Questions on a survey used to supplement a market analysis might include asking consumers where they shop for certain types of products, what they like and dislike about available products and how much they would be willing to pay for a product that had more favorable features. Crafting a successful survey requires careful construction of questions: it is possible to lead customers towards certain responses through biased wording.
Product tests are tests that allow potential customers to actually taste, see or use a product. Product tests can help provide insight as to whether customers find a product to be valuable. Conducting product tests requires prototypes or fully finished versions of the product to be tested. Focus groups are a type of customer product test where a group of customers agrees to provide detailed feedback about a product, often in exchange for money or free products.
A SWOT analysis is a business planning method that involves creating a list of all the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities relevant to the business. A SWOT analysis can raise awareness about potential problems the business faces and help managers create plans to account for those problems. It can also help a business define its core competency (what it does well) and recognize and capitalize on opportunities.
A competitive analysis is often part of the market analysis of a business plan. A competitive analysis involves listing other businesses that provide similar products or alternative products and the strengths and weaknesses of each company and its products. Conducting surveys can help provide data on the market share various competitors have for different types of products.