PSU Insight

Writing Your Business Plan

Your Product Plan

The next section of your business plan is a description of your products and services. Products are, obviously, your books, CDs, DVDs, and other tangible resources. But “products” are also your programs, workshops, keynotes, and seminars. They are also your consulting and coaching services. In short, anything that you can sell to produce income is a “product.”

So think about all the products that you will have. Since you’re a speaker, the speeches and training courses you offer are a good place to start. What different programs do you offer? How many minutes (or hours or days) long are they? What do you charge for these programs? What benefit(s) do you bring to your clients through your programs? What similar programs do your competitors offer? What do they charge for their programs?

What different types of programs do you offer? Keynotes? Workshops? Seminars? Retreats? Schools or Institutes? How do these different ‘products’ relate to each other?

Don’t stop with your programs. Do you offer other services, such as serving as Master of Ceremonies or as a meeting facilitator? Do you offer consulting services? What about coaching? Your products probably have a common theme — what is it?

What retail products do you offer? (Books? E-books? CDs? DVDs? Coffee mugs?) How much do you charge for them? How much does it cost to produce them? Will you need to maintain an inventory, and if so, how many will you purchase or develop at a time? How many do you expect to sell?

What is the life span of each product? Calendars, for instance, are generally worthless after a year’s time. Books on technology can become obsolete at a rapid pace. How much inventory do you need to meet current demand, without having to scrap product that you can no longer sell?

Do you have any products under development? If so, at what stage of development are they? When do you anticipate they’ll be finished? How will they fit into your overall product line?

Will you sell O.P.P. — other people’s products? What are they? How do they relate to your own products? How do they benefit your customers? How does selling other people’s products benefit your business?

In what different media do you offer your products? Some people prefer to learn from DVDs, others prefer books. Are there other media that you should be producing? Are there new products, such as podcasts or subscription sites, that you should be investigating?

Your products may have names. Do you own any copyrights, trademarks, service marks, or domain names? What are they, and what purpose do they serve? Are there any domain names, copyrights, trademarks, or service marks that you need to register or acquire?

Although you will initially start with a single product (possibly a speech or training program), you should be thinking ahead about producing one or more product lines.

A product line isn’t just a bunch of products. The products in your product line should be related to each other — possibly in the benefits they provide to your clients, and almost certainly in their branding. (Consider all the books in the “Chicken Soup” series.) Your product line may also span a range of expertise — they offer introductory material to those people who only want an overview, and more detailed material to those people who want to explore the topic in greater depth.

But don’t stop there. As I mentioned earlier, some of your customers will prefer one medium over another. So, to meet the needs of everyone (and to sell as much product as possible), you may cover the same topic or material in both a book and a DVD, for instance.

Your product line should also have a range of prices. Some people may only be able to afford $20, for instance; if you don’t have a $20 product for sale, you make no money. (You also don’t serve your customer.) But a different customer may want to buy $200 worth of your products, and if you don’t have a $200 product (or a bundle of lesser-priced products valued at $200 or more), you risk losing that sale. So your product line should not only span a range of media, it should also span a range of prices.

Since your products and services are probably your primary source of income (and quite possibly your sole source of income), this is an extremely important section. The more detail you can provide about your product line, the more well-conceived your business will likely be.