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Integrated Communications Sample Business Plan

Start up your integrated communications company with this sample business plan as a guideline.

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Integrated Communications Business Plan

Executive Summary

Today the world is defined by the term ‘Information Age.’ All businesses, both large and small, require effective and efficient business communication solutions in order to continuously meet their customer expectations and attain a competitive advantage, and therefore be successful. Whether a company is large or small it is realized that, the right amount of financing, materials, talent, and experience are not enough to succeed without a good communication system in place that enables smooth transaction sealing.

Communications is at the heart of regional and international integration, with the development of an efficient, cost effective and technologically advanced communications infrastructure essential to Botswana’s success in the global market. With the economies of most countries becoming increasingly sophisticated and knowledge-intensive, there is a greater need for the existence of an efficient network that will enable decision-makers to have access to timely and accurate data to facilitate decision-making and transaction sealing.

We are on the brink of penetrating a lucrative market in a rapidly growing industry. The current increase in the number of entrepreneurs, and competition among existing companies presents an opportunity for Aero Technologies to penetrate the market. Our services/products will be positioned very carefully. They will be of extremely high quality to ensure client satisfaction, supported by impeccable customer service. Aero Technologies will offer the expertise that a proactive oriented and market-opportunity seeking company needs to develop and maintain a good communications system. We intend to provide a number of necessary services the business community and to the public. Initial plans are to introduce five main lines of services, with the primary focus on Multimedia, Call Centre facility, Data Communications and IT, Financial Services, and Knowledge Consulting.

We realize that, for us to prosper, there is need to be flexible and responsive, to delight clients by providing them what they want, when they want it, and before the competition can offer it. The company intends to achieve this through a systematic approach that is customer-centric, and in which the customer’s business objectives enjoy top priority. This involves not only skill and depth of knowledge, but time devoted to studying a customer’s needs. Aero Technologies will view the provision of value-added services over the entire scope of our customers’ requirements as not only essential, but as a competitive advantage which the company protects as a key asset; from service concept to service provision, the intention will be to ensure that every policy and procedure, system and process has the objective of improving the flexibility and response of the whole company. There is a need for interaction between all functional areas, particularly between marketing and service logistics, if the project is to realize its full potential, with marketing being employed as a strategic weapon.

Once the needs and processes are understood and described, leading edge products and best-of-industry skills will be applied to design and develop a fitting solution to satisfy the need and enable the client’s business in the most cost effective way.

Our marketing strategy will be based mainly on ensuring customers know what need the service(s) is able to fulfill, and making the right service and information available to the right target client. We intend to implement a market penetration strategy that will ensure that our services are well known and respected in our respective industry. Our marketing strategy will convey the sense of quality and satisfaction in every picture, every promotion, and every publication. Our promotional strategy will involve integrating traditional advertising, breakfast seminars, events, Internet marketing, personal selling, public relations, and direct marketing, details of which are provided in the marketing section of this plan.

We intend to build our project management team correctly. We need the right people in the right place at the right time if we are to ensure optimum growth. We intend to develop our team so that our people can grow as the company grows — a mutually beneficial relationship.

The intention is to go into partnership with NNN Limited, a company registered in QQQ, and provide financial, IT, and data communications consultancy services to industries in the application and use of latest technologies such as data communication and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), enabling cellular telecommunications.

In a nutshell, we don’t just intend to market and sell our service, but to market and provide a service that will ensure our client’s customer satisfaction, ease of communication, improved corporate logistics, and cost savings on transactions ensuring a total-quality environment. This will ensure we establish and maintain a reputable corporate image. However it should be noted that timing and information provision will be of the utmost importance and significance in terms of the project’s introduction onto the market. In addition we are appreciative of the fact that entering such a market is not a bed of roses, particularly as it is still a relatively new concept needing to be implanted in people’s minds in terms of the benefits it may bring to them, as well as the number of ‘laggard’ firms who often do not easily appreciate the need for change, be it to their benefit. In such a case the need will exist to aggressively market the concept to these organizations and individuals through various means. Hence the intention is to utilize the technical and business know-how of technical partners in order to implement and attain our business objectives.

NOTE: All currency values in this plan are expressed in Botswanan Pula [P].

1.1 Objectives

Our business strategy will revolve around the need to provide quality service and products to our various target clients, in the process fully satisfying their needs. This shall be undertaken through recruitment of a professional telemarketing, sales and technical team and the provision of good quality custom-designed services, catering for the clients’ particular needs.

With time our marketing campaign will increase the knowledge of our services to the various market segments we shall be targeting. This is particularly so with organizations looking at establishing a competitive advantage(s) on the market due to increased competition, hence providing them with the opportunity to focus on their core activities whilst procuring increased business from new and existing customers. Marketing material shall be professionally done so as to be reflective of our intended image and reputation. We shall position ourselves as a quality total communications solution service provider that strives to provide effective and efficient communication solutions. We intend to establish a good rapport with all the relevant stakeholders.

In summary we intend to attain the following objectives:

  • Continuously provide professional quality services on time and on budget.
  • Develop a follow-up strategy to gauge performance with all our clients.
  • Implement and maintain a quality control system and assurance policy.
  • To continuously formalize and measure cross-functional working communication so as to ensure that the various departments work harmoniously towards attainment of company objectives.
  • To instill a culture of continuous improvement in beating standards of customer satisfaction and efficiency.
  • We are fully committed to supporting growth and development in the economy.

1.2 Mission

Aero Technologies, Ltd. offers marketing oriented organizations a reliable, high-quality alternative to in-house resources for business development, market development, and channel development on a local and regional scale. A true alternative to in-house resources offers a very high level of practical experience, know-how, contacts, and confidentiality. Clients will know that working with Aero Technologies is a more professional, less risky way to undertake communication with its various stakeholders, than working completely in-house with their own people. Aero Technologies must also maintain financial balance, charge a reasonable value for its services, and deliver a higher value to its clients. Initial focus will be development in the regional markets, or for international clients in Botswana. Aero Technologies is also an excellent place to work, a professional environment that is challenging, rewarding, creative, and respectful of ideas and individuals. Aero Technologies ultimately provides excellent value to its customers and fair reward to its owners and employees.

Internally we intend to create and nurture a healthy, creative, respectful and enjoyable office environment, in which our employees are fairly compensated and encouraged to respect the customer and the quality of the service we provide. In addition follow-up will be mandatory so as ensure customer satisfaction and make any improvements as recommended by the customers in future. We seek fair and responsible profit, enough to keep the company financially healthy for the short and long term, and to fairly compensate investors for the money and risk.

1.3 Keys to Success

The keys to this project’s success will undoubtedly be effective market segmentation through identification of several niche markets and implementation strategies. Along these lines the company intends to implement personal selling and direct marketing strategies to the target markets. Hence the key success factors will include the following:

  1. Excellence in fulfilling the promise: Completely confidential, reliable, trustworthy expertise and service(s) through the provision of an uncompromising service. This dictates that we have in place the latest technology, hardware and software, and well-trained personnel so as to fulfill the aforesaid.
  2. Timely response to clients’ orders: We cannot afford to delay our clients for whatever reason, as this will have a negative bearing on our image and reputation, including future business. Hence we need to be continually communicating with the client ensuring we provide needs-based solutions.
  3. Skill and depth of knowledge: Considering the nature of our services and their relative infancy on the market, the skill and depth of knowledge of our personnel shall be of utmost importance in determining the provision of the service(s) to the end-users.
  4. Marketing know-how: In a relatively volatile market there will be a need to aggressively market our business and the services we provide so as to be continuously at the top of our prospective and current clients minds. This will also act as a temporary deterrent for companies contemplating entering our market. Advertising shall be one of our competitive advantages.
  5. Leveraging from a large pool of expertise: The company’s various alliances with technological partners shall prove invaluable considering the skills and intellectual capacity these partners will have in the fields of design and system integration, implementation and execution, lifecycle support and understanding, and in the application of new technology. This has the potential of proving to be an important differentiator on the market.

Company Summary

Aero Technologies, Ltd. was founded in November 1999 as a Private Limited Company through the foresight and vision of the three directors. It was formed as a division of TTT with the directors having identified a large potential market for their products and services. For most of its initial existence, the company intends to utilize the large database and experience of its directors in obtaining orders, with the intention of establishing close relationships with its clients.

2.1 Company Ownership

Aero Technologies is a company incorporated at the Registrar of Companies by XXX, YYY, and ZZZ. Though relatively new, the directors realize their company’s vast potential market and opportunity for growth given implementation of the appropriate strategies, aided by the necessary finances. Aero Technologies was established with 3,000 shares equally distributed amongst the directors.

2.2 Start-up Summary

Total start-up expenses covered (including legal costs, logo design, stationery and related expenses) came to approximately P1,192,000. Start-up assets required and utilized included personal computers, vehicles, office furniture, and other office equipment.

Products and Services

Aero Technologies offers the expertise a proactive oriented and technologically inclined company needs to perform its operations efficiently and effectively, through allowing it to concentrate on its core activities whilst deploying the latest communication implements. Its wide range of solutions will incorporate and embrace customer contact centres, technology enabled relationship management, technology enabled marketing and technology enabled selling solutions, multi-service data and voice networking as well as Individualized Customer Relationship Management centres, integration services and Knowledge Management Consulting. Hence we intend to provide a number of necessary services to the business community, primarily the upper echelons, as well as the public. These can be summed up in five main areas:

  • Multimedia
  • Call Centre Facility
  • Data Communications and IT
  • Financial Services
  • Knowledge Management.

Hence we intend to offer the expertise a high-technology company needs to develop new product distribution and new market segments in new markets. However it should be noted that the Knowledge Management Centre will invariably incorporate the functions of the other divisions.

3.1 SWOT Analysis

We are presently in a highly lucrative market in a rapidly growing economy. We foresee our strengths as the ability to respond timeously to the market dictates and to provide custom designed technological services. Our key personnel will have a wide and thorough knowledge of the technological services we intend to provide, and expertise, which will go a long way towards penetrating the market. Below are the summarized strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

3.2 Macroenvironment

Research indicates that the younger more ambitious market presently in the executive and overall business sector, being more educated and aware of the global environment, assesses and implements its core activities to a much higher degree than past trends have indicated. This is exacerbated by the increase in competition in all industries. Therefore with the emergence of this generation of individuals, the appreciation of quality services and business communication solutions/recommendations that provide for and enable company growth, dictates that our service lines will be popular.

The current drive by the government towards a more diversified economy presents an opportunity for our business to propel and excel in our intended markets, benefiting from the support of the concerned institutions and trade bodies. In addition with the country increasingly becoming an economic hub, we foresee a demand for high quality business communication solutions. Through undertaking our business activities professionally, we foresee that it should not be too difficult to gain market acceptance if we deliver the final service timeously and of good quality, at competitive rates.

3.3 Sales Literature

The business will begin with a general services brochure establishing the positioning of the company and services clients are able to benefit from. These shall be designed for the decision-makers ensuring they are not too technical, but short and concise. Literature and mailings shall also be designed in such a way that they establish a high-quality look and feel, in order to create and fulfill the right sense of professionalism. Breakfast seminars shall be undertaken in the initial period of the project targeting decision-makers and ensuring they understand the benefits of our services in today’s business environment. Another important marketing tool will be CD-ROMS. These shall be targeted at business executives who often do not have much time on their hands and are looking at utilizing every second productively. These CD-ROMS shall be most useful as they will listen to them whilst in transit from one business meeting to another.

We also intend to have well designed posters, table tents, T-shirts, mouse pads, keys-holders, and mugs distributed at strategic points and procured through reputable manufacturers so as not to compromise on quality. Potential strategic points for our literature include hotels, lodges, computer hardware and software distributors amongst others.

3.4 Technology

Aero Technologies will strive to maintain the latest business communication hardware and software capabilities so as to ensure we are continuously at the forefront in our market arena. The one certainty in our industry is that technology will continue to evolve and develop, changing what we market as well as how we market it. Our aim will be to be aware of the implications of this new technology and utilize it in our existing framework where possible. Complete presentation facilities for preparation and delivery of multimedia presentations on Macintosh or Windows machines, in formats that include on-disk presentation or video presentation are also possibilities that still are being looked into. We also intend to have the latest and most efficient software in place to enable smooth operations. Please see the capital equipment for further details.

3.5 Future Products and Services

In putting the project together we have attempted to offer enough services to allow us to always be in demand by our clients. However, technological developments have provided us with a new era of opportunities for the various organizations in which we can only guess at the needs. For example, current rapid innovations/ development of Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) technology, which is seeing a new service being introduced almost on a fortnightly basis overseas, presents an opportunity to be realized, particularly focusing on WAP enabled cellphones that enable individuals to access or send their email messages over the cellphone. There is also the possibility to introduce video-conferencing, as we will have the necessary infrastructure in place. Applications such as banking by cellphone, online telephone directories and delivery of breaking news headlines are also future services to be utilized. However, the most important factor in developing future services will be market need. Our understanding of the needs of our target market segments will be one of our competitive advantages. It is critical to our effort to develop the right new services.

Market Analysis Summary

We are today experiencing a rapid growth in the economy of unsurpassed nature. This has been brought about by, amongst other things, the relaxation of foreign exchange policies and macroeconomic policies geared towards attracting foreign investors into the country. The fiscal and monetary policies of the government geared towards maintaining growth with social justice have largely contributed towards this, evidenced by our economy averaging a growth rate of 7% since 1990 — very high by international standards.

The current drive and emphasis by the government on diversification of the industrial base away from the minerals sector presents an opportunity for Aero Technologies to make a valuable contribution towards achieving this goal. This will result in implementation of modern Information Technology services and techniques, and transfer of knowledge. Aware of the fact that we will be operating in a predominantly infant market we intend to ensure that our marketing strategies are considerate of the importance of the fit between our services capabilities and benefits, and the target market, so as to develop a strong sustainable competitive position in the market. As a result we intend to implement a niche marketing strategy, focusing on certain target markets.

It should be appreciated that entering such a market is not a bed of roses, particularly considering its infancy and hence the intention will be to implement an aggressive marketing strategy, well supported by the other business functions. The above prognosis influenced our decision to enter the IT business communication service provision/consultancy industry.

4.1 Market Segmentation

We will be focusing on proactive, market seeking organizations, who want to sell into markets in the region and overseas. These are mostly larger companies, and occasionally medium-sized companies.

Our most important group of potential customers are business executives in large, medium and small corporations. These are marketing managers, general managers, sales managers, sometimes charged with international focus and sometimes charged with market or even specific channel focus. They do not want to waste their time or money looking for bargain information or questionable expertise. As they go into markets looking at new opportunities, they are very sensitive to risking their company’s name and reputation. Hence the need to professionally market our services and business as a whole, offering impeccable expertise. Our intention will be to offer an attractive development alternative to the company that is management constrained and unable to address opportunities in new markets and new market segments due to technological shortfalls.

4.2 Target Market Segment Strategy

Our marketing strategy will be based mainly on making the right service(s) available to the right target customer. We will ensure that our services’ prices take into consideration organizations’/peoples’ budgets, and that these people appreciate the service and know that it exists, including where to find it. The marketing will convey the sense of quality in every picture, every promotion, and every publication. Our intention will be to target those innovative or proactive companies contemplating transferring a part of their marketing activities on the Internet, in order to benefit from the advantages offered by this unique system of communication. We realize the need to focus our marketing message and our service offerings. We need to develop our message, communicate it, and make good on it.

4.2.1 Market Needs

Aero Technologies intends to provide customers with the necessary systems and services to provide cutting-edge customer service, by essentially offering a certain spectrum of communications solutions, primarily the interaction applications.

We understand that our target markets need more than just continuous communication and information from their various stakeholders, but communication and information that will enable them to make more informed decisions and transactions at the earliest opportunity. We don’t just intend to provide a service(s), but to provide one of unparalleled nature relative to the market. Our target market are not businesses that want to make decisions solely on the basis of price, but instead are mainly concerned with having reliable providers of expertise and a good communications network in place.

4.2.2 Market Trends

Today we are passing through a technological discontinuity of epic proportions. The growth of the Internet shows no signs of abating and has profound implications for businesses not only in Africa, but also throughout the world. Though e-commerce is largely developed country-led, with the Americas and Europe in the forefront, this is slowly changing with more and more servers being set up in Asian and African countries, Botswana being no exception. As e-commerce knows no boundaries the intention of Aero Technologies will be to assist clients in undertaking communication and transactions with ease, initially on a regional level, but also at the global level. This has resulted in the significant trend toward greater international sales and communication between organizations throughout the world. Another important trend is the one toward greater use of specialized and focused consultants, instead of in-house resources. Companies are increasingly looking for more out-sourcing and, in general, a preference for variable costs instead of fixed costs. This shall have important implications on the acceptance of our services on the market.

In summary, the range and volume of products sold online are likely to increase vastly in the future, expanding the size and value of the electronic market. However, encouragement may be obtained from the fact that in its pursuit of diversification the Government of Botswana would very much encourage an additional player in the e-commerce market, provided they are of the right caliber and beneficial to the economy as a whole.

4.3 Service Business Analysis

A general market study about the benefits of wireless technology undertaken by Ovum Research, an international research company, was conducted on the use of cellular data communications and other conferencing facilities. The study notes that with the provision of wireless technology to various sub-Saharan countries, telecommunications systems could be profitably established.

The art of m-commerce relies on the convergence of Internet technologies, mobile devices, cellular phones, band-width and a whole lot of companies champing at the bit of m-commerce. M-commerce is about being able to transact business through any portable intelligent device and some of the greatest growth in the m-commerce arena is coming from the development of the cellular phone. The one wireless standard uniting and gaining momentum in the use of personal digital assistants (PDA) is the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP). This protocol uses wireless means to connect any mobile device to specific Internet information. The computing device has to be WAP enabling and only a few Internet sites have been set up to cope with WAP transactions.

It is an obvious fact that the wireless revolution will have a positive impact on the economic and social development of Africa. Africa’s critical requirement is to build infrastructure. Wireless technology overcomes infrastructure costs of setting up fixed lines. International research has projected that wireless portals will become a US$42 billion revenue opportunity by 2005 as mobile users, including those in Africa, increasingly shift their businesses and other transactions from PCs to their handsets. Banking, email, surfing the Web, and even shopping will now be done anywhere and at any time.

There is a significant demand for WAP, with the prime candidate being small businesses, sales forces, and field support engineers as well as growing numbers of mobile managers equipped with PCs and cellular phones. In this way WAP is an important step toward third-generation mobile networks.

New WAP enabling phones provide the user with email, personal organizer and the ability to check bank accounts, time schedules, restaurant menus and more. All these online interactive services are especially written and formatted to be accessed on cellular phones. The growing popularity of WAP phones (currently 25,000 in South Africa alone) has meant that a number of companies are developing Internet sites with the content to service the WAP devices on the market.

The above analysis indicates how the wireless technology will revolutionize African business and particularly the small businesses run by individuals that may not be able to afford the luxury of a PC but will always need a phone and acquire the same services offered by the PC through their mobile phones. It should also be noted that the IT industry is an environment where small niche players and developers can compete with the larger groups and corporations. An individual can have the vision or development skills to deliver a meaningful concept, product or service, but the weak links in this process are the focus to end-user requirements, financial support in the development stages and the effective channels to market for the finished product or service.

4.3.1 Competition and Buying Patterns

The key element in purchase or subscription decisions made at the company’s client level is trust in the professional reputation and reliability of the firm. The most important factor in this market will be the quality of the service. This is particularly so considering the potential impact e-commerce will have on organizations meeting their bottom lines. The very nature of our services dictates that occasionally the pricing of our projects and billing rates will be variable, as different clients require different needs to be fulfilled in variable industry environments.

In our line of business clients rarely compare service providers directly, looking for two, or more, possible providers of a proposed project or job. Usually they follow word-of-mouth recommendations and either go for the job or not, rather than selecting from a menu of possible providers. The most important element of general competition, by far, is what it takes to keep clients for repeat business. It is worth making concessions in any single service to maintain a client relationship that brings the client back for future services — realizing customer-lifetime value.

4.3.2 Main Competitors

In identifying competition in this new concept market, we find few companies currently offering services similar to ours. There are numerous providers of the older established ancillary services including traditional call centres. Hence there will be a need to strongly differentiate ourselves from these other businesses and market the benefit of utilizing our service(s). However on a broader scale our competition comes in several forms:

The most significant competition will be the traditional communication systems currently in place within the respective organizations, particularly considering advances in technology enabling these organizations (potential clients) to better handle their calls, inquiries, and transactions. Many organizations are currently investing in technological instruments that will enable them to better handle their customers. This is particularly so considering the advances that have been made in terms of customer relationship management and all its related hardware and software programs, many of which have not yet been fully exposed on the local and African markets. The current onset and wave of customer relationship management overseas does pose a serious challenge for Aero Technologies’s intended services, as they are bound to infiltrate into the region in the form of software programs and hardware components.

The increasing investment in training by organizations also represents competition in the area of intent. With organizations striving to instill a performance culture through training there will be a need to market the benefits of utilizing our service in conjunction with these organizations’ respective communications systems. This is due to the fact that these same organizations may feel that there is no need to utilize our service(s) as they would have invested large amounts into hardware and customer handling training of front office personnel.

Major potential competitors will include all those service providers that offer Internet, email, e-commerce, and other related services to the market. Examples include (Discussion omitted). These companies already have a firm footing in their Internet businesses and are carefully analyzing the prospects of e-commerce. Though currently not engaged in e-commerce, numerous other IT, marketing and advertising companies are also contemplating entering this market. They are seeking to utilize or focus on their core competencies in their respective markets, whilst taking advantage of the technological revolution in conjunction with strategic partners who are well versed in the technical aspects. The recent installation of a top-of-the range computer network (with Internet) system by FFF is one case in point, as they seek to tap the vast opportunity presented by e-commerce. The majority of these have alliances with international firms.

However, upon closer analysis of the above competitors it may be observed that several of these potential competitors also represent client opportunities to be realized by us.

4.3.3 Distributing a Service

Service provision and consulting will be sold and purchased mainly on a word-of-mouth basis, with relationships and previous experience being, by far, the most important factor. In this regard we intend to provide a service that exceeds customer expectations so as to ensure they refer us to potential clients through word-of-mouth. New business shall be developed through industry associations, business associations, and in some cases, social associations such as country clubs.

As our services are relatively new on both the Botswana and regional markets we intend to host breakfast seminars and workshops primarily for senior managers and decision-makers, who may benefit from our services. This function will involve a considerable amount of networking on our part, as these individuals often do not have a lot of spare time.

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Computers & Internet

E-commerce Internet Sample Business Plan

With a business plan similar to this your E-commerce and Internet company will be off to a good start.

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E-commerce Internet Business Plan

Executive Summary

Popular culture is no longer regional. The advent of cable television, syndicated radio programs, and the Internet has created a world where a fashion statement in New York will be on the streets in a small midwestern town in a matter days. The speed of our telecommunication system has increased young customers’ expectations and demands for products that represent their own cultural statement.

FireStarters will offer young customers, in small towns and communities around United States, the youth-oriented products and clothing that are popular nationwide but not available locally.

The difference between FireStarters and other youth-oriented e-commerce websites is that FireStarters is focused only on its small-town America customers. The target customer is a young person, age 11-18, who listens to alternative music and participates in youth sports like skateboarding and snowboarding. Our target customer will look toward alternative clothing trends in large urban areas as their inspiration. FireStarters will exclusively advertise in small communities with populations between 100,000 and 150,000 residents. Communities of this size already have small youth-oriented businesses, like skateboard shops and alternative CD stores, that FireStarters can utilize to promote its product line.

1.1 Mission

The mission of FireStarters is to offer distinctive youth-oriented fashion and products to small-town America.

1.2 Keys to Success

  • Accessible website that is entertaining to surf. Like a trip to your favorite store where you always find something new that you want.
  • Excellent vendor relationship that will facilitate quick shipment of orders.
  • Establish an effective strategy for advertising in the communities’ youth-oriented businesses.
  • Create a store image that our target customers sees as both attractive and trendy.

Company Summary

FireStarters will offer youth-oriented products and clothing, online, that are popular nationwide but not available locally. Jill Stranton and Bobbi Hanson, co-owners of FireStarters, will create a cost-effective operation that will quickly ship clothing and product purchases to the customer.

FireStarters will focus on marketing products to its target customers in small cities with populations between 100,000 and 150,000 residents. The key to marketing strategy will be staging events that will increase the visibility of the online store with the target customer base. We will use existing local businesses that serve the same target customer base to co-sponsor these events.

2.1 Company Ownership

Jill Stranton and Bobbi Hanson are the co-owners of FireStarters.

2.2 Start-up Summary

The start-up costs of FireStarters consists of product inventory, creating a promotion campaign and establishing its website. FireStarters is funding start up with owner investments and a long-term business loan.

Products

FireStarters will offer young customers the following youth-oriented products and clothing:

  • Shoes.
  • Jackets.
  • Sweaters.
  • Shirts.
  • Pants.
  • Bags.
  • Hats.
  • T-Shirts.
  • Dresses and skirts.
  • Shorts.
  • Eyewear.
  • Time pieces.

Market Analysis Summary

According to the U.S. Census Bureau the population of teens (age 12-17), in 1999 was 23.4 million, which represents 8.6% of the total U.S. population. Teenagers influence $324 billion in spending annually, have $151 billion in disposable income, spend $24 billion annually, and will spend $1.2 billion online by 2002. Teens spend an average of $82 per week on entertainment, fashion, food, and technology. These young people dubbed “Generation Y” dominate almost all facets of popular culture and are the fastest-growing demographic under age 65.

Specialty youth clothing and products has grown into a billion dollar niche in the clothing industry. The popularity of the Internet with young people has been well documented and has generated the launching of a number of online stores by companies selling to that market segment. Most of these stores have retail outlets in large urban areas that serve as the promotional vehicles for online shopping.

The Internet is an accessible shopping tool for our target population. 64% of teens nationwide use the Net at home. The majority of teens, 55%, consider using the Internet better than watching TV. Families with teens are more likely to have Internet access than other households.

Online shopping by teenagers between 13 to 18 years in age is expected to total about $300 million this year (2000) and is accelerating at about twice the rate of online shopping by adults. By 2003, teenagers are expected to spend $2 billion annually online. By 2004, a clear majority of young consumers will shop online. The top five purchases made by teens [online], based on sales volume, are CDs/cassette tapes, clothing, books, computer software, toys and clothing.

4.1 Market Segmentation

Over the past ten years, there has been a profound change in population dynamics in the U.S. The non-metropolitan population has been growing at almost the same rate as the urban population. The West Coast, Midwest, and the Northeast have the largest growth rate. Today, there are millions of young people who don’t live near a large urban center that offers the diversity in clothing products that the youth culture demands. This has created a small market niche for businesses to sell clothing and products to young people who live outside the urban areas. This is particularly true in communities with a major college located in the community.

Currently, only regional malls offer access to the fashion and styles that young people want. Unfortunately, the focus of these mall stores is only on the mainstream of the youth market. Alternative clothing and products are rarely available outside the urban area. This is true because the companies that create the clothing and products are small and sell primarily through urban specialty shops.

FireStarters will capitalize on the following characteristics of Generation Y:

  • Subculture Affiliation: Though rebellious, teens also want to blend in and be accepted by peers. They seek a community of peers to welcome them in, as well as help them stand out.
  • Attitude: Teenagers wear attitude like a uniform to give definition to their identity. This extends to clothing, hair style and the type of music listened to in public. They also react to humor, silliness, and irreverence more easily than to other styles.

It is FireStarters’ plan to bring alternative fashion and products to small-town America via the Internet. We will create a business identity that will capitalize on the subculture affiliation and attitude of our target customers.

FireStarters will focus marketing on two type of non-metropolitan communities:

  • Non-metropolitan communities with populations between 100,000 and 150,000 residents.
  • Non-metropolitan communities with a major college and population of at least 80,000.

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Computers & Internet

Computer Repair Business Plan

This sample business plan will guide you with regards to successfully starting your own computer repair business.

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Computer Repair Business Plan

Executive Summary

PC Repair will provide computer and technical consulting (repairs, training, networking and upgrade service) to local small businesses as well as home PC users. The company will focus on marketing, responsiveness, quality, and creating and retaining customer relations.

PC Repair was initially formed as a sole proprietorship, but was reconfigured as an S Corporation in December of 2004. PC Repair will at first be a home office start-up, utilizing one studio room in the owner’s home and serving customers in the local Ramsford-on-Bitstream area.

In the third month of our plan, we will move into a leased office space and hire a second technician. As sales increase, we will hire additional personnel.

The Market
The very nature of the computing industry, with its extraordinary rate of technological development, creates a constant need for businesses skilled in updating and advising customers on computer-related issues.

In town, the majority of potential customers are dissatisfied with existing options, creating an attractive niche for an innovative start-up. Small business PC users will provide the majority of our business revenue.

Business Week expects the computing industry to grow at a rate of 12% and the processor speeds to continue to expand for years to come, providing a rich resource for sales.

Related: How Do You Hit The Right Target Market For Your Business?

PC Repair has decided to focus mainly on the small business market, as these customers typically don’t have a full-time IT person, but have full-time IT needs.

PC Repair will offer an affordable, on-demand service for these customers. We can also offer maintenance agreements that generate additional monthly income.

For our residential customers, we will offer a very affordable and helpful service with a very flexible schedule to meet their needs. Our target market will focus on Ramsford-on-Bitstream and the surrounding areas. Market research indicates there is an abundance of business for a small company such as PC Repair.

Start-up Funding and Financials
To get PC Repair started the owner is providing cash and assets. We are also seeking a short-term loan, to be secured with the owner’s home equity, and repaid within three years.

Our conservative sales forecasts, based on industry research within the local area, project hefty sales in year one, steadily increasing through year three. To reach these goals, we will use an aggressive advertising campaign to exploit our competitors’ weaknesses.

With good cost control, we will see a modest, yet comfortable, net profit the first year, even after moving into a leased space and hiring additional technicians.

1.1 Objectives

  • To provide the best service available to the community at an affordable price.
  • To generate substantial market share so that PC Repair is a common name.
  • Constant growth in sales from start up through year three.
  • To generate customer satisfaction so that at least 40% of our customer base is repeat business.

1.2 Mission

Our goal is to set the standard for on-site computer solutions through fast, on-site service and response. Our customers will always receive one-on-one personal attention at a very affordable price.

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Our customers will receive the highest quality of customer service available. Our employees will receive extensive training, a great place to work, fair pay and benefits, and incentives to use their own good judgement to solve customers’ problems.

1.3 Keys to Success

  • Establishing a brand identity and generating brand recognition through marketing.
  • Responsiveness: being an on-call computer paramedic with fast response time.
  • Quality: getting the job done right the first time, offering 100% guarantee.
  • Relationships: developing loyal repeat customers–retainers.

Company Summary

PC Repair is an S Corporation located in Ramsford-on-Bitstream, owned by Jack Hacker. With a small 3-year loan, PC Repair will grow in one year from a  one-man, home-office based repair shop to a profitable, 3-person business in a leased location.

We will build the necessary infrastructure to quickly and efficiently respond to customers’ computer needs, guaranteeing speedy, friendly, competent, and cost-effective technical support.

2.1 Company Ownership

PC Repair was initially envisioned as a sole proprietorship in the owner’s home. However, recent feedback from our marketing outreach has suggested a much higher sales potential than originally imagined, and PC Repair has been reformed as an S Corporation.

This change will provide additional legal protection for the owner, and will also streamline the financial operations of the company as we expand the personnel to 5 within the next three years, lease a separate space for offices, and purchase company vehicles and cell phones.

The owner, Jack Hacker, has 10 years of experience in the fields of technical support, networking, and computer training and repair. Jack has also spent the last three years as the manager of a custom computer building and repair store, and understands the computer needs of small businesses.

2.2 Start-up Summary

Total start-up expenses include initial expenses for establishing our website, setting up the business, and doing our pre-opening advertising. Exact allocations are shown in the table.

The bulk of our start-up requirements are asset needs: we need diagnostic and repair equipment, half of which will be contributed to the business by the owner from his own materials.

We are treating this equipment as assets because we expect it to last at least three years, and to have some resale value when we are through with it; we will buy additional expensed equipment in years two and three. We also need start-up inventory which includes RAM, spare hard drives, cables, and cases.

Related: 21 Steps To Start-Up

Although we will keep expenses to a minimum for the first three months, before we move, we will also need cash at start-up, to see us through the next several months with a positive cash balance.

Services

PC Repair will offer computer repairs, training, networking and upgrade service to clients in two major categories: home PC users and small business users. As PC Repair and the client demands grow, we will offer software development to our business clients.

From the very first day, we will offer on-site repair and consulting services, so that our clients don’t need to take time out of their busy days to haul a computer in to our workshop. This is the single biggest frustration Jack has seen among small business owners needing computer help.

Much of our diagnostic equipment is portable, and we will remove a PC to our workshop only when the problem requires more detailed diagnosis or repair. We will also offer free pick-up and delivery of PCs needing repair. To meet the growing demand for this service, we will purchase a company vehicle in the third month.

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We will also offer extended maintenance contracts, so that business clients can deal with technical support and repair needs as a single line-item expense, rather than having to plan for unexpected crashes and problems with a rainy-day fund they may never use. Maintenance contracts yield a high gross margin for us, and provide peace of mind for the customer.

We will offer limited software support (installation and compatibility issues), and focus on hardware and networking support – this is a vital distinction, since software is evolving much more rapidly than hardware, and our clients will have such diverse software needs that we couldn’t possibly keep up with all of them.

We will encourage clients to register their software and use the software’s own support options to their full potential. We will, however, keep up to date with multiple operating systems and networking developments, working with clients to make sure they have the most appropriate combinations of hardware, OS, networking, backup systems, and software.

Backup and security are becoming higher priorities for all our potential customers, as internet usage (and its pitfalls) becomes more common, and as more and more daily records are stored electronically.

Market Analysis Summary

PC Repair will provide computer support in both a consulting and technical capacity to small business owners as well as home PC users. Since PC Repair is currently a one man operation, its growth in the first three months will be limited by the owner’s capacity to complete work.

However, these first three months are critical for establishing our credibility and a reputation for getting the job done quickly and well. We will focus on delivering excellent service, and using the good word of mouth from this initial period to network with other potential clients.

Personal market research by the owner indicates an attractive market niche for our services, of which PC Repair will take full advantage.

Related: The Best Ways to Do Market Research for Your Business Plan

The very nature of the computing industry, with its extraordinary rate of technological development, creates a constant need for businesses skilled in updating and advising customers on computer-related issues.

National chains, such as “Geeks on Call,” and Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” have seen rapid growth in demand for these services in the last few years. Customers are seeking skilled help with everything from installation of software and hardware components, to networking, to transferring files from an old computer to a new one.

Those who can often enlist their tech-savvy children’s help, but others are not so fortunate, and small-business owners need reliable and quick help with all their computer needs, since every hour down may mean an hour or more of lost revenue, especially for any business with a website or those doing e-commerce.

4.1 Market Segmentation

The existing computer service market is so extensive that categorizing it is rather difficult. We have broken our potential market down into two groups, based on their needs: home PC users and small business clients.

Home PC User
Our home PC user market includes non-tech-savvy residents of the local area (15 mile radius), generally between the ages of 30 and 70, with at least one home computer.

We are not expecting income from users below 30, who tend to be more comfortable with technology and willing to attempt repairs and upgrades on their own, without seeking professional assistance.

Such home users generally own a computer to do email, play games, write letters, scan and print photos, and occasionally to do bookkeeping or taxes. Home PC users with more sophisticated applications generally have enough tech savvy, from tech experience at work, to do their own repairs and upgrades.

Their hardware needs will include the computer itself, monitors, keyboards, mouse, printer, and scanner.

This group is growing slightly faster than the overall population growth in our area, in part due to the increasing demand for computers among retired people and young families, about 7% a year.

Small Business Users
Small business users will provide the majority of our business revenue. The small business market will be defined as customers within a 15 mile radius, with 2 or more computers or a network which they use for business purposes at least 25% of the time.

Their business use may include minor usage, such as updating a business website for a brick-and-mortar store, keeping the books, designing graphics or ad campaigns, and writing copy for press releases. It may also be more extensive, incorporating inventory tracking, POS systems, customer databases, online product/service delivery, or product development.

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The more intensive their computer usage for business, the more critical it is to them that their technology work well and reliably, and that quality repairs and support are available in a crisis. Their hardware needs will include the same items as home users, plus servers, backup systems, data storage, and wireless networking.

4.2 Target Market Segment Strategy

Although there are more potential customers among home PC users, we expect the majority of our revenue to come from small business clients, since their need for our services is more urgent, and they are willing to invest in technology as part of their business plan.

The majority of our marketing efforts will thus be focused on small business owners. These customers typically don’t have a full-time IT person, but have full-time IT needs. Home PCs are often used by multiple people, and serve multiple purposes.

Our home PC users need help with managing their settings to integrate the different needs of all household members as much as they need technical assistance.

ComputingNet magazine recently reported on the substantial need for timely and cost-effective computer upgrades and repairs in this region; Jack Hacker has seen this market need in person, as frustrated clients waited for days or weeks for their critical components to be returned to full capacity, with no inexpensive alternative to the existing computer repair shops.

All of our clients need technical assistance, but we are also selling peace of mind: our clients will know that friendly, efficient help is just a phone call away.

As more and more companies switch their support services to automated call centers or touch-tone menus, the simple reassurance of hearing another human voice on the phone within a few rings is immeasurable. Even better is knowing that within a few hours, someone will show up and take care of their problem.

Both the software and hardware side of the computer industry continue to turn out new and revised computer components at alarming rates.

For PC Repair this means job security well into the future. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, there seems to be no end to the development of the computer market.

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Business Week expects the computing industry to grow at a rate of 12% and the processor speeds to continue to expand for years to come.

4.3 Service Business Analysis

Secondary market research shows computer service customers tend to be very loyal to providers that do good work and satisfy their needs. An analysis of PC Repair’s main competitors shows no overwhelming strengths that would be significant barriers to entry into the market, as our local competitors have serious weaknesses.

The computer maintenance and repair industry is fragmented, with a few large, national players and hundreds of small, local stores.

While most computers are actually repaired in-store, near the customer, parts for the repair come from major manufacturers and distributors; delays in receiving necessary parts can significantly slow down the repair process.

Large chains have solved this problem by keeping vast amounts of inventory in stock at all times, while local stores offer customers the trade-off of personal interaction and trust that may make up for some delay.

PC Repair has established a relationship with a local distributor to do rapid special-ordering; although this capability is more expensive than normal channels, it will enable us to quickly establish a reputation as efficient and responsive to customer needs, particularly for our small business users.

Related: Smart Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses

We will leverage this customer loyalty into great word of mouth marketing and steady growth.

4.3.1 Competition and Buying Patterns

Customers choose computer repair and assistance services based on reputation, previous experience, and price. They may choose to return to a mediocre provider with whom they’re familiar, rather than try out a new unknown company about whom they’ve heard nothing.

Large stores, especially the service departments of national chains, have a great advantage simply in their affiliation with an established brand.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

Establishing our brand identity and a great reputation in the first few months is critical to our success. Once we have broken in to the local market, our great service will turn new clients into permanent clients.

Our services will be second to no one and our prices will be very reasonable for the high quality service we offer. By providing superior service, word of mouth alone will bring in many new clients. The satisfaction our consumers find will keep them coming back. There are two main competitors for the computer upgrade and repair business in this area:

Competitor A:

They are a well established provider of computer upgrades and services, and do quick work. However, they have a high staff turnover, a young and inexperienced staff, and are more interested in selling new components than in maintaining existing machines or finding custom solutions.

They do not offer any kind of pick-up and drop-off service, and do not offer on-site help. They really only offer hardware support.

Competitor B:

Smaller and less known then A, B provides many services for residents living in east and south parts of town. They are more willing to spend time with a client, figuring out exactly what his or her needs are, and suggesting new options than competitor A.

However, they have an inefficient ordering system and an unkempt shop, which deters potential customers and can turn existing customers to the competition. They also do not offer on-site services, although they are considering instituting a trial pick-up/drop-off service.

They are in the best position to copy our innovations and steal customers, but their management is complacent and may not respond to competition.

Both of these companies charge rates in excess of PC Repair; we will be able to attract the price-sensitive market without much work.

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Computers & Internet

Computer Hardware Reseller Business Plan

By using this sample business plan you can find out more about becoming a computer hardware reseller.

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Computer Hardware Reseller Business Plan

Executive Summary

By focusing on its strengths, its key customers, and the underlying values they need, American Management Technology will increase sales to more than $9 million in three years, while improving the gross margin on sales and cash management and working capital.

This business plan leads the way. It renews our vision and strategic focus: adding value to our target market segments, the small business and high-end home office users, in our local market. It also provides the step-by-step plan for improving our sales, gross margin, and profitability. In order to implement these changes and improve profitability, we plan to borrow another $100,000 long-term this year. The amount seems in-line with the balance sheet capabilities.

AMT is built on the assumption that the management of information technology for business is like legal advice, accounting, graphic arts, and other bodies of knowledge, in that it is not inherently a do-it-yourself prospect. Smart business people who aren’t computer hobbyists need to find quality vendors of reliable hardware, software, service, and support. They need to use these quality vendors as they use their other professional service suppliers, as trusted allies. AMT seeks to fulfill these needs and become the leader in business information technology for its region.

AMT provides both computer products and services to make them useful to small businesses. We are especially focused on providing network systems and services to small and medium business. The systems include both PC-based LAN systems and minicomputer server-based systems. Our services include design and installation of network systems, training, and support.

In order to accomplish our objectives, our keys to success over the next three years are:

  • Differentiate from box-pushing, price-oriented businesses by offering and delivering service and support–and charging for it.
  • Increase gross margin to more than 30%.
  • Increase our non-hardware sales to 20% of the total sales by the third year.

AMT was founded as a consulting-oriented value added reseller (VAR), became a reseller to fill the market need for personal computers, and is emphasizing service and support to differentiate itself from price-oriented competitors. We have one location–a 7,000 square foot store in a suburban shopping center located conveniently close to the downtown area. It includes a training area, service department, offices, and showroom area.

AMT is a privately-held C corporation owned in majority by its founder and president, Ralph Jones. There are six part owners, including four investors and two past employees. The firm includes 21 employees, under the president and four managers. Our main management divisions are sales, marketing, service, and administration. The service department handles service requests, support, training, and development. At present, we are weakest in the area of technical capabilities to manage the database marketing programs and upgraded service and support, particularly with cross-platform networks. We also need to find a training manager.

Recent changes in the computer reseller market have adversely affected AMT. These include margin squeezes, longer collection periods, and lower inventory turnovers. All of these concerns are part of the general trend affecting computer resellers. The margin squeeze is happening throughout the computer industry worldwide.

The only way we can hope to differentiate well is to define the vision of the company to be an information technology ally to our clients. We will not be able to compete in any effective way with the chains using boxes or products as appliances. We need to offer a real alliance that includes such intangibles as confidence, reliability, and knowing that somebody will be there to answer questions and help at the important times.

Our support services, with which we hope to capture market share will include such services as; training, upgrade offers, installation services, network configuration services, etc. The company will seek to aggressively pursue new opportunities. AMT focuses on local markets, small business and home office, with special focus on the high-end home office and the 5-20 unit small business office. The last study we saw published has retail sales growing at 5% per year, while Web sales and direct sales are growing at 25% or 30%.

There are several different kinds of computer retailers within the industry including:

  • Computer dealers: often focused on a few main brands of hardware, usually offering only a minimum of software, and variable amounts of service and support. Their service and support is not usually very good and their prices are usually higher than the larger stores.
  • Chain stores and computer superstores: usually offer decent walk-in service, with very aggressive pricing, and little support.
  • Mail order: offer aggressive pricing of boxed product. For the purely price-driven buyer, who buys boxes and expects no service, these are very good options.

None of these direct competitors provides the customization and service that small businesses such as our clients truly need.

Small business buyers are accustomed to buying from vendors who visit their offices. They expect the copy machine vendors, office products vendors, and office furniture vendors, as well as the local graphic artists, freelance writers, or whomever, to visit their office to make their sales. Many small companies turn immediately to the superstores (office equipment, office supplies, and electronics) and mail order to look for the best price, without realizing that there is a better option for them at only a little bit more.

We need to effectively compete against the idea that businesses should buy computers as plug-in appliances that don’t need ongoing service, support, and training. Our focus group sessions indicated that our target home office markets think about price but would buy based on quality service if the offering were properly presented. They think about price because that’s all they ever see. We have very good indications that many would rather pay 10-20% more for a relationship with a long-term vendor providing back-up and quality service and support; they end up in the box-pusher channels because they aren’t aware of the alternatives.

We currently depend on newspaper advertising as our main way to reach new buyers. As we change strategies, however, we need to change the way we promote ourselves. We will be refocusing on our core message of service through radio, cable TV, sales brochures, direct mailers and newspapers. We need to sell the company, not the product. We sell AMT, not Apple, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, or Compaq, or any of our software brand names.

1.1 Objectives

  • Sales increasing to more than $9 million by the third year.
  • Bring gross margin back up to above 30%, and maintain that level.
  • Sell $1.5 million of service, support, and training by 1998.
  • Improve inventory turnover to 6 turns by 1998.

1.2 Keys to Success

  • Differentiate from box-pushing, price-oriented businesses by offering and delivering service and support — and charging for it.
  • Increase gross margin to more than 30%.
  • Increase our non-hardware sales to 20% of the total sales by the third year.

1.3 Mission

AMT is built on the assumption that the management of information technology for business is like legal advice, accounting, graphic arts, and other bodies of knowledge, in that it is not inherently a do-it-yourself prospect. Smart business people who aren’t computer hobbyists need to find quality vendors of reliable hardware, software, service, and support. They need to use these quality vendors as they use their other professional service suppliers, as trusted allies.

AMT is such a vendor. It serves its clients as a trusted ally, providing them with the loyalty of a business partner and the economics of an outside vendor. We make sure that our clients have what they need to run their businesses as well as possible, with maximum efficiency and reliability. Many of our information applications are mission critical, so we give our clients the assurance that we will be there when they need us.

Company Summary

AMT is a computer reseller based in the Uptown area. It was founded as a consulting-oriented VAR, became a reseller to fill the market need for personal computers, and is emphasizing service and support to differentiate itself from more price oriented national chains.

2.1 Company History

AMT has been caught in the vise grip of margin squeezes that have affected computer resellers worldwide. Although the chart titled Past Financial Performance shows that we have had healthy growth in sales, it also shows declining gross margin and declining profits.

The more detailed numbers in the Past Performance table include other indicators of some concern:

The gross margin % has been declining steadily, as we see in the chart.

Both collection days and inventory turnover are getting steadily worse.

All of these concerns are part of the general trend affecting computer resellers. The margin squeeze is happening throughout the computer industry worldwide.

2.2 Company Ownership

AMT is a privately-held C corporation owned in majority by its founder and president, Ralph Jones. There are six part owners, including four investors and two past employees. The largest of these (in percent of ownership) are Frank Dudley, our attorney, and Paul Karots, our public relations consultant. Neither owns more than 15%, but both are active participants in management decisions.

2.3 Company Locations and Facilities

We have one location–a 7,000 square foot store in a suburban shopping center located conveniently close to the downtown area. It includes a training area, service department, offices, and showroom area.

Products and Services

AMT provides both computer products and services to make them useful to small business. We are especially focused on providing network systems and services to small and medium business. The systems include both PC-based LAN systems and minicomputer server-based systems. Our services include design and installation of network systems, training, and support.

3.1 Product and Service Description

In personal computers, we support three main lines:

  1. The Super Home is our smallest and least expensive line, initially positioned by its manufacturer as a home computer. We use it mainly as a cheap workstation for small business installations. Its specifications include …[additional specifics omitted]
  2. The Power User is our main up-scale line. It is our most important system for high-end home and small business main workstations, because of …. Its key strengths are …. Its specifications include ….[additional specifics omitted]
  3. The Business Special is an intermediate system, used to fill the gap in the positioning. Its specifications include … [additional specifics omitted]

In peripherals, accessories and other hardware, we carry a complete line of necessary items from cables to forms to mousepads … [additional specifics omitted]
In service and support, we offer a range of walk-in or depot service, maintenance contracts and on-site guarantees. We have not had much success selling service contracts. Our networking capabilities …[additional specifics omitted]
In software and training, we offer … [additional specifics omitted]

3.2 Competitive Comparison

The only way we can hope to differentiate well is to define the vision of the company to be an information technology ally to our clients. We will not be able to compete in any effective way with the chains using boxes or products as appliances. We need to offer a real alliance.

The benefits we sell include many intangibles: confidence, reliability, knowing that somebody will be there to answer questions and help at the important times. These are complex products, products that require serious knowledge and experience to use, and our competitors sell only the products themselves. Unfortunately, we cannot sell the products at a higher price just because we offer services; the market has shown that it will not support that concept. We have to also sell the service and charge for it separately.

3.3 Sales Literature

Copies of our brochure and advertisements are attached as appendices. Of course, one of our first tasks will be to change the message of our literature to make sure we are selling the company, rather than the product.

3.4 Fulfillment

Our costs are part of the margin squeeze. As competition on price increases, the squeeze between manufacturers’ price into channels and end-users’ ultimate buying price continues.

With the hardware lines, our margins are declining steadily. We generally buy at … Our margins are thus being squeezed from the 25% of five years ago to more like 13-15% at present. In the main-line peripherals a similar trend shows, with prices for printers and monitors declining steadily. We are also starting to see that same trend with software ….

In order to hold costs down as much as possible, we concentrate our purchasing with Hauser, which offers 30-day net terms and overnight shipping from the warehouse in Dayton. We need to concentrate on making sure our volume gives us negotiating strength. In accessories and add-ons we can still get decent margins, 25% to 40%.

3.5 Technology

We have for years supported both Windows and Macintosh technology for CPUs, although we’ve switched vendors many times for the Windows (and previously DOS) lines. We are also supporting Novell, Banyon, and Microsoft networking, Xbase database software, and Claris application products.

3.6 Future Products and Services

We must remain on top of the new technologies, because this is our bread and butter. For networking, we need to provide better knowledge of cross platform technologies. Also, we are under pressure to improve our understanding of direct-connect internet and related communications. Finally, although we have a good command of desktop publishing, we are concerned about getting better at the integration of technologies that creates fax, copier, printer, and voice mail as part of the computer system.

3.7 Service and Support

  1. Our strategy hinges on providing excellent service and support. This is critical. We need to differentiate on service and support, and to therefore deliver as well.
  2. Training: details would be essential in a real business plan, but not in this sample plan.
  3. Upgrade offers: details would be essential in a real business plan, but not in this sample plan.
  4. Our own internal training: details would be essential in a real business plan, but not in this sample plan.
  5. Installation services: details would be essential in a real business plan, but not in this sample plan.
  6. Custom software services: details would be essential in a real business plan, but not in this sample plan.
  7. Network configuration services: details would be essential in a real business plan, but not in this sample plan.

Market Analysis Summary

AMT focuses on local markets, small business and home office, with special focus on the high-end home office and the 5-20 unit small business office.

4.1 Market Segmentation

The segmentation allows some room for estimates and nonspecific definitions. We focus on a small-medium level of small business, and it is hard to find information to make an exact classification. Our target companies are large enough to need the high-quality information technology management we offer, but too small to have a separate computer management staff such as an MIS department. We say that our target market has 10-50 employees, and needs 5-20 workstations tied together in a local area network; the definition is flexible.

Defining the high-end home office is even more difficult. We generally know the characteristics of our target market, but we can’t find easy classifications that fit into available demographics. The high-end home office business is a business, not a hobby. It generates enough money to merit the owner’s paying real attention to the quality of information technology management, meaning that there is both budget and concerns that warrant working with our level of quality service and support. We can assume that we aren’t talking about home offices used only part-time by people who work elsewhere during the day, and that our target market home office wants to have powerful technology and a lot of links between computing, telecommunications, and video.

4.2 Service Business Analysis

We are part of the computer reselling business, which includes several kinds of businesses:

  • Computer dealers: storefront computer resellers, usually less than 5,000 square feet, often focused on a few main brands of hardware, usually offering only a minimum of software, and variable amounts of service and support. These are usually old-fashioned (1980s-style) computer stores and they usually offer relatively few reasons for buyers to shop with them. Their service and support is not usually very good and their prices are usually higher than the larger stores.
  • Chain stores and computer superstores: these include major chains such as CompUSA, Computer City, Future Shop, etc. They are almost always more than 10,000 square feet of space, usually offer decent walk-in service, and are often warehouse-like locations where people go to find products in boxes with very aggressive pricing, and little support.
  • Mail order: the market is served increasingly by mail order businesses that offer aggressive pricing of boxed product. For the purely price-driven buyer, who buys boxes and expects no service, these are very good options.
  • Others: there are many other channels through which people buy their computers, usually variations of the main three types above.

4.2.1 Competition and Buying Patterns

The small business buyers understand the concept of service and support, and are much more likely to pay for it when the offering is clearly stated.

There is no doubt that we compete much more against all the box pushers than against other service providers. We need to effectively compete against the idea that businesses should buy computers as plug-in appliances that don’t need ongoing service, support, and training.

Our focus group sessions indicated that our target Home Offices think about price but would buy based on quality service if the offering were properly presented. They think about price because that’s all they ever see. We have very good indications that many would rather pay 10-20% more for a relationship with a long-term vendor providing back-up and quality service and support; they end up in the box-pusher channels because they aren’t aware of the alternatives. Availability is also very important. The Home Office buyers tend to want immediate, local solutions to problems.

4.2.2 Main Competitors

Chain stores: We have Store 1 and Store 2 already within the valley, and Store 3 is expected by the end of next year. If our strategy works, we will have differentiated ourselves sufficiently to not have to compete against these stores.
Strengths: national image, high volume, aggressive pricing, economies of scale.
Weaknesses: lack of product, service and support knowledge, lack of personal attention.
Other local computer stores: Store 4 and Store 5 are both in the downtown area. They are both competing against the chains in an attempt to match prices. When asked, the owners will complain that margins are squeezed by the chains and customers buy on price only. They say they tried offering services and that buyers didn’t care, instead preferring lower prices. We think the problem is also that they didn’t really offer good service, and also that they didn’t differentiate from the chains.

4.2.3 Business Participants

The national chains are a growing presence. CompUSA, Computer City, Incredible Universe, Babbages, Egghead, and others. They benefit from national advertising, economies of scale, volume buying, and a general trend toward name-brand loyalty for buying in the channels as well as for products.

Local computer stores are threatened. These tend to be small businesses, owned by people who started them because they liked computers. They are under-capitalized and under-managed. Margins are squeezed as they compete against the chains, in a competition based on price more than on service and support.

4.2.4 Distributing a Service

Small Business buyers are accustomed to buying from vendors who visit their offices. They expect the copy machine vendors, office products vendors, and office furniture vendors, as well as the local graphic artists, freelance writers, or whomever, to visit their office to make their sales.

There is usually a lot of leakage in ad-hoc purchasing through local chain stores and mail order. Often the administrators try to discourage this, but are only partially successful. Unfortunately our Home Office target buyers may not expect to buy from us. Many of them turn immediately to the superstores (office equipment, office supplies, and electronics) and mail order to look for the best price, without realizing that there is a better option for them at only a little bit more.

4.3 Target Market Segment Strategy

We are part of the computer reselling business, which includes several kinds of businesses:

  • Computer dealers: storefront computer resellers, usually less than 5,000 square feet, often focused on a few main brands of hardware, usually offering only a minimum of software, and variable amounts of service and support. These are usually old-fashioned (1980s-style) computer stores and they usually offer relatively few reasons for buyers to shop with them. Their service and support is not usually very good and their prices are usually higher than the larger stores.
  • Chain stores and computer superstores: these include major chains such as CompUSA, Computer City, Future Shop, etc. They are almost always more than 10,000 square feet of space, usually offer decent walk-in service, and are often warehouse-like locations where people go to find products in boxes with very aggressive pricing, and little support.
  • Mail order: the market is served increasingly by mail order businesses that offer aggressive pricing of boxed product. For the purely price-driven buyer, who buys boxes and expects no service, these are very good options.
  • Others: there are many other channels through which people buy their computers, usually variations of the main three types above.

4.3.1 Market Needs

Since our target market is the service seeker, the most important market needs are support, service, training, and installation, in that order. One of the key points of our strategy is the focus on target segments that know and understand these needs and are willing to pay to have them filled.

All personal computer users need support and service. The self reliant ones, however, supply those needs themselves. In home offices, these are the knowledgeable computer users who like to do it themselves. Among the businesses, these are businesses that have people on staff.

4.3.2 Market Trends

The most obvious and important trend in the market is declining prices. This has been true for years, but the trend seems to be accelerating. We see the major brand-name manufacturers putting systems together with amazing specs–more power, more speed, more memory, more disk storage–at amazing prices. The major chain shops are selling brand-name powerful computers for less than $1,000.

This may be related to a second trend, which is the computer as throw-away appliance. By the time a system needs upgrading, it is cheaper to buy completely new. The increasing power and storage of a sub-$1000 system means buyers are asking for less service. A third trend is ever greater connectivity. Everybody wants onto the internet, and every small office wants a LAN. A lot of small offices want their LAN connected to the internet.

4.3.3 Market Growth

As prices fall, unit sales increase. The published market research on sales of personal computers is astounding, as the United States market alone is absorbing more than 30 million units per year, and sales are growing at more than 20 percent per year. We could quote Dataquest, Infocorp, IDC, or others; it doesn’t matter, they all agree on high growth of CPU sales.

Where growth is not as obvious is the retail market. A report in CRW says Dell is now selling $5 million monthly over the web, and we assume Gateway and Micron are both close to that. Direct mail has given way to the web, but catalogs are still powerful, and the non-retail sale is more accepted every day. The last study we saw published has retail sales growing at 5% per year, while web sales and direct sales are growing at 25% or 30%.

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