Business Plan Templates and Guides

There are many business plan templates and business planning guides online. Here are a few commonly used ones in Atlantic Canada.

CBDC Business Plan Template (Pdf Version)

CBDC One Page Business Plan Summary

CBDC Business Planification Guide

Ignite Fredericton has produced a very high-quality business plan guide.
Ignite Fredericton – Business Plan Guide

BDC – Business Plan Template (you’ll have to provide your email address)

Nova Scotia Co-Operative Council
For Co-operatives
Business Plan Workbook

An excellent article with sample plans
US Small Business Administration – Write Your Business Plan

Market Analysis

During the Market Research phase, you gathered facts. During the Market Analysis phase, you will analyze those facts to understand better your customers, competition, and industry you operate in.

When conducting a market analysis, you should cover the following three angles:

  1. Industry analysis to assess the general industry environment in which you compete
  2. Target market analysis to identify and quantify the customers that you will be targeting for sales.
  3. Competitive analysis to identify your competitors and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

Industry Analysis
Conducting an industry analysis is usually easy because market reports for industries are readily available on the Web. Find out the industry’s size, how it is segmented, and who the big players are.

Three commonly used methods for performing industry analysis are: 
Competitive Forces Model (Porter’s 5 Forces) 
– Broad Factors Analysis (PEST Analysis) 
– SWOT Analysis 

To find out more on each of the three above methods, read our Industry Analysis post.

Target Market Analysis
No one can afford to market to everyone. Defining a target market allows you to focus your marketing dollars on the market that is the most likely to buy from you.

Your target market analysis should answer who, what, when, where, why, and how. Find out who your potential customers are by defining their age, gender, ethnic background, education, occupations, and income levels. What are their lifestyles, attitudes, interests, hobbies, aspirations, and needs? When are they going to buy in terms of seasons, days, or hours? Where do your potential customers live, work, shop, hang out? Why would they purchase from you rather than the competitors? How do they search, find, select and buy?

Competitive Analysis
You must get a comprehensive understanding of where you are positioned within the competitive landscape.

Who are your direct competitors?
What is their market share?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
Who are your indirect competitors?
What products and services do they offer?
How do they market their products?
How do they price their products and services?
Where do they stand in terms of the use of technology?
What are they doing right?
What other products and services can be substituted for yours?
Where will you position yourself in terms of size, price, quality, or other? What makes you unique?

A good article on competitive analysis can be found at

Market Analysis – Industry Analysis

Conducting an industry analysis is usually easy because market reports for industries are readily available.  If you are planning to sell cheese, do a Google search on “cheese market report,” and you’ll find several documents.   Find out the industry’s size, how it is segmented, and who the big players are. An industry analysis confirms the existence of a strategic opportunity.

There are three commonly used and important methods of performing industry analysis.  The three methods are: 

Competitive Forces Model (Porter’s 5 Forces) 
Broad Factors Analysis (PEST Analysis) 
SWOT Analysis 

Competitive Forces Model (Porter’s 5 Forces)

Is there are a large number of competitors in your industry?
Are there a lot of barriers to entry in the industry?
How powerful are the suppliers?
How powerful are the customers?
Are there substitute products and services?

Broad Factors Analysis (PEST Analysis) 

How likely is this industry to be impacted by government policy and changes in legislation?
Is this industry sensitive to exchange rates, economic growth, inflation, supply, demand, or recessions?
Does this industry depend on demographics, age distribution, and social trends?
Is this industry dependent on technology and at risk if technologies change?

SWOT Analysis 
SWOT analysis is a great way to understand where you stand in terms of your competition.

What are your strengths compared with others within this industry?
What are your weaknesses when compared to others in this industry?
What opportunities do you see for yourself within the industry?
What are the possible threats to succeeding in this industry?


For more, consider the following link:

How to Conduct Your Own Market Research

To make sound business decisions, you will need facts. To obtain facts, one tool you will use is Market Research.

What is Market Research
Market research i about gathering as much information as you can on your target market’s needs, wants, beliefs ,and behaviors. Onceyou know your target customers, you’ll know how to tailor your products, services, and marketing materials to their needs. 

Know your Target Audience
Your target audience definition will be the foundation of your marketing efforts and, possibly, your entire business.  A good target audience definition will help you determine what products and services to offer. It will help you set prices, establish what type of marketing materials you need, where to advertise, and will provide many other benefits.

Define the target markets’ demographics by specifying the age, gender, income, marital status, and educational level of targeted consumers.

Narrow down your audience by geographical location. It’s a big world out there; you can’t target all areas.

Further narrow down your audience according to interests, hobbies, activities, and behaviors.

What type of attitudes and opinions characterizes your target audience? Are they concerned by climate change? Do they look for the lowest price? Do they like to try new products?

If you want to know more about defining your target audience, click here.

Understand the Target Markets’ needs
Focus on understanding the fundamental needs. What are their goals, desires, preferences, problems, frustrations, and other pain points?

Talk to potential customers, do surveys, dig deep.

How Much do They Spend
Your customers have needs. How much will they be willing to spend towards filling the needs? Analyzing competition sites, surveys, and plain old Google searches should give you an idea of how much money is available for your products and services.

How is the Competition Filling the Needs
Analyze what the competition is doing to fill the needs. Can you find gaps between what is needed and what the competition is offering? Websites, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Linked In, Youtube, Twitter can tell you a lot about competition. Do a few searches on the products and services you are planning to offer. It shouldn’t take long before you start receiving ads for similar products and services. Study those ads carefully. Platforms like Facebook let you see why you see the Ad by clicking the down arrow to the right. It is OK to have competition, which usually means demand for what you are offering.

Market Size and Expected Market Share
Try to determine the size of your market. Industry reports usually provide useful numbers for just about any product. Sites such as Statistics Canada often have precise data on how much consumers are spending by category. You might have to get creative with social media tools such as Facebook Audience Insight to figure the size of your market. Your market share will depend on how many competitors operate within your targeted market.

How can You Reach the Potential Customers
It would help if you determined how you are going to reach your potential customers. Where do they hang out in the physical world? Where do they hang out online? What magazines or blogs do they follow? Can they be targeted with Facebook ads? How is the competition reaching the customers? Is your competition using magnet words to reach your customers?

Interesting Market Research Link

How to Find Business Ideas

Do a Bit of Research
There are plenty of business ideas. Some are good, and some are not. Before starting a business, take time to generate more than one idea.

A great place to start is Google searches. You will quickly find websites that provide a long list of businesses you could start. We recommend doing specific searches such as “business ideas for carpenters.”

Customer Trends
Analyze new customer trends as they often provide ideas for new businesses.

For example, people have recently become worried about climate change and want to be environmentally responsible. This environmental trend creates new opportunities.

We have an aging population. As people get older, they are more inclined to purchase certain services, creating new business opportunities.

Keep an eye on what is happening around you, and you’ll get ideas.

Market Research
To determine if your idea can be transformed into a profitable business opportunity, do a bit of market research.

There usually are market reports for just about any industry. For example, if you search “market for ping pong tables” you will quickly find something such as “Table Market Research Report – 2019”. These reports will quantify current and future trends in the selected market.

Do a bit of customer-related research. You need to know as much as you can about your potential customers. What age group is most likely to purchase your product? What is the best way to reach them? How much do they spend? Stats Canada often has statistics available on many industries.

Talk to people about your business idea. Discussing your idea with potential customers will let you determine the level of interest and give you an idea of how much they would be willing to pay.

It’s a big world. Someone else probably had a similar business idea as you. Read up on what they are doing. Also, find out who you competition might be and learn from them. If there is too much competition around one idea, it is sometimes better to move on to another business idea.

When possible, it is recommended to test the business idea by offering the service to a few customers, and in the case of products, build a prototype to get honest feedback.

Imitate or Innovate
There is nothing wrong with imitating another successful business, especially when that business is in another geographical area. Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.

This said, society tends to reward innovation, and new ideas are great.

Interesting Resources
Check out the following links if you need help finding the right business idea.

19 Fresh Way to Find New Business Idea

How to Find Business Idea – The Ultimate Guide (video)

How to Come Up With Your Winning Business Idea (video)

950 Businesses You Can Start Today

300 Best Small Business Ideas