Studying your market will give you insight as to how you can make your business more appealing to people. Market research is more than just noticing trends in your customers' buying habits; it's discovering what motivates your customer to buy. Don't assume that you already know because you've been in this business for years. This study often unearths characteristics about your market that are hidden or new. It's best to discover these things before your competition.
So, although a detailed business plan may not be required for an online business, I am going to include it here so you can at least look at and consider each section and determine yourself if it applies to your business.
The financial statements section should show the way things are now if you have an existing business, as well as a forward look at your checking account, or projected income statement. The only way a start_up company can provide an income statement and balance sheet is by projecting these figures based upon well defined assumptions. Both start_ups and existing businesses should include a statement of owner's equity.
Who should prepare the plan? _ As a business consultant, this may sound like heresy, but I believe that any plan should be produced by the senior management of the organisation. That is not to say that the consultant does not have a role to play in its preparation. He does. Senior management should prepare the plan as they will then be able to present and discuss it, demonstrating to their audience that they fully understand their business and market. I believe that the consultant's role is to help facilitate the preparation of the plan, the consultant can help undertake the necessary research, and can cast a critical and impartial eye over the plan.