A thoughtfully prepared business plan is a critical element of a successful small business application or inspiring presentation to prospective investors. In order to win confidence, your plan has to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Each of these dimensions  indicate organization and know-how, and they’ll help you craft a compelling narrative about your business’ plans for the future.

Specific

A well-written business plan has to have substantive information and can’t appear to be speculative. If any key components of your plan appear speculative or theoretical, a lender or investor won’t feel motivated to work with you. You need concrete information about the logistics of what you’re going to do and solid reasoning about your anticipated results.

Achievable

A business plan has to be more than aspirational; it has to clearly demonstrate why your business’ plans for growth can be accomplished. In other words, there shouldn’t be too many variables or contingencies for your model to work. You need a sound strategy that doesn’t hinge on factors that are well beyond your control. Your plan has to convey how your efforts will yield success.

Relevant

While you need your business plan to be thorough, it also has to call attention to the most important elements. Over-emphasizing details that aren’t particularly relevant can detract from the overall quality of your narrative. Also, it’s important that you highlight why your business is relevant in relation to the current market demands and trends within your industry.

Time-Bound

Anticipating growth and movement that’s shaped by future occurrences can be one of the most challenging parts of formulating a solid business plan. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you set realistic goals about your timeline for development. Uncertainty about the future is one of the most daunting aspects that lenders and investors grapple with when deciding whether to take a risk on a new or growing business. You have to assuage their practical concerns by taking ambiguity out of the timeline. Set specific dates for milestones and be clear about how you’ll get there.

When you’re writing your business plan, you need your assertions to be backed by thorough research and readily understandable data based on past performance. Don’t set your metrics for success so high that your plan appears far-fetched, but also take care to avoid setting the bar too low. A conservative but confident plan will get your business the attention that it deserves.