Templates are essential for small businesses, offering a streamlined approach to various tasks and processes. However, to truly harness their power, customization is key. You can enhance efficiency, brand consistency, and effectiveness by tailoring templates to fit your needs. This article will explore how to create and customize effective templates for a small business.
Step 1: Identify your Business Needs
Before diving into template customization, it’s crucial to understand your business requirements. Determine the purpose of the template and the specific information it needs to include.
Whether it’s a sales proposal, invoice, or marketing email, clarifying your objectives will lay a solid foundation for customization.
How to Identify Your Business Needs
Start by understanding the template’s purpose.
- Consider the specific tasks or processes it will be used for and the information it needs to include.
- Analyze your workflow and identify any pain points or areas that could benefit from a template.
- Gather input from team members or stakeholders to ensure the template addresses their needs.
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is a powerful concept suggesting that roughly 80% of the results come from just 20% of the efforts. With templates, this principle can be instrumental in identifying your business needs.
Applying the 80/20 rule for templates starts with identifying which tasks or projects take up most of your time and effort. This will pinpoint critical areas to introduce templates tailored to your specific requirements.
Step 2: Research and Choose a Template
Explore different template options taking your business needs into consideration. Look for templates that align with your industry and desired style. Consider factors such as compatibility with your software and the ease of use for your team. Many resources are available online, offering a wide range of options suitable for small businesses.
Here are some options where you can find templates online:
Business plan templates:
These provide a structured format for creating comprehensive business plans, helping small business owners outline their goals, strategies, and financial projections.
- SCORE: SCORE (score.org) is a non-profit organization that provides free business mentoring and resources. Their website offers a variety of business planning templates, including comprehensive business plans, executive summaries, financial projections, and more.
- Bplans: Bplans (bpans.com) is a popular website that offers a wide range of business planning resources. They provide over 500 free sample business plans and templates covering various industries and business types.
- Small Business Administration (SBA): The Small Business Administration (sba.gov) is a U.S. government agency supporting small businesses. Their website offers many resources, including business planning templates and guides to help entrepreneurs create effective business plans.
- LivePlan: LivePlan (liveplan.com) is a comprehensive business planning software offering various customizable templates to create professional business plans. It provides step-by-step guidance, financial forecasting tools, and collaboration features.
Here is a link to our own One Page Business Plan template.
Invoice templates simplify the process of creating professional invoices for products or services rendered, ensuring accuracy and consistency in billing. Your accounting software will have built-in options. Here are some others:
- Zoho Invoice: Zoho Invoice (zoho.com/invoice) is an online invoicing software offering various features, including invoice templates. Their website provides multiple options that can be adapted to suit the branding and needs of small businesses.
- Invoice Generator: Invoice Generator (invoice-generator.com) is a free online tool that allows users to create and download customized invoices. Their website offers a simple and user-friendly interface with different templates.
- Vertex42: Vertex42 (vertex42.com) offers a wide range of free templates, including invoices that are available in Excel and Google Sheets formats, allowing small business owners to customize and track their invoices.
Marketing email templates:
These templates offer pre-designed layouts and content structures for crafting effective marketing emails, helping small business owners engage with their audience and promote their products or services.
Your email marketing software will probably have options to use. Here are others:
- HubSpot: HubSpot (hubspot.com) offers a range of marketing tools, including email marketing. Their website provides customizable email templates to create engaging and visually appealing marketing emails.
- Brevo: Brevo (formerly Sendinblu) (brevo.com) is an email marketing platform with a free option to access 40+ templates and email editing tools.
- Stripo: Stripo (stripo.com) is an email marketing site offering a gallery of over 1400 free and premium professionally designed email templates. Their website provides options for various industries and occasions, making it easy for small businesses to create effective marketing emails.
- 99Designs: 99Designs (99designs.com) is a graphic design site that connects businesses with freelance designers. You can access 45 free professionally designed email templates by signing up for their newsletter.
Social media post templates:
Small business owners can find templates for various social media platforms, making creating visually appealing and engaging posts to attract and connect with their target audience easier.
- Canva: Canva (canva.com) is a popular graphic design platform offering various social media post templates. Their website provides customizable options for social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Adobe Express: Adobe Express (adobe.com/express) is a design tool that offers templates for creating social media posts. Their website provides a selection of customizable options with different layouts, styles, and themes. Their free plan has all the core features with no time restrictions.
- Piktochart: Piktochart (piktochart.com) is an online design tool primarily known for infographic creation, but it also offers social media post templates. Their website provides editable layouts to fit different social media platforms.
- Stencil: Stencil (getstencil.com) is a simple graphic design tool focused on creating visuals for social media marketing. Their website offers a variety of pre-designed social media post templates to customize with text, images, and graphics.
Proposal templates provide a framework for presenting project or business proposals to potential clients, ensuring that all necessary information is included and presented professionally and organised.
- PandaDoc: PandaDoc (pandadoc.com) is a document management platform that offers a variety of business templates, including proposals. Their website provides customizable templates with various sections and features to help small businesses create professional and persuasive proposals.
- Proposify: Proposify (proposify.com) is a proposal software that provides a library of customizable templates for different industries and business needs, allowing small businesses to create visually appealing and compelling proposals.
- Microsoft Office Templates: Microsoft Office Templates (microsoft.com) is a templates repository for Microsoft Office applications. Their website provides a collection of proposal templates that can be used with Word, PowerPoint, or Excel, offering flexibility and familiarity for small business owners.
- Bidsketch: Bidsketch (bidsketch.com) is a site that offers a variety of templates to help small businesses create compelling and professional proposals efficiently.
Employee onboarding templates:
These templates assist in streamlining the employee onboarding process, providing a structured approach to introducing new hires to the company, its policies, and procedures.
- Trello: Trello (trello.com) is a project management tool that offers customizable, pre-designed templates, with task lists and timelines to help streamline the employee onboarding process.
- Smartsheet: Smartsheet (smartsheet.com) is a collaborative work management platform that offers various options, including employee onboarding templates that allow small businesses to create structured onboarding processes and track progress.
- SHRM: The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) (shrm.org) is a professional association that offers resources for HR professionals. Their website provides sample employee onboarding templates and checklists that can be customized to fit the needs of small businesses.
Meeting agenda templates:
These help small business owners organize and structure their meetings effectively, ensuring that crucial topics are covered and time is managed efficiently.
- Google Docs Template Gallery: This (google.com) provides a collection of templates, including meeting agendas. Users can access and customize these templates using Google Docs, making it easy to collaborate and share agendas with team members.
- Evernote: Evernote (evernote.com) is a note-taking and organization platform that offers meeting agenda templates. Their website provides customizable options to create and organize meeting agendas, ensuring that all necessary topics are covered.
- Lucid Meetings: Lucid Meetings (lucidmeetings.com) is a meeting management software that also offers a selection of professionally designed meeting agenda alternatives to fit different types of meetings and organizations.
These offer a framework for managing and tracking finances, allowing small business owners to monitor expenses, revenues, and overall financial health.
If you use accounting software, it will likely include a budget layout. Other alternatives include Microsoft Office Templates, Smartsheet and Vertex42, as previously mentioned.
Project management templates:
These templates assist in planning, organizing, and tracking project tasks and milestones, helping small business owners manage projects efficiently and ensure successful outcomes.
- Asana: Asana (asana.com) is a project management software that provides templates for various project types and workflows. Their website offers pre-built options for project plans, meeting agendas, sprint boards, and more.
- Project Management Institute: Project Management Institute (projectmanagement.projectmanagement.com) provides access to over 1000 project management templates, including project plans, key performance indicators and checklists.
- Wrike: Wrike (Wrike.com) is another project management software tool offering templates to help streamline different projects. Their website provides options for project plans, marketing campaigns, event management, and other project management needs.
- Other alternatives include Trello and Smartsheet, referred to earlier.
Step 3: Customize the Template
Once you’ve selected a template, it’s time to make it your own. Start by modifying the design elements to reflect your brand identity. Incorporate your logo, choose a color scheme that matches your brand guidelines, and adjust fonts and typography accordingly. This will ensure your templates maintain consistency with your overall brand image.
Next, adapt the content to meet your specific needs. Customize the sections, headers, and footers based on the information you want to include. Make sure to personalize the template by adding relevant contact details, company information, and any other specific details unique to your business.
Step 4: Test and Refine
Before implementing the customized template, testing its functionality and ensuring it is error-free is essential. Check that all the fields and formulas work correctly, and the template performs as expected. Consider involving team members or trusted colleagues to provide feedback on the usability and effectiveness of the template.
Based on the feedback received, refine the template further if necessary. Make adjustments to improve clarity, usability, or other areas requiring attention. Remember that continuous improvement is vital to creating effective templates that meet your business needs.
Step 5: Document and Save the Template
Once you have finalized your customized template, it’s important to document it properly and save it for future use. Create a master copy and store it securely, ensuring it is easily accessible to all relevant team members.
Keep track of any changes or updates made, as this will help maintain version control, and ensure everyone is using the latest version.
Creating effective templates and customizing them for your small business is a valuable investment of time and effort. By identifying your business needs, researching suitable templates, and customizing them to reflect your brand identity, you can enhance efficiency and maintain consistency across your organization.
Regular testing, feedback, and refinement are essential to ensure that your templates continue to meet your evolving business requirements.
Embrace the power of templates and unleash their potential in your small business operations.
Other articles in this series:
The Benefits of Using Templates in Small Business: Improving Efficiency and Boosting Productivity
Types of Business Templates and Where to Use Them