Traditional business plans like those you learn to do at business school just sucks for entrepreneurs. I’m talking about those 50-page essays describing how your future business and product will work in ridiculous details.
It is very long and boring to write, and for the small entrepreneur, it just kills the momentum right from the start.
Plus who wants to read that?
People have tight schedules, and are lazy readers. Seriously, last time a friend came to me with one of those to have my honest opinion. I simply had a headache just reading the table of contents.
I told him; why don’t you sit down, take a beer, and just tell me about it instead?
Anyway, those business plans are way too precise. You will waste valuable time forever writing a plan for the next year, but as soon as you start, shit happens, things change and evolve differently so much that after only a few months in, the original business plan is already totally useless.
Of course, you need to do some research, some planning and some design, but the classic business plan concept is way too rigid for the modern entrepreneur. You can set goals and have ideas, but in the end, reality will guide you in real time.
In a couple of fun and innovative brainstorming sessions, I throw up the main ideas and guidelines on one of those big paper sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 or a big cardboard in a form of an info-graphic or mind map with some colour markers for kids.
Even better if they smell like fruit!
I will then, take some more time to let mature the ideas, to do some more research, and following that, I will update it a couple more times.
You are in the innovation and design phase of the project; you need to let your creativity flow at that point, so things have to stay cool.
Here are 7 important questions your info-graphic or mind map could answers at that point.
Who are my clients?
Yes, for whom are you creating your product or services? You need to understand who those guys are and what the things they have in common are. Also, what are the main characteristics that link them to your product? Underline that!
Groups of your clients probably have similar passions or hobbies; they might hang out around other niche or use other complementary products!
Not only keeping that in mind will allow you to create a better product but it will also help you find where they are!
In other terms, you need to know the demographic and psychographics of your typical client.
By envisioning your typical client archetype, you will be well-prepared by the time you finally go about working on your marketing strategy.
What is my special ingredient?
Why should they pick your product over another similar one? Other products might probably offer similar value, but why your angle is better for your client?
This aspect is what makes your product or service unique and probably come from your own identity. It is the drop of yourself, the special ingredient you put in the receipt to make it taste just like your client needs it.
You need to consciously be aware of this key difference, and put some emphasis on it in your product development and marketing strategy. Use cherry flavored marker for that one!
What are my key metrics, and what are my first targets?
You need to establish a way to measure your progress in this adventure, right? Those numbers that you will collect for monitoring purposes are called KPI (key performance indicator) and include stuff like:
- Visitor number.
- Sale number.
- Conversion rate.
- Weekly profit.
- Returning client ratio.
Later on, you can use those numbers to plot graphical representation of what is going on with your business. Those will allow you to monitor how your client react to the changes you make to: your website, selling pitch or page, advertisements, etc… With those numbers in hand, you will have the capacity to set goals and later optimise your business.
Where are my selling points?
Will you sell online?
Will you use an affiliate network?
Will you use your own website?
Will you use an e-market place like e-bay?
Will you have a physical location?
Even if it seems to be a no-brainer, there is a lot of possibilities out there and some have tremendous advantages over others. Take some time to investigate and draw the answer on your map!
How will I launch my business?
At first, when nobody knows about your product, how will you promote it to the potentially interested parties? How will you reach the necessary critical mass, the tipping point, in order to get the necessary chain reaction that will propel your business?
So many people underestimate the importance of an ingenious and well-planned lunching strategy, they think; we are going to have a website, go viral on social media, and people will find us on Google. This is so naïve, 6 months later, having 15 visitors a month, being totally ignored by Google and unpopular on social media, they still don’t understand what went wrong.
What is my marketing strategy?
Once the lunch has been done, what will be my marketing strategy? What techniques and tactic I will use to constantly attract the eyes of some new clients and with the use of which communication medium? How much will that cost me each month?
How will I convert?
Once your marketing has attracted some potential clients, how will you convince them to buy? This is one critical piece of the puzzle, because that’s what makes the money come in. You need to figure out how to sell to your clients before you actually launch your product. You can read on the subject, spy on your competitors, and most importantly, test your theories yourself on the field.
The idea behind a big one page graphical business plan is to keep business start-up process dynamic and innovative while creating momentum. Don’t get stuck in the details at the beginning; you will not be able to solve all the problems before you start, and you will never really solve them if you never start.
When the time comes, and you will need to elaborate on some specifics, you can use the same process for sub-plans like your marketing strategy, for example. A lot of being an entrepreneur is about love and purpose. Don’t let conventional wisdom force bureaucratic ways on you that you don’t need!
On that note, if your are really serious about starting a business, get filthy rich and conquer the world, I recommend you to take a deep breath and read The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank. This book is a MUST for every entrepreneur who wants to build a successful business. It’s a 608 page, step by step, how to guide, that will stack the odds for success on your side! This is a solid place to start and so much more. Seriously, forget the 200K$ MBA program and study this book instead!!!
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