Creating a strategy from scratch can feel like a daunting task. Plus, it’s a very “corporate” word that I think has developed an unfair reputation. Strategies aren’t just fluff. They also don’t need to be overwhelming. When I started my last startup, I think I spent 30 minutes developing a quick strategy. What that did for me was it gave me a runway to run as fast as I could without looking up and getting distracted. I’m hoping this lesson of #theprep will help you get that runway you need.
It doesn’t need to be scary
I get it. The word “strategy” can sound a little corporate and vague. I like to think that it’s no different than sports. The idea is a football team, with a vision to win the state championship. In order to do that, they need a game plan (strategy) to execute on that. When you break it down to it’s simplest form it’s no different with business, it just has an ambiguous word.
Short term vs. Long term
I’ll admit a vision and strategy at this point of the game can sound like overkill. Just launch your idea and create a plan later. I’ve been there, done that, and taking a day or two to plan out where you’re headed isn’t going to be the end of the world.
With that in mind, your strategy can have a short term focus. For example, strategies could range from a 3 year plan broken down by quarters. At this point, that’s definitely overkill. But what about 90 days? 30 days? With a little planning you can save yourself the hassle of having to re-work things you didn’t plan or account for.
100 words or less
When creating your strategy one of the first things I like to do is to make sure I can describe my idea or business in 100 words or less. It forces you to focus. It restricts you from trying to run before you walk. When writing down the 100 words, think through what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for and why you’re doing it.
As I’m writing these things down I just keep thinking this all sounds like common sense. But if everyone was doing it then this whole “launch an idea from nothing” would be a lot easier than it is. You’d be surprised how many businesses or people trying to launch struggle to understand who they are serving. When I say target audience I don’t just mean one thing.
I’m building an app for schools.
Ok cool. Are you focused on K-12? Just high school? College? Are you targeting the teachers, parents or the students? Private or public schools? Boys only or girls only schools? The list goes on. Again, when I say strategy it doesn’t have to be a large strategy session that drags out. It’s just making you stop and think about where you’re going, for who and why.
In short, a value proposition is a concise statement that explains how your idea or product or service solves a customer’s problem and gives them some sort of benefit. Lastly it should clearly state to your customers why your solution is better than the competition.
- Explain the problem you’re solving.
- State the benefit of the solution.
- Finally, tell them why yours is the best of all.
This is a very important part of your strategy to nail down. It’s your unique value proposition and it’s what drives your differentiators.
Like a strategy, you can get really in-depth with a competitive analysis. For this series of the #theprep, I’m not interested in that. The biggest thing I’d like you to get out of this section is to make sure you’re not creating another “copycat” idea or business. If you’re only in it to do that, then you’re just in it to make a quick buck, and you’re not providing value to anyone.
In my opinion, the point of a competitive analysis is to get a feel for the landscape. Seek to understand what you’re competitors are doing, but more importantly what they AREN’T doing. If you’ve done your work with your value prop at this point, this should be a breeze and you should understand what is missing in your specific niche or industry.
Yet another crucial component of your strategy. You can have the best product in the world, but if you can’t sell, no one will ever buy it. There are a million ways to market something online.
- Paid Search
Additionally, there are a million ways to present your product. It’s exclusive only, it’s high-end, it’s cheap or deeply discounted, it’s free with add-ons as you grow, etc.
The point here is, you need to have a strategy when it comes to marketing your product. If this isn’t what you’re strength is, that’s ok. Find a partner to help. If you don’t want a partner, hire for it. Don’t make the mistake or assumption that customers will find your one of a kind idea or product.
There’s a lot to cover in a strategy. Especially if this idea or business of yours is something you really believe in. You want to do it right from the start and you want to put your best foot forward. You have a long road ahead even after we get through this launch and this crucial planning will put you lightyears ahead.
To help with this process, I’ve put together a very simplified strategy document you can download. You can copy it, download, etc. You’re free to do whatever you want with it. It will help you get your thoughts down and after going through the entire google doc, you’ll have a strategy to run with. As always, good luck!