Category Archives: Business Planning
Andrew Light gives a list of tips for any new venture to keep in mind when developing a new business plan. When creating a business plan, it is important to know exactly what you are trying to achieve. Typically, businesses lack focus or become too ambitious so rather than attempting to do everything yourself and be all things to all people, the best course of action is to focus on the niche you want to target and determine if it’s big enough to sustain your venture.
Identify Your Value Proposition
Before you can understand your own business, you need to understand the market. Who are the other ‘players’, and what are they doing? Once you’ve plotted where other players are, you have a better chance of understanding what your focus should be in order to compete effectively. This might be as simple as knowing what you don’t want to do.
Once you have an idea of what the market looks like, you can decide how to position yourself. How will your business fit into the competitive landscape? What do you want your business’s market segment to be – value? Quality? What are your ‘core values,’ and how will they match your business model? In general, the further from the ‘centre’ of the market you are and the more defined your plan is, the better your value proposition is likely to be.
In any case, the fundamental aspects of a good value proposition are that it is measurable (how do you know how big your market is?), sizable (is it big enough?), applicable (can you reach the market in a cost-effective way?), and desirable (for instance: is the market ‘durable’? In other words, will it last long enough to make your business worth it?).
Design Adaptive Products and Services
Simply designing a product may not be enough. The landscape of the market may change, and your product may need to change with it. Thus, you will need to know how to build what are termed ‘active offerings’ – adaptive consumer products that can change with the market’s needs.
Plan Your Budget
The most important part of your budget is your ‘peak funding requirement’ – that is, your moment of maximum exposure. Investors will need to know just how big your – and their – risk is.
Understand How to Attract Investors
Investors will want to know who you are, what your idea is, what your business model is, and who your customers are. People are actually the most important thing: investors are looking for more than just an idea or a product – they want to work with people who are honest, experienced, have leadership qualities, and have passion for what they are doing. Most investors will know that ideas can be refined, but personal conflicts or lack of expertise are more difficult to remedy. On the other hand, many good ideas never become successful businesses. Don’t assume that your product alone will be enough to sell your business. It also pays to understand your market and what you are trying to achieve. Show that there is a market by giving the examples of other applicable business plans – and how yours is different. Likewise, before you meet with investors, you should have a clear pricing strategy (competitive? Predatory? Bundled?) and understand how big the market is and how big (realistically) your share might be. Get your facts and figures right, and don’t exaggerate.
Andrew also gives a few short tips in conclusion:
– Have a tightly defined value proposition.
– Emphasise you.
– A great product on its own is no recipe for success.
– Ontario is a great place to be right now. There is a compelling story around digital, mobile, and Ontario.
The User Experience with Ilona Posner
During the past few years, there has been an increase in the need for User Experience (UX) techniques to create and test products and services. Ilona Posner gives an excellent introduction and numerous examples of UX and how it can really change the way you see mobile design and development.
Why is it important to think about user experience design when creating your mobile product? Ilona presents compelling reasons why user experiences are important. Not only the economic traction but also the overall success of a product can be affected by the user experience design.
What is User Experience?
Defined by the International Organization for Standardization, user experience is “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system, or service”. The whole process of the user experience is subjective and is shaped by the users: emotions, beliefs, perceptions, and behaviours to name a few.
From the moment your user finds your product, to when they use it, and even after they stop using it, UX is important. Every aspect of the journey through your product should be important to you when studying the user experience, it is always an opportunity to improve and understand your product as it relates to your customers’ experience.
You Are NOT a User
Ilona has created a mantra for her students and teams: “I am not a user.” The mantra is there to guide designers to remember that their perspectives are of a maker, not a user. What you see as obvious to you, might not be as obvious to the user.
You may know the manual of your product inside and out, but the true user doesn’t know or even think about your manual. The reality is, they will never go to a manual and only in true distress will they go to some form of help button.
When building and testing your mobile interface, keep in mind that you are tainted by the knowledge of the project. You do not posses the objectivity to be able to successfully understand how your product will be understood.
The Importance of The Prototype Stage
With a little imagination and creativity, you can “try” out your product before coding or building it. Paper Prototyping is where you draw out your designs step by step, working through the functions of your platform. One of the goals is to minimize the risk associated with a failed product, in turn saving both time and money in building. This is also the time for you to experiment and try different ideas, which may lead to greater innovation.
Ilona’s presents more examples on UX design and knowledge in the video’s below:
Video : User Experience Design
Video: User Research
Slideshare from Ilona’s presentation:
In this two-part presentation with Krista Napier from IDC Canada, Krista shares key information about when and how to conducting mobile market research. Her tips include how to focus a company’s market research to guide future mobile product development. For example, to validate a concept, market research data can be used to determine if there is a demand for the product.
Krista lists the following four reasons to conduct market research:
- Opportunity to make money
- Market Readiness
- Geographic Differences
Is there an opportunity in the market to make money? Searching for opportunities means looking for gaps in the market where customers’ needs or wants are not being met. Your mobile services and products may meet those customer demands, and the customers will be willing to pay for your solutions.
Making sure that there is market readiness for your mobile product. There might be an app you want to build, but the customers were not yet ready to accept. If the market is not equipped to use the technology, then wait for a better time to build it.
Your market research can look at geographic differences. Your mobile product will not suite everyone, so your market research will give you the ability to create a niche within your target market.
Market research can also provide insights to positioning; i.e., how you must position your mobile service relative to other competitors in the market. If there are many competitors in your market or not that many, it might be a question of large or minimal amount of demand.
Krista’s Research Tips
Krista offers two main tips to help with conducting market research: 1) the importance of the quality and quantity of your metrics and 2) the location they came from.
A very important part of market research is to be aware of the quality of the source of the data. Not only the number of respondents, but the quality. The quality of respondents has a strong impact on research results. They need to come from a diverse pool that answered without bias, again with the end goal of having accurate data. Respondents who have already used your app will be biased and should not be used. There needs to be an ample amount of respondents to create an accurate result.
Finally, customers’ data from Canada should not be used to for American market research and vice versa. Being in Canada, it’s better not to assume that US trends can be used cross-geographically. There are different dynamics of vendors and adoption patterns in the US compared to Canada. Using trends from one country for another will skew your strategy for your mobile apps.
Video 1: Market Research Part 1
Video 2: Market Research Part 2
The importance of industry and market research for your business plan with Howard Rosen, CEO of Lifewire
The challenge for any business is to collect the large amounts of research and then be able to condense it into an impressive (but brief!) twenty-five-page business plan. Howard Rosen, the CEO of Lifewire, says that the plan needs to be succinct yet comprehensive and match what you are saying. If it isn’t, the listener will wonder why you don’t just get to the point and “get to the meat” of your business.
The “meat” of course comes from all the research you have done previously. In this two-part video, Howard discusses the importance of collecting research and validating it.
For Howard, it always came down to the basic question “does it work?” He knew he had an excellent idea for mobile health, but the more he talked to people the more he realized “I better make sure this thing works!” People were always asking him to show them the product, to prove it to them, and to match what he was saying by what he was showing them. Research helped him prove his product and prepare to present it in his business plan and to his customers.
Research, Research, Research
The importance of research is to test your idea, to see if and how it works in the real world—not just in your head. Is your idea really that brilliant? You might think it’s an excellent idea, until your research shows that you are wrong. Discovering that your idea might be conflicting with your research is a good thing: it means something has to be changed.
Part of Howard’s research process was to reach out to 3rd parties to help him validate his assumptions about his product. One of the key elements of planning is using 3rd parties that can help you confirm your assumptions and give you direction on how to proceed with your product.
Key Elements to Planning: 3rd Party Validation
- Thought Leaders in the industry
- Professionals (Lawyers, accountants, etc…)
The validation of your idea gives decision makers such as funding bodies a reason to choose you instead of your competitor.
Getting Out There
In the “Knowing Your Market” video, Howard stresses the need to not only know your industry’s market from reports, but also go out to your market’s environment. For him, he went to hospitals, doctor offices, and any place that provided health care. You need to see how your market perceives your industry and its services and to delve deeper into your customers’ true needs. Howard says, “Just because someone says they need something, doesn’t actually mean they need [it], that’s what they perceive they need.” By going into these markets, you test those perceived needs and compared them to the real needs.
Getting out there and testing your product gives you an excellent opportunity to see what changes you need to make. What you think is simple to do, the user might find confusing and difficult. “Knowing how to evolve [your product] for the marketplace and [for] the changing marketplace” becomes an ongoing process in your product development.
It never really ends
Research never really ends. Even when the business plan is written, research continues as you build upon all the knowledge you have accumulated over time. For any new market you enter, a new business plan has to be created, researched, and validated.
Part 1 – Writing out your business plan
Part 2 – Knowing your Market
Blog contributor: Helen Kontozopoulos @helenissocial
In this week’s video series, Diane Davy from WorkInCulture presents information about how business planning can help the grant application process for Canadian content creators within the mobile sector. Diane’s three videos are also good primers for anyone who is in thinking about applying for a grant.
A large part of applying for a grant is having a strong and compelling business plan. It demonstrates to funders that you have strategies and objectives in place, that you possess a deep understanding of the market, the customer, and the business environment, and that you area able to deliver on that plan.
A business plan is a “description in words and numbers of your business with a focus on the future” Diane says. Seems daunting? It is the most time consuming aspect of the grant application process, but it will be the best time spent when developing your business. Give yourself the time to do the research and to write a cohesive and compelling plan. If you do, you will impress your funders.
Parts of a business plan include the following:
- Mission Statement “Why does my business exist and for whom?”
- Goals “Where are you trying to get to?”
- Strategies “How are you going to get there?”
- Outcomes and Measurements “How will you know when you got there?”
- Financial Information “What will it all cost?”
“Why am I in business?”
The first part of your business plan is your mission statement, it is the guide for your plan, helping you make decisions through each section, bringing it all together under one focus defined in the beginning. When first writing your mission statement, Diane asks business to ask themselves the question: “Why am I in Business?” It’s for you to create a clear answer, to know what you are offering and it’s benefits and how it will bring value to your customer.
Understanding your market
You need to further prove that you understand your market and be able to clearly define your potential customers, in demographic terms, and their “wants or needs” says Diane. This is where taking the time to conduct research for your plan pays off. You need to be able to define your market, its size and potential, and your value proposition to differentiate your product/service within the marketplace.
Research is where you will gain the insights you need to develop your plan. You can use various tools and techniques, such as surveys, social media inputs, past project research, and online reports that you may quote to send a strong signal to funders that you understand the market you are entering. The goal of all the research is to prove that there is a real need to what you are offering.
Funders are like investors
When creating your financial reports for your business plan, Diane suggests taking the perspective that the funder is an investor. Funders take your numbers very seriously and so should you. They are investing in the future success of your business based on the numbers and the plan you are showing them. Some of the financial statements you might need include, profit and loss statements, short-term or/and long-term forecast statements, and cash flow statements. If you’re not strong with numbers, hire a financial expert or advisor to help you with this section.
Matching up your stories
The most important part of the plan as Diane points out, and many miss when creating their business plan, is that the two main parts of your must fit together. You need to make sure that “the story you are telling in numbers matches the story you are telling in words,” Diane refers to the written parts of your business plan versus the financial statements. If you are asking for something in the first part of your business plan and it doesn’t match what you are asking for in your financial statements, then there’s a disconnect and the funders will not approve of your grant or loan. Both need to work together to create a successful plan for your business.
Your plan is there to prove you have a product or service that a target market wants or needs, and you are able to deliver if you receive the grant you are applying for.
Diane has some great examples about the parts of a business plan in her videos, check them out on our Mobile Ex YouTube channel:
Part 1: Tips for Business Planning
Part 2: Marketing Strategy
Part 3: Grant Writing
Blog contributor: Helen Kontozopoulos @helenissocial