You’ve got a startup idea, but you’re not sure what to do.
You know it’s down to the execution, but what are you meant to execute? How do you know that what you’re doing, is what you should be doing?
You will have read many books, listened to podcasts, got hold of guides, tool-kits and frameworks to aid you.
But there are issues.
A Holistic Granular Framework
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A Holistic Granular Framework
The Issues With Startup Guides, Frameworks...
And Tool-Kits, Canvases, Books, Courses, Etc.
You’ve got a startup idea, but you’re not sure what to do.
1 - Inappropriate Level Of Detail
Startup guides with peripheral information like ‘now do some marketing’, to the other end of the spectrum beyond mere application, and into the realm of painful paralysis.
2 - Out Of Date
Frameworks need to incorporate the failures of others, and adapt with the times in order to stay relevant, rather than being suspended in time, echoes from a place that no longer exists.
3 - Narrow Scope
Paradigm defining frameworks that are focused solely on product development. You have to not only “make something people want”, but make people want something.
Ok, so startup guides and frameworks don’t cover the whole shebang, and if they do, it’s often lopsided or superficial. It would be alright if you were building a product, but you’re not; you’re building a business.
You’ll have to venture further afield to address marketing, sales, you name it. Hacks, tactics, tips, cook-books, course, etc, etc.
Do you think you’ll get similar results? Are you equipped to verify it as a ‘best practice’? More importantly do you understand the underlying themes, and the context?
4 - Micro Macro Discord
The lack of big picture small detail compatibility means that what may appear as insightful and actionable in and of itself, may not be truly suitable when looking at it from another place.
Utilisation of things that are either not applicable, or at the wrong time and in the wrong place, can result in outcomes that are not aligned to achieving overall objectives.
5 - Lack Of Context
‘I used this email, I used this landing page, I used Midas’s middle finger, boom. More riches than a pharaoh.’ These snapshots in time fail to show a complete holistic picture.
Without context; the part that is typically left out, you are unable to attain comparable results. And when you do get the context, you realise comparable results were never on the cards.
Orphaned hacks and tactics, tips and how-to’s; do this, get that. This isn’t learning, this is indoctrination.
Anyway, let’s assume you got hold of some great resources (and there are many available), that cover the various things you need to do. You’ll then try to figure out how they fit together.
What order should you do things in? How do these things fit into the bigger picture? Is there alignment and contribution to long term goals?
6 - Inefficient Data Application
Validated assumptions and data is used in many places, be it for product development, customer persona’s and traction. So, why is there no framework that breaks the segregation and compartmentalisation of data?
We are meant to learn in this stage, but the utilisation of what we learn is diminished, plagued by inefficiencies, and riddled with confusion, because of the lack of an all encompassing startup guide that promotes one holistic harmonious approach.
A Guide Shouldn't Do This
A Guide That Does This
The Startup Guide That Unifies The Hats
Marketing Hat, Sales Hat, Customer Development Hat, Bobble Hat, Jimmy Hat...
A system designed to attain the right goals at the right time; to facilitate the acquisition, transmission and usage of data in relevant places; to increase and deepen your understanding; based on:
A - Maximising Data Application
B - Key Principles & Objectives
C - A Holistic & Granular Approach
D - 'Best Practices' That Make Sense
A. Maximise Data Application
Data Automatically Placed In The Right Places
A guide that places validated assumptions and the appropriate data in either the right place, or next to it so you can pick and choose. Segmentation of the data for each persona so you get multiple versions of some marketing collateral. You’ll be donning those hats like you’re on a catwalk.
Factual Persona / Profiles
You’ll form personas and profiles from the information gathered at various stages of the framework, so say goodbye to Fictitious Fred The Financial Fiddler.
Tighter Cultural Fit
Note market specific language such as slang, jargon and phrases, or interviewees own words. Use in marketing collateral, to promote tighter cultural fit.
Content Marketing Topics
Stop regurgitating onto the content marketing heap, instead cover topics focused on your audience needs as well as gaps not addressed by the competition.
Funnel / Buyer Journey Map
Content mapped to the funnel, addressing reservations, motivations, and information as required by a persona at each stage of the funnel.
Email marketing templates take undue credit because it is the [blank] that makes or breaks it. You’ll find out the blanks, so you’ll hone in on what targets need to know.
Landing page suggestions for each persona. The structure of them is based on various permutations including problem, solution, benefits, goal, vision, UVP, description, etc.
Estimate Marketing Results
Using industry benchmarks for landing pages, email marketing, Google Ads, etc, so you can estimate more accurately than you would valuate a startup.
Roadmap features and benefits prioritised with greater clarity, as well as highlighting possible avenues for continued competitive advantage and market penetration.
Sub-systems to aid in accountability, evaluation, and improvement. For example:
1. Content used in the funnel has key metrics combined in various ways to aid in quicker accountability, but to also minimise glossing over, and things going unseen.
2. Roadmap surveys to ascertain if the person/s requesting a feature has internal consistency or not in regards to do they really want the feature or not
B. Key Principles & Objectives
Digging Deep To Place The Foundations
1. Amalgamation of working forwards & backwards
2. What will move the needle the most at this moment in time
3. Minimum amount of work needed to obtain results
4. Strategic alignment with key goals
1. De-risk the idea
2. Increase value for the audience
3. Increase the valuation
4. Focus on key goals for successful Pre-Seed
C. A Holistic & Granular Approach
Phase 1: From Idea To MVP Startup Launch
Like all good entrepreneurial stories, we start with a spark and an overdose of delusion.
Blinding, illuminating, searing, as if Apollo himself conjured it.
The type of idea that emotionally stunted, socially awkward, geniuses have, causing them to run naked in the streets.
The type that blurs the line between magic and science, that draws a line in the sands of time, dividing before and after.
Looks a lot like my 3 am ideas, the ones that prevent me from sleeping.
So, this is what I wake up to. Et tu, idea?
There’s no shine, no sparkle, looks like Edison’s 1st rather than his thousand and 1st.
Unfortunately the only similarity between me and geniuses, is getting out of the bath in the nude.
I don’t know why it’s not shining, although I do believe it will. I’ll have to work on it, and look at it piece by piece.
But where do I begin?
Genius Idea Or Not, You Take It From The Top
1. Idea Breakdown
A startup idea presented as a bitesize one-liner:
For (Target Audience) who have (Problem), our (Solution) enables (Goal)
So, the idea is made up of 4 different elements:
2. Target audience
We have to add a fifth element:
5. Solution Market
2. Problem Research
Now you’ll look into the problem, and note any audiences affected by the problem.
The information you obtain addresses key points, provides a composite value of the problem, and is affected by information pertaining to the goal. Assessment is based on quantitative and qualitative data.
A granular multi-pronged approach aids in extracting information and drawing conclusions that tell more of the story.
Get to a certain level of understanding and appreciation about the problem, before any solution is proposed.
Potential audiences have many factors that need to be addressed before you can say this particular audience, is the one.
You will need to be aware of internal biases, so you are not attempting to get the second-hand data confirmed first-hand, down-the-line.
Why You Shouldn't Go Talk To Potential Customers Straight Away
Going in with an open mind is good, but open doesn’t mean empty. The people you interview will have their own biases, frames, filters and anchors, and you may not be equipped to sieve through it. You’ll lack the deeper insight and context, because you don’t know what you don’t know.
The danger is blank slates may well accept all that is shared at face value. Be in a more informed position to evaluate the value in the responses you obtain.
What Is Typically Being Done After Minimal Research And Why You Should Avoid It
The Cost Of A Lame Landing Page
I get multiple great ideas while using the toilet. More if it’s a number 2. But you’ve seen the state of my ‘great idea’. Should I really test that with a landing page? And say what exactly? Superficial words that fail to show insight, understanding and resonance?
Stop invalidating by default, or validating ignorance. Either way, I seriously need to stop listening to my toilet. [Courtesy flush].
Drive Traffic (& Invalidation) Quickly
Ok, so I’m going drive traffic to ‘3 lines and a sign-up form’ landing page. Waste of time, capital and resources. I am all in favour of bootstrapping, but it has to be resource efficient. If this is what bootstrapping has become: bourgeois bootstrapping, then it isn’t for me. I’ll jock-strap it.
Besides, are you really testing market demand when you don’t know the problem, the solution, the audience, the channels nor the message?
3. Target Audience Groups Outreach
This section covers the outreach to potential audience members, from the messages used to the response obtained, and selection of whom to interview. You can use templates like: “Hey, I see we (lame relevant connection attempt here), live on the same planet, and thought I would reach out to ask for 15 minutes of your precious time, to give to me, a complete stranger. No, you get nothing in return.”
Send targeted relevant messages that show a degree of knowledge, to increase the probability of a positive response.
4. Problem Validation
There are a number of sub-steps in this step:
1. The Questions
The questions probe problem and goal attributes, with both scales and open-ended input to promote a more rounded evaluation.
2. Structure Qualitative data
Define codes (a word or phrase) to highlight key points, enabling the structuring of qualitative data to further aid in segmentation, classification and analysis.
3. Submit Codes & Scores
Easily insert the codes from a dropdown list, cutting down on mistakes, and increasing efficiency. You’ll also submit quantitative and demographic data.
4. Audience & Group Results
Results will declare whether the problem exists and is at the required level, whether a problem attribute is validated, and which groups are of particular interest.
5. Attribute Results & Conclusions
With both a macro and micro evaluation, coupling quantitative and qualitative assessment of the problem, your next step is made with greater clarity.
Dig into the demographic data if you interviewed 15 people from the same group. If your initial problem hypothesis was a complete fail, then this section enables you to ascertain which challenge warrants a closer inspection.
The Other Sections
5. Market Assessment 1
6. Audience Questionnaire (Holistic, Drill-Down, Results & Conclusions)
7. Stakeholder Input
8. Draft Solution
9. Idea Validation
10. Market Assessment 2
11. Visionary Solution
12. Competition Analysis
13. Visionary Solution & Competition Comparison
14. Distribution Channel Analysis
15. Pricing and Revenue Generation Analysis
16. Venture Analysis
18. Core Audience
19. Initial Solution
20. Customer Problem & Feature / Benefit, Use Cases
21. Solution Roadmap, MVP & Full Version to MVP Harmonisation
22. MVP Proposition & Consideration
23. Solution & MVP Features/Benefit Validation
24. Business Model Visualisation
25. Business Model Elements Viability Assessment
26. MVP Specification, UX/UI & User Stories
28. Prototype Validation
29. Investor Approach
30. Legal & Regulatory Preliminary Assessment
31. Risk Assessment
32. Initial Marketing
33. MVP Production
34. MVP Closed Testing & Update
35. Investor Update
36. MVP Launch Checklist
37. MVP Launch
38. MVP Initial Traction
There are many other things that are linked to some of the sub-phases, which have not been listed above, including:
1. Email Marketing
2. Persona Creation
3. Profile Creation
4. Buyer Journey
5. Content Marketing
6. Landing Pages
7. Social Media Planning
8. Financial Projections
9. Metric Projections
10. Analytic Systems
11. Due Diligence
Other things include:
1. Knowledge Base
2. Pitch Deck Production
3. Idea Evaluation (I will release this in a few weeks, pay with a tweet or share)
4. Problem Evaluation
5. Support group
Other Than The Obvious Limitations Of A Spreadsheet
There are limitations. Some to do with data-driven methods. Some to do with 'best practices'. Some to do with me.
If Sir Isaac Newton had to operate within the confines of this innovation paradigm, his reaction to the apple would have been a hard-hat.
Here & Now
Talking about the future can be invaluable when wanting to ascertain deeper motivations, what makes people tick, etc, etc, but for product feature validation? Pinch of salt, maybe a bucket.
Do we need a problem in order to justify aiming for a future vision? Are we denying our higher state of being by prohibiting our ability to transcend the confines of problem validation?
Marketing Best Practices
Formulaic blandness, stripped of personality and character as of we are connecting to robots. Context-less practices, shuffling decks on the Titanic. Data driven? More like fear driven. Where data can be a short-sighted sell-out, human insight gets buy-in.
Lack Of Fluidity
The guide is rigid and sequential. I myself believe in fluidity within structure, where the structure is strategy focused on attaining goals. Plans need to be opportunistic, flexible, evolve, etc and thus be open to a certain amount of deviation.
No point not stating the painfully obvious, painful for me being the operative word. I filter reality to verify my blinkered perception of it, to verify myself within it, and so, my biggest blind spot is me.
I can appreciate the need for efficiency, diminishing risk, and easy wins by adhering to best practices in the early stages, but fortune favours the brave. As does an early grave.
Where I'm At
Done: MVP v1 (Excel Workbook) shared with a select few a while ago. Now I am offering an edited version of the MVP: the first few steps, which starts from idea and ends at problem validation results.
Future: SaaS version that covers the whole of pre-seed stage, although it will be in phases, so the first phase will cover what is in the Excel file.
This Is An Excel Only File
Due to some strange bug or something in Excel (2013), saving a file with macro’s and Pivot Tables as another name will unfortunately not create a self-contained workbook as one would expect, but a workbook that links to the data from the original workbook.
I have tried a ridiculous amount of ‘solutions’ and none of them worked. A startup framework that can’t solve it’s own problem, sheesh. Anyway, what you’ll need to do is:
1. Copy the folder Blank Template (Dark or Light)
2. You can change the name and location of the folder
3. Open TheFrameworkNew.xlsm in the newly copied folder
Do this for every project. Annoying I know, but I wanted it to be completely compatible with 2013. I haven’t admitted defeat on this.
The file will work without Macro’s being enabled, although I recommend you enable them to make things easier – ie refresh data, copy and paste, etc.
Start With Less Confusion
Validate With Less Delusion
I will email you, and sort out an individual Skype session to kick things off.
I will support you via: FB group and email.