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How to create a lean canvas for your start up business idea?

Business Model Canvas and Lean Canvas may look similar at first glance - both of them are visual and allow seeing the big picture. Lean canvas, however, is entrepreneur-focused and designed for emerging businesses: it takes only minutes to create, lets you focus on building your business faster, by capturing your idea, collecting feedback, and iterating on it dynamically.

How to create a Lean Canvas

Lets assume you have a business idea that you want to capture, using Lean Canvas to brainstorm with the team and polish it, as well as to iterate on it after the validation stage.

1. Open lean canvas template

Start by creating a blank space and select a "Lean Canvas" templates. Once on the Lean Canvas template, fill in the blocks in the suggested order, starting with the problem definition.

2. Fill in problem & customers

Brainstorm on your target customers' problem and document each problem as a note, by either dragging the note button from the top toolbar (zoom in first) or by right-clicking and selecting "create new note". Put yourself in your customers' shoes and capture their 3 key frustrations related to the need you intend to serve.

Using the same note feature, list the existing alternatives to your offering (per each problem nailed down above) that customers may utilize to meet their needs.

Document your target customer segments with the notes of a different color. Note that customers are not necessarily the users of your product (e.g. users of dog food are dogs, however, these are dog owners who buy stuff for the pets). Think of the potential early adopters of your product, and nail them down (yes, handy notes).

3. Formulate your unique value proposition.

Use notes to document your UVP and High-Level Pitch, and Unfair Advantage. Make use of color coding to distinguish between information groups.

UVP is a curt and precise statement that reflects the promise of value your product delivers. It explains how it solves your customer's problems (relevancy), outlines specific benefits (quantified value), and tells what makes your product better than the competitors' one (unique differentiation).

Get inspired by UVP's of admired brands and come up with a unique UVP that helps you differentiate meaningfully, targeting your early adopters, and keeping their key problem in mind. Complement your UVP with a concise High-level concept. It is an effective brief pitch used to quickly get your idea across and make it easy to spread. Its your UVP distilled to a memorable sound bite.

4. Envision your Solution

Shift to the Solution section within the Template and add notes, reflecting your product vision, its possible details and features. Ideally, do this in a team workshop, be open-minded and collect various ideas, however, nailing down the ones that can be grounded with some figures/evidence.

5. Think of promotion channels

Using the notes, capture all the possible channels you can utilize to promote your offering: group apart the free ones (like social media, SEO, blogging, etc.) and the paid ones (Facebook ads, Google ads, LinkedIn ads, directories listings, trade fairs, etc).

Try to center your efforts around inbound marketing tools that use "pull messaging" to let customers find you organically. Automate activities, where possible and efficient. Also, think of retention first, rather than of referral. Its crucial to have a product worth spreading first, and then attempt to go viral.

6. Plan your revenue streams and cost structure

Pin down your intended revenue streams, dragging notes to the dedicated template section. To make things simple, start with a single and simple pricing plan first. It can be tested and got back to at later stages.

7. Write down your key metrics

Set up the clear metrics that can be easily measured regularly, in order to tell you how your business is doing. Post notes to the respective part of the template - to visually track your performance weekly/monthly.

Lean Canvas is a simple yet powerful tool that allows you to capture the essence of your business idea within 30 min, to get back to it repeatedly and iterate on it dynamically as the new data comes in.

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