Visual tools can be deceptively simple but powerful. Over the last few weeks I've introduced you to the Business Accelerator Framework (BAF) - the 5-stage framework that helps us understand how our businesses are doing, where we need to pay attention, and using the Pick One strategy, focusing in on the one thing that we need to complete now before we move on to anything else.
If you adopt the Business Accelerator Framework (BAF) to build and run your business you will quickly find that it works well as:
- a dashboard to provide an at-a-glance overview of how your business is performing;
- a prioritization tool to determine where to focus your time; and
- a repository of ideas you may want to look at in future.
But even if you score +3's on almost all of the five stages of the BAF (marketing, lead nurturing, sales, delivery and follow-up) your business can still fail if you don't have the prerequisites right.
The origin of the Business Accelerator Framework
The single problem most small businesses struggle with is revenue; either a lack of revenue, or roller-coaster revenue (also known as feast and famine). That revenue problem is usually tracked down to inadequate marketing and lead nurturing - closely followed by sales.
I designed the Business Accelerator Framework to help me understand the customer journey and how what we do in our businesses create a great experience. I am not aware of any other tools that provide this overview. There certainly are some tools that address part of the customer journey (for example, sales funnels), but as a small business owner myself I need a holistic view to understand my business and how it is performing.
So the Business Accelerator Framework is a useful tool for helping to understand how a business is doing and where you need to focus. I've used it primarily with small businesses - both my own and with my clients. I suspect that it can be useful in larger businesses as well.,
But your business can still fail if you don't have three building blocks in place before you get to the BAF.
The missing pieces
You need to have three pieces in place before the Business Accelerator Framework comes into its own. They are:
- your business model;
- your brand; and
- a product ladder.
Let's look at each of these and how they contribute to building and running a successful business.
Your business model
Building a business on an untested or broken business model is like trying to get to a place with bad directions. No matter how hard you try, you're going to end up in places where you don't want to be. You may be targeting the wrong customers, trying to solve a problem they don't care about or trying to sell at a price where they're just not buying.
If your business model is broken or faulty you're never going to build a great business. You may survive, but it's going to be a never-ending struggle.
So how do you design a good business model?If you're a startup you need to use the Business Model Canvas or the Lean Canvas to design and test your business model. There are tons of free resources out there that can help you - here are my top picks:
- Business Model Generation and Value Proposition Design are the original visual business design books - not only must-reads but great tools for designing business models that work.
- The Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf is a step-by-step guide for building a startup - and taught at Stanford, Berkeley and other leading schools.
- Design a better business by Patrick van der Pijl contains 20 tools - and a step-by-step guide - for designing better businesses.
It doesn't have to be perfectYour business model does not have to be perfect before you start your business. Many of us have a business that is running but not as well as we would like it to - regularly reviewing your business model and testing new variations is part of any healthy business journey.
But if your business model is broken, you're never going to build a great business.
Every business has a brand - whether you like it or not. Your presentation to the outside world - your brand - is going to attract some kinds of customers and push others away.
A good brand attracts the right customers and pushes those away that you don't want to work with. It reflects who you are, the values you regard as important and the personality you and your business presents to others. People who relate to your message and positioning are going to be attracted to you - so you need to make sure that you project the right image.
So how do you develop a brand that attracts the right customers?You can pay extraordinary amounts of money for brand development - and it can take weeks or months to develop. For a startup or small business this is either not affordable or feasible - the value that you get from expensive and time-consuming brand development is just not worth the money or time.
I'm a great fan of Pia Silva of Worstofall Design. Her book Badass your brand is not only a great story of how a small company threw out a traditional business model and turned branding into a 1-, 2- or 3-day intensive. If you need to DIY your own brand, this is the book to get.
If in doubt, do less rather than more. You can always add elements to your brand later.
Your product ladder
Every business needs a product ladder - a series of offerings that start small and relatively inexpensive so that customers find it easy to buy the first time and offers a logical progression to bigger and more expensive products or services.
Without a product ladder you have to sell your premium offerings to potential customers that have never bought from you before - and that can be a long, protracted sales process. Make it relatively inexpensive to start so you can minimize the time required to make the first sale - and the next sale will be that much easier.
You don't need an extensive range of offerings to have a viable product ladder. The opposite - a product ladder with only a couple of offerings - is both easier to build and easier for potential customers to understand.
You can get away with as little as two products - an entry-level and a premium version. Provide different "sizes" of the premium product and you have an ideal product ladder.
Putting it all together
So there you have the completed Business Accelerator Framework - the three essential building blocks and the 5-stage framework to assess how well you're doing and where you need to pay attention next.
Where do you start?If you're reading this chances are that you are starting up or already running a small business. If you're not getting the traction you think you should be getting, I recommend the following:
- Start with a review of your business model. Use red, yellow and green dots to create a dashboard that shows up what's not working (red), what needs attention (yellow) and what's working (green). If there are fundamental flaws (reds in the right-hand half of your canvas), you probably need to test whether the assumptions underlying those elements are correct - and you will need to pivot if necessary.
- Then design your product ladder. Keep it as simple as possible: a free lead magnet to capture email addresses, one entry-level product and one premium product (in different "sizes") is ideal.
- Review your brand. What kind of clients do you want to attract? Does your imagery and words support that?
- Then get back to the Business Accelerator Framework and use the guidelines in the previous articles to build a business that works.
No silver bulletsThere are no complete or fool-proof recipes for building a successful business - but there are great guidelines and tools. Use the guidelines above for what they're worth in your business - and feel free to reach out if you're stuck.
If you missed the previous articles on the Business Accelerator Framework, here they are:
- Understanding marketing and lead nurturing
- Where do I focus next?
- Pick one - the key to getting stuff done
Good luck with building your business - and if you need help, feel free to reach out.