The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 23.21

Saturday, May 27, 2023

From Zero to Hero: Compelling business models (and great stories)

All business is about transformation. Your clients have a problem, and you can help them solve it, in the process transforming their world. Or, in other words, you can take them “from zero to hero”. In this article we look at how you can use the Zero to Hero framework to design a compelling business model — and tell an engaging story.

Introducing the Zero to Hero framework

The Zero to Hero framework is a simple but powerful framework for designing a compelling business model. In addition to its simplicity, it has one great feature: it gives you the ability to tell a great story. And stories, as we know, are one of the compelling ways of engaging our clients.

The Zero to Hero framework has three parts — the Zero, the Hero and the Formula:

  • The “Zero” part is your client’s current world. This is where you describe the problems you can help them solve.
  • The “Hero” part is what their world will look like once you’ve solved the problems.
  • The “Formula” is how you help them go from Zero to Hero.

Or, very simply:

If you get this right, you have a basic design for a compelling business model — and the basis for telling a great story.

Let’s take a look at each of the parts, and then some examples and how you can craft your own.

The Power of Zero

The Zero part of the framework is where you describe the problems you can help your clients solve.

This is probably the most important (and sometimes most difficult) part to get right. You have to demonstrate that you understand your clients’ pains and frustrations. And you have to express it in terms they would commonly use.

When your clients read the description of their current (“zero”) world, they need to immediately recognize themselves, and realize that you understand the problems they’re struggling with. If they do, they will want to know more.

For example, here’s my Zero for my clients:

I’m struggling to build consistent revenue streams. I can’t seem to find enough clients, and when I do it’s a struggle to get them to buy. I’m overwhelmed by all the things I have to do. I don’t know where to focus next, and when I do, I don’t know how to do it. I’m tired of fighting one fire after the next, and I seem to spend all my time building and worrying about my business.

Note that I’m expressing this in the first person, as if I am one of my clients. This lets me focus on the problems they have and the feelings that frustrate them.

If I got this right — and you’re one of my ideal clients — you should immediately recognize at least two or more problems you’re experiencing right now. (How close did I get? Let me know!)

Envisioning the Hero

The “hero” stage is the future world where you’ve solved all those problems for them.

In essence, the “hero” state is an absence of the problems described in the zero state. This is where you describe what their future world could look like, the good things that are now happening and the feelings they will have when they reach there.

Make your client the hero in their own story. Give them a vision that is worth striving for, and see if you can evoke feelings of success or achievement.

For example:

My revenue streams are predictable and reliable. I have routines to start and end each day, plan ahead and never miss a commitment. I know exactly what to focus on, and there’s expert help when I need it. I am calm and in control, overwhelm is a thing of the past, and I have time to spend with my loved ones and the things I want to do.  

Note that a lot of the wording in the Hero state is about feelings. If we can evoke feelings in our clients, we have a stronger chance of connecting with them and have them look for more information.

If you’re a solopreneur - how close did I get? Let me know!

Unveiling the Formula

Your Formula is a condensed description of your product or service that will take them from Zero to Hero.

Your Formula should give your potential clients an idea of how you will help them go from Zero to Hero. The best way to explain this is with an example:

SoloBOS (the Solopreneur Business Operating System) is a system and methodology for building and managing a solopreneur business. Assess your business and get a custom roadmap for where to focus next. Manage all your clients, projects, tasks, notes and bookmarks in one place. Routines (daily, weekly and monthly) help you keep on track with your commitments, tasks and building your business. A library of “how to’s” help you manage your time, maintain focus and get stuff done. And an online community provides expert advice, from business experts and your peers, when you need it.

From this description, your potential clients should be able to see how your Formula can help them go from Zero to Hero. (And in case you’re wondering, yes - SoloBOS is a real thing. It’s in development — get early notifications here.)

A couple more examples

Here’s another example from my Tornado Roadmap course. This fictitious business consultant helps small business owners develop and execute on business plans that actually work:

And a last example, this time for a business coach who helps consultants and small business owners charge what they’re worth:

Crafting Your Zero to Hero Story

As you can see, the Zero to Hero story is simple, and the process for crafting your own is not difficult either:

  1. The Zero state: Describe your ideal clients’ current world, as if one of them were telling you what their problems are. Use words and terms they would use, and include how they feel about it.
  1. The Hero: Now describe what this world looks like without these problems. What can they now do? How do they feel?
  1. The Formula: Briefly describe your product or service. Make sure readers will understand how this will help them go from Zero to Hero.

Once you have a first draft, test it. Start with a few peers or professional connections. Ask them if they “get it” - if they can picture the Zero world, what being the Hero feels like, and if they can get an idea of how your product or services will help them go from Zero to Hero.

Fine-tune your story and ask a couple of past or current clients to see how your story grabs them. Tune again.

Using your Zero to Hero story

There are two main uses of your Zero to Hero story:

  • Get business clarity: If you have a Zero to Hero story that crisp, clear and exactly describes what you do and how it helps your clients, you have business clarity. This will help you focus on delivering on your value proposition, and say no to things that detract from that.
  • Tell your story: Use parts (or all) of your Zero to Hero story on your website home page, sales pages, in talks and presentations - in fact anywhere you need to talk about what you do. Be consistent about the problems you solve, the benefits your clients will get, and provide more details on how it works where appropriate.

The Zero to Hero framework is the simplest and fastest way to articulate your business model — and tell the story. Keep on tuning it, and stay focused on delivering on your promise.