August, 2016 Article Continued
Stanford Entrepreneurship professor, Steve Blank, started this trend by arguing that instead of developing a Business Plan new venture owners will write and never use, they need to get out in the real world and talk to people. His course, Lean Launch, has gained popularity among some of the top business schools.
Rather than create a business plan, students are told:
- Don’t waste your time doing research on customer buying habits – tell everyone your business idea and get their feedback.
- Things change too quickly to rely on a written business plan that analyzes statistics on how potential customers might react to your idea.
- Ask customers whether they like your plan or not. After all, by the time you finish doing research and writing your business plan, it will be outdated anyway.
The approach itself consists of these steps:
- Build the best product you can as quickly as you can
- Show your product to potential customers, get their feedback
- Change what customers don’t like.
- Go back to the customers for more feedback and make further changes.
- Repeat this continual improvement cycle for as long as the product exists.
This movement originated in engineering schools and is meant for those startups seeking venture capital money. The idea gained popularity among cloud-based technology companies. These companies deal with products that didn't exist previously. Industry data doesn't exist for these startups. Potential customers never used similar products so little data exists to predict potential buyer preferences.
A writing business is not a high tech venture and I don't know many writers who are expecting to get money from venture capitalists.
Let's look at 5 key ways an author’s business is not like a technology business:
- An author creates a product for an existing market, by producing a product that customers have used before.
- Once an author writes a book, they go on to produce a new book, different in content from the previous work but familiar to the customer in function and appearance. This differs from startup cloud based companies that produce an app and continually add features to a single product.
- Writers need to release their book without errors. In contrast, high tech product customers like the fact that their inputs are incorporated quickly into new versions. When they see their suggestions in the latest release, users take pride in knowing they helped improve the product.
- Authors do not have to respond to competition and new technical innovations the way Internet service companies do. An Internet service can become outdated in a few months. A good book will enthrall audiences years later.
- Authors face competition among other forms of entertainment but not necessarily from other books. Startup Internet companies lack information on products since their products don't exist.
Writers, unlike high tech entrepreneurs, do benefit from a written business plan.
There is a great deal of research available on the publishing industry. Writers
are very good at research and writing. They do a lot of research and enjoy it.
They understand the value of research and know how to draw conclusions
from their research. They also know how to develop strategy and plan. They
do it all the time when constructing their plots.
How can you as an author benefit from Lean Launch?
Talking to fans and potential new readers to stay abreast with their preferences and to get feedback on genre trends, reactions to your work and others provides invaluable information for authors that strengthens business strategies. Use this information to strengthen and improve the strategies you developed for your business plan.
Business plans provide a great deal of information besides product feedback and reader preferences such as financial analysis, industry trends, and strategies that ground a business as it moves forward.
Do your research. Create your strategies based on a combination of facts, analysis and talking to your readers. Write your business plan. Review your business plan from time to time to make adjustments in your strategy.
You will see the impact in your bank account as your writing business grows.
You can read more about Professor Blank's Lean Launch class article referred to above at: