Just as a paper airplane needs wings to fly, a project needs wings to be successful. This summary will give you wings.
Does your idea have merit? Will it succeed in the market you’re trying to serve, or will it just be a waste of time and resources? Is it a good idea for you and the life you want to live?
In other words, will it fly?
You have an idea, or maybe a few hundred. They could be new, or old, or scrawled on the back of a napkin in the bottom of your gym bag.
Good ideas are common, but those who are willing to take action and execute those ideas are far more rare. There are many reasons for this. Maybe you don’t know where to begin. Maybe your fear of failure outweighs your fear of not getting started. Maybe you’re just not really sure if it’s going to work.
It doesn’t matter what the reason is, from this point forward you must make a commitment to take action.
John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”
In other words, a sure way to predict the future is to take no action at all. When you do nothing, you get nothing.
In order for a business to become successful, it takes more than simply coming up with the right idea. It takes good execution, design, marketing, copywriting, and more. However, even the best of those things won’t do much if the idea isn’t good.
That’s why we need to ensure that your idea has what it takes to be successful.
This summary is divided into five different sections, each of which will guide you through the validation of your next business idea.
The first part is Mission Design, and it is the most important section. In it, we will ensure your idea aligns with and supports your target goals.
Part two is called the Development Lab. Here, we will uncover important details about your target idea that you haven’t thought about yet.
Part three is the Flight Planning stage. This is where you will assess the current conditions of the market that you’re entering, so you can see what and who you’re up against.
Part four is the Flight Simulator. Here, you will combine everything you’ve learned to validate and test your idea with a small segment of your target market.
The last part, All Systems Go, is where you will do some final analysis to make sure that you’re ready to move forward with your idea. You’ll also get some helpful insight on your next moves and how you can take a lot of this information forward with you.
Part 1: Mission Design
When you choose to live the life of an entrepreneur, you choose a path of freedom. You choose to live life on your own terms and you can shape it into whatever you want it to be. In fact, everyone is capable of this freedom, but it is the entrepreneur who has mentally turned off autopilot and has taken control of his or her own future.
Building a successful business is not synonymous to building a successful life. It is when your idea supports your lifestyle goals that it becomes worth exploring.
The purpose of Mission Design is to help you understand what your goals are in all areas of your life and help you determine whether or not your target idea supports them. How your target idea will perform in the market means nothing if you can’t validate how it can support you first.
The truth is, if you don’t have a passion for what you are doing, your energy will eventually fizzle out. Understanding your goals and the reason why you do what you do will motivate you and more importantly, it will keep you going when times get tough during your business journey.
The Airport Test:
What would need to be happening in your life five years from now that would make you say “Things could not get better!” ?
Step 1: Take out a piece of paper and divide it into four quadrants.
Step 2: Define the four most important categories of your life. They could be anything from friends, family, finances, health, professional, or music. Write them on the top of four quadrants of your page.
Step 3: Determine why life is awesome five years from now. Focus on one section at a time.
When you’ve filled your piece of paper, examine everything you’ve written down. This defines who you want to become and it will be the foundation for many decisions that you make from here.
Now you know where you want to be. How does the business idea you have in your head right now fit into your future self?
You can either decide to move forward with the idea you have or, if it doesn’t fit into who you want to become, you can start over with something else.
The History Test:
Step 1: Find a blank piece of paper.
Step 2: Write down the first job you ever had. Beneath that, write when you did it.
Step 3: Write down three things you enjoyed about it.
Step 4: Write down one favourite memory.
Step 5: Write down three things that you didn’t like about it.
Step 6: Rate the experience based on how much you enjoyed it.
Step 7: Repeat the process for at least two other life experiences.
Look at what you wrote down. Do you notice any patterns? Think about these questions specifically:
What one or two things seem to motivate you the most about the work that you do?
How much is your answer to #1 reflected in what you do now?
How can your future business be shaped into one that allows you to enjoy your work and continue to stay motivated?
Determine if there are any red flags or reasons to look for a new idea.
The Shark Bait Test
Email 10 friends and colleagues and ask them to identify your superpowers. If you don’t know what your strengths are, you’ll never be able to harness them.
You may not get the answers you expect, but whatever response you get will be useful.
Folding Your Wings
Take the piece of paper from The Airport Test and fold it into a paper airplane to keep as a symbol of your “why.” A plane symbolises flight, movement and innovation. It also symbolises freedom.
Here, we will take your target idea through a series of exercises to help you fully understand exactly what it is.
Set a timer for 10 minutes and then write down as many thoughts or ideas related to your target idea as you can. Do not edit, delete, remove or move anything around. No matter what, just keep going until your time is up. Now, organise the ideas. There is no correct way to do it; do whatever feels right to you. Next, prune your tree. Remove the ideas that don’t really belong. What you’ll have left is what you need in order to move forward.
Step 1: Write a one-page summary of your target idea.
Step 2: Write one paragraph. Condense your single page to about 3-5 sentences.
Step 3: Write one sentence. Read your sentence out loud and listen to how it sounds. Tweak it until you have a sentence you can confidently proclaim.
Conservation and Observation
Small conversations about your business can help you refine your idea in a huge way.
Over the next two days, try to talk to at least ten people about your target idea. Consciously listen to the responses and see what you can learn.
Part 3: Flight Planning
1,000 True Fans
Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired Magazine, published an article called “1,000 True Fans.” According to him, a true fan is someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. In a world of seven billion people, there are a lot of sub-worlds to which you can become or create a trusted resource, product or service that 1,000 will love.
What niche does your idea belong in?
The Market Map
Find the 3-Ps within your market: places, people, and products. Give each one its own spreadsheet with three columns: name, web address, and notes.
Look at blogs, forums, social media groups related to your niche. See if you can spot existing authorities that your target audience already trusts.
Find the top products, services and books that are being offered to your audience. Amazon is great for this.
The Customer P.L.A.N.
This is broken down into four sections:
Problems: A business idea is really just a potential solution to a target customer’s pain or problem. The better you can solve that problem, the more successful your business will become. The best way to research this is to have a one-on-one conversation with your target customer. Surveys are great too.
Language: One of the most important things you can do is understand the language your target customer uses to communicate. To find this, look at forum searches, FAQs, and complaints on websites they frequent. Look at Amazon reviews. Type in any keyword related to your target market on Google, and scroll down to “Searches Related to.”
Anecdotes: When you’re creating content and promoting products, framing it with a story can have a massive impact on how well others relate and respond. Find stories about your target customer by looking at forums or podcast interviews.
Needs: A need is different than the product or business that you’re potentially going to validate and build. A need is what you believe your customers require to solve a problem, and the product or business becomes the mechanism to fulfill that requirement.
After you discover your Customer P.L.A.N., you’ll know exactly how your target idea fits into your target audience.
To finish off your Customer P.L.A.N., you will need to come up with the “elixirs” that address the specific problems and needs of your target customer.
To begin, add one more column to you P.L.A.N. spreadsheet and title it Elixir, and then, come up with what you feel would be the best remedy for that problem. Now, eliminate until you’ve found one perfect one to pursue. Sit on that idea for a day and then conduct a second mind mapping exercise with your new target solution as the focal point. Again, write one page, one paragraph, and one sentence.
Part 4: Flight Simulator
This is where we validate whether or not your idea could become successful.
Step 1: Get in front of an audience.
There are a few ways to do this, including targeted advertising (such as Google AdWords), private targeted advertising (such as Facebook ads), guest posting, forums, or offline methods. However you find your audience, the next step is to get people in the audience to “raise their hands.”
Step 2: Hyper-target.
This means getting people in that larger target market to self-identify as someone who wants or needs your particular solution. To do this, first ask them a question or propose a relevant scenario that elicits a “yes” response from them. A comment or response is typically the easiest way for people to say “yes,” such as in a forum, blog post, or social media post.
Step 3: Interact and share your solution.
Engage with the people who have signalled interest, whether in person, on a video call, a phone call, or an email. Take a minute to learn about them, qualify yourself as someone authoritative, and be honest about what you’re up to. Then pitch them your idea.
Step 4: Ask for the transaction.
Asking for payment before you build your product may feel uncomfortable, but if you’re honest about this with your prospect, you’ll have nothing to worry about. The more interested prospects you speak to, the better, but 10% is a good standard to use to see what the right number is.
Part 5: All Systems Go!
You are ready. The worst thing you could do from here is stop. You’ve got momentum on your side so definitely take advantage of that.
Being a successful business is no easy task, nor is it a small one. Celebrate your small wins along the way. Get support. Treat your customers like gold. They are the lifeblood of your business, and you must treat them like that.
Don’t forget why you decided to be an entrepreneur in the first place. Keep chasing your dream, and enjoy the ride.