The Lean Startup: A Field Guide for Entrepreneurs
Have you ever thought about starting a new business or a major new project? If so, you don’t want to miss Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. If not, you’ll still find in Startup a trusty road map to realizing your goals. The book serves as a new and expanded travel guide to a territory long occupied by technology companies and startups. The philosophy, however, applies to a much broader audience including marketers, product developers, and creative folks. Ries’ take on the business approach is fresh. Each page pulses with current trends, immediately resonating with the reader. His discussion captures the business ethos of our times, and the concepts are as applicable to a startup as to a billion-dollar brand.
The best way to understand The Lean Startup is to put it into action. Case in point: Say you have always wanted to start an online life coaching business. How would you get started? In a previous model, you might go to school to become a psychologist, or perhaps you’d sign a lease for a two-year office contract. Both of these actions are costly, leaving little more than lint in your pockets after day one. Keep in mind this is before you create a client list, and even before you know that the life coach business is the business for you.
A central aspect of Lean thinking is the concept of the MVP. Sure, Peyton Manning would be a great business mascot, but for this ballgame we’re talking about a minimum viable product. Rather than spend all of that money upfront, you might try testing the concept in a data-driven way before committing to your business idea. For example, you might run some ads online (self-serve on Facebook and much cheaper than rent, staff or education) to validate your plan: Compare “Life Coach” and “Life Coaching for Executives” verbiage with “Life Coaching for Women” to determine the best direction for your business. What’s your niche? Health and wellness, spiritual healing, athletic development, motivation, or entrepreneurship? And what approach is best – color therapy, reiki, cognitive healing, hypnosis?
Your options are endless. You could put out a pilot video to outline your particular approach and compare it with similar YouTube videos. That way you’ll see if your message resonates with potential clients. If comments are slow, it might not hurt to set your background music to "Call Me Maybe." If needed, you could adjust, or pivot, to better satisfy the needs you see in the marketplace. Other options? Set up a basic website, comment on relevant blogs and see if you can drive conversations. Write a few thought pieces and link through to LinkedIn. All free, and all ways to locate a consumer base before you actually invest a penny beyond your own sweat and time.
All of these activities yield data. Page views, click-throughs, comparisons, pass-alongs. While the examples here are clearly very small, the book provides even more concrete examples and many ideas for building your muscles for validating learning – another key concept in Ries' The Lean Startup – and a way to be sure that even when you do more risky business development, there are ways to move quickly and remove at least some of the risk from the equation.