One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs can be turning your ideas into plans. You might think that you have a solid idea, but getting your thoughts written down and worked out can be a lot more complicated. From ideas for new businesses to concepts for new products and services, creating a coherent plan can take weeks or months. Lean Canvas is a planning method that helps you to get to the heart of your idea. It puts everyone on one page, helping you to set out the key information that you need, without any of the unnecessary details.
What Is Lean Canvas?
Lean Canvas is a one-page business plan method created by Ash Maurya, which is adapted from the Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder. The plan features a number of blocks to help you map out some key points that will help you turn a business idea into something more concrete. The Lean Canvas is created especially for entrepreneurs to make it easier for them to get a clear and simple idea of what they’re doing.
These are the sections featured on a Lean Canvas, and how you can fill them out:
Understanding the key problems of your customers is essential. You use this section to list the top problems that your different customer segments experience that you’re aiming to solve.
Understanding who your customers are is a vital step. You can’t know what their main problems are if you don’t know who they are. In the customer segments section, you need to write down who your target audience is, which might include several customer segments. Your customers and their problems are tied together, so you will probably need to think about both at the same time.
Unique Value Proposition
This section sits in the middle of the canvas because it’s what you are proposing to offer to your customers. It sets out the unique value that your business will provide. You need to think about what makes your brand, product or service different from others who are trying to solve the same problems as you.
What’s the answer to your customers’ problems that you’re going to offer them? You won’t always have the perfect solution right away, but the purpose of creating a business plan is to help you get started. If you want to find the solution to your problem, don’t assume it will just come to you. Talk to your customer segments to find out what they want and need.
What channels are you going to use to reach your customers? These are the marketing and advertising methods that you’re going to use, from digital marketing such as SEO to more traditional channels, like radio, print and TV.
Where is your money going to come from? How are you going to price your products or services? Your pricing model is an important part of what you’re offering, and it’s something you’re going to need to research and test. How much are people willing to pay, and what’s the minimum you can charge to meet your goals?
These are the costs that your business will have in order to run and market your product. It could include market research, technology, staff costs, and more. With an idea of your one-off and recurring costs, you can try to work out a rough estimate of how many customers you will need to break even.
Your key metrics are what you will use to monitor how your business is performing. You can identify some key activities that you want to watch closely to see how people are interacting with and using your business and its products/services.
Your unfair advantage is what you have that no other business has. It can’t be copied or bought, so it will help you to stand out from the rest. This is the last step in the process and is often the most difficult. Your unfair advantage could be many things, from an unbeatable staff to endorsements from experts.
It’s worth taking time to think about it and identify something that you can do that others can’t buy.
The Lean Canvas isn’t something that you should be spending hours on. In fact, you should be able to get some ideas down in around 20 minutes. Of course, you won’t have all of the information you need right away. But the canvas will help you to decide whether your business idea has legs and what your next moves should be.
The Benefits of Using Lean Canvas
There are various benefits to using the Lean Canvas model to plan out a business idea. Firstly, the Lean Canvas is designed for entrepreneurs. With the Lean Canvas, entrepreneurs can focus on identifying problems and solutions. It’s designed to work for a startup mindset and helps entrepreneurs build on their ideas.
Having the unfair advantage section as part of the canvas allows entrepreneurs to ensure they have something that will help them stand out. Not only will they have their unique value proposition, but they will identify the one thing that no other brand will be able to do in exactly the same way that they do it.
The lean design and the limited boxes of the Lean Canvas are easy to understand, and they encourage entrepreneurs to think carefully. There’s only so much space to use, which means it’s essential to boil down key points into the most important information. It recognizes that the business plan is for the entrepreneur and is rarely shown to other people. It doesn’t need to be extremely detailed when the point is to get to the key things that matter when creating a business plan.
How to Create a Lean Canvas
It’s easy to start creating a lean canvas and filling it out. You could do it alone or work on it with a business partner. Print it out onto a small piece of paper or draw it onto a whiteboard to make it more visual. You can use any medium you want to complete it. It depends on what feels most natural and useful for you.
If you find it useful, there are online tools available that make it easy to create a Lean Canvas on a computer or other device and perhaps share it with others. Some people prefer a physical version, but a digital product can also be fun to use and easy to create.
Some people use only the Lean Canvas design, while others choose to put together a Business Model Canvas too. They can both be helpful in different ways. However, you can successfully use the Lean Canvas model on its own.
Tools for Creating Lean Canvas Plans Online
If you prefer to have a digital tool to create your business resources, there are several online tools that you might want to use.
Leanstack offers a tool from the company founded by the creator of the Lean Canvas. You just need to sign up on their website, and you can create unlimited canvases and unlimited projects. There are also free courses and downloadable resources, which will help you to get more out of the tools.
The main benefit of the Leanstack tool is that it helps with collaboration, reducing problems like multiple digital copies or talking over each other. If you want more functionality, you can pay to get more from the Leanstack tools.
Another tool that you might want to use is Canvanizer. This gives you the opportunity to put together a Lean Canvas, but it also has several other template options. You can also create a Business Model Canvas, as well as a Lean Change Canvas, a Feedback Canvas, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, Open Innovation canvas, Canvas4Change, and HR innovation canvas. There are also service design templates for a customer journey canvas and service blueprint canvas, plus a project management canvas. You can use the tool for free.
Finally, one last tool to consider is LeadCanvas. This is another free tool that will let you fill out a lean canvas online quickly. It has the nice benefit of not requiring you to sign up for an account so you can get started right away. It’s a younger tool than Leanstack or Canvanizer, so it’s missing some features from those other tools, but it’s very easy to get started quickly.
The Lean Canvas is a useful tool for entrepreneurs who want to get their thoughts together. Turn a business idea into something actionable by working out the problems you need to address and the solutions that you’re going to present.
Lean Canvas makes sure that you get to the essential points that will help you identify the most important risks you could face while starting a new business.
It’s intended to take only 15 or 20 minutes to fill out a Lean Canvas, so you can have the basics of your business plan set out in next to no time at all.