Getting decision-makers on your side early is crucial for product managers. It can be the difference between the next game-changing product and glory for you, or a business case that’s gathering dust. But winning the hearts and minds of multiple execs with multiple business requirements is as easy as convincing untamed lions to jump through flaming rings while reciting the ABCs.
While there's nothing necessarily wrong with presenting lions with a thorough, many-paged, business case, there's a good chance that somewhere around page 10, they’ll lose focus and start thinking about snacking on the presenter.
The traditional business case as presentation tool has many shortcomings. Even if you don’t become lunch, how do you tailor it to fit every department? How do you make sure stakeholders read it? How do you share it? What about feedback?
Enter Lean Canvas. Lean Canvas is Ash Maurya’s adaptation of Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas . Think of it as a master lion-tamer. The highly structured, 1-page format forces you to crystalize your ideas by answering only the most critical questions, leaving no room for fluff and forcing you to de-risk earlier.
How to create a Lean Canvas
To get started, grab our free template or use your tool of choice. It is recommended that you work in the order below. We’ll walk through a fictional product, a pet collar with built in GPS tracker, camera and audio, together. Let’s call our product “Love Paws”.
- Problem: Describe your users’ top 3 problems. Then list how the problems are currently being solved. (Existing Alternatives)
- Customer segments: Describe your target users. Who are the early adapters and the ideal customers?
- Unique value proposition: Determine a simple message that will describe the product and entice prospects. Then determine the High Level Concept, or "this is the X of the Y."
- Solution: Outline a solution to each problem and determine what the customer is paying you to do.
- Channels: Determine your path to customers, i.e. media channels, in-person, word of mouth etc.
- Revenue streams: Determine your source of revenue and estimates.
- Cost structure: Lay out your fixed or variable costs.
- Key metrics: Choose a measurement that will determine success for how the feature/product is performing.
- Unfair advantage: This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. Jason Cohen defines an unfair advantage as: “one that cannot easily be copied or bought”. It’s the one thing that can lead to success because it’s your true differentiator.
Not all of us can be Cesar Milan, but here are other potential unfair advantages:
- Having a person with highly specialized knowledge/skills as part of a team
- Being first to market
- Being in the right place at the right time
The concise format of a Lean Canvas makes it easier to present and update than a traditional business case. If you use a tool like Gliffy it’s easy to share, collect feedback, create new versions and toggle back and forth between old and new. So go ahead grab our free template, channel your inner lion-tamer and turn your product vision into a million dollar reality.