You Can’t Just Collect Underpants and Expect to Profit

Why business strategy is about more than having the best product

We’ve all been in situations before where we’ve gotten overly excited about the awesomeness of our product or service and completely ignored the need for a well-developed business strategy. It is like the Underpants Gnomes from the show Southpark, who have a diabolical plan to generate profit in three easy phases:

Southpark “Gnomes” Season 2, Episode 17
Unfortunately, this business plan is all too familiar. Entrepreneurs and visionary CEOs often get really excited about their products, particularly when they are ground-breaking, disruptive, or markedly better than anything else on the market. They come to the table with an expectation of the middle bit being sorted out by the quality of their products, and they look blank faced when we try to suggest that they need to create a plan.
“This stuff sells itself” is not a marketing plan. There are complex forces at work, and you’re battling for attention of an audience that is easily distracted by the latest Game of Thrones episode or some wacky thing the President tweeted. It’s going to take work and if you want to make the most of the money you’re spending, you’re going to want a plan.
So the middle part between “Great Product” and “Profit” is the most important thing to figure out. It is, I would argue, even more important than having a “Great Product” because a great product with no plan is going to fail against an okay product with a great plan.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or necessarily intricate. It does have to be well thought out. You have to think about some if…then scenarios. You have to think about what you want to accomplish (goals/objectives) and you have to think about how you’re going to accomplish those goals. The more specific you get on defining goals, the more specific you can get on how to get to them.
The trick is to think about your goals in terms other than “Profit”. There are usually several stepping-stones on your path to achievement, and those achievements add up to success and, yes, profit (hopefully).
So before ready, fire, aim, ask yourself these 5 easy questions to get the process started:
1) Do you have an 18-24 month strategic map that crystalizes a vision everyone on your team understands/believes in?
2) Have you identified the 3 to 4 core obstacles in the market that you need to over come to meet your goals?
3) What are your tactics to overcome the initial launch obstacles?
4) Beyond revenue, how are you measuring success and tracking progress?
5) Who is the most important (and targeted) group of people for whom your product or service solves a fundamental problem?

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