When starting a business housed on the Internet, or in technology, it is tempting to go immediately and purchase a domain, load a CMS — usually WordPress — and start refining and shaping the “business” as we set up the templates and write content. However, this is the long way to get started that can cause hours of redoing customization settings, or even cause missed business opportunities. Instead, it is best to plan our work and work our plan.
Now I am not suggesting that this plan has to be detailed and developed to the finest detail before action to build the site or product begins. But by working through the formational, foundational and financial details on paper is a wise and cost saving process. It also will make the building of the site or product smoother and a more enjoyable process. There are a lot of questions to ask before spending money. Questions that will lead you to perhaps a different product or business than you originally thought. So spending some time with a pencil, some markers and paper is well worth it. (I suggest starting on paper because tangible paper stimulates touch and visual sensors, stimulating the creative process. It also is easier to ‘secure’ paper housing ideas that have never been expressed in the digital or online world. However, if you are collaborating with remote partners, using online apps is better.)
Scribbles become The Plan
The idea of writing a business plan has seemed too daunting for some caught in the beginning dream of a business. Those of us who have sat through classes on creating these documents could still be shell-shocked by the market research, spreadsheets, legal structures of a traditional business plan. However, this document comes later, not while the idea and inspiration are still forming. Instead, start with the Mind Map.
Criticism has no part in the Mind Map process, only critical thinking. Long meditations or contemplations have no part in the Mind Map process, capture your first response as you ask each question. If you are unfamiliar with Mind Mapping, Google it or this site has a good basic explanation. Remember, you are seeking to learn about the product or service you are planning to offer: What do you offer? For whom, list your target buyer, but also possible secondary customers and even yourself, which will lead you into why. Does this solve a problem that exists or enhance an existing service or condition? How will it be delivered and what kind of infrastructure it requires for delivery, promotion and support this product or service? What are the costs: sale price, but also to your personal time, and can you afford to use this time? Will you need others like freelancers, employees, or partners? What is your exit plan should you need it, and when does it trigger?
It is important to start thinking critically, not emotionally. You are birthing an idea, which will eventually become an entity unto itself. It will need your passion, yes. And start-up funds. Someday, will you sell the entity to another, and if so, does that impact the names you give to the product, and/or the company?
With these questions answered for now, and kept in mind as you determine the short term (launch) and longer term life of the product or service, it should be clear that choices like domain names, slogans, and page design will be easier to determine while keeping a comprehensive image and brand, thus supporting a successful launch and future. Be sure to review and work from your Mind Map, revising as needed, as you create marketing materials, formal business plans, and business infrastructure.