This is Part 4 of the “Failplans Stop Here” series.
Plan tags or deal tags are something I created a few years back. The thought behind it is quite simple: apply the principles of content tagging to a business plan, pitch, etc.
I’ve always appreciated those situations in which a really strong marketing tagline on the cover of a business plan really helped “frame” the vision of the venture in my mind, before I even opened it up and started reading it.
Open-source inventory management software for small-to-midsize businesses.
Pretty straightforward. I can already tell that they are a software company, what space they’re in, and what their customer focus is. Sometimes, though, marketing taglines that might make sense in the real world just don’t convey that easily on the cover of a business plan. Then it occurred to me that by using the same sort of “tagging” model that we all use when tagging content online, we could achieve the same effect, with an added bonus of keeping it real and avoiding marketing-speak. And a lot of marketing speak is not something you want to necessarily serve up to investors.
There are an endless number of ways to approach this, but this is the one I use. Ask yourself the following questions:
You can add to this list with your own questions, but the goal is to come up with a very short list of 3-4 description words or phrases. If a phrase, it should be no more than 3 words in length.
Some examples (you likely know these companies):
Deal tags: Open-Source Software | Customer Relationship Management | SaaS
Deal tags: Home Improvement | Retail | Consumer | Affordable
Deal tags: Gourmet Ice Cream | Franchise Model | Unique Culture
You get the idea. The ideal deal or plan tags should describe the gist of your venture, and frame it in the mind of your audience. If you were presenting to a room of investors, and one of them had to get up and leave to take care of an emergency, they should still be able to know where you “fit” within the grand scheme of things (not the least of which is their investment criteria). Additionally, tags are fairly easy to remember, and serve as a way to boost the social conveyability of your pitch. If others can’t informally spread your message for you, you may as well pack it in now.
So, how should we represent Frobozz? Well, let’s brainstorm. 1, 2, 3, go. Don’t over-think this. Just write …
We sell a smartphone app that detects specific people when they get near you.
We sell our product online through app stores.
Our initial market focus is on college students.
Differentiator #1: we find people based on your criteria, not theirs.
Differentiator #2: we do this stealthily, without them knowing about it.
Brainstorming is like making popcorn. When the kernels start popping, it smells great. But you have to know when to stop. When the kernels are only popping every now and then, you’ve gone too far. Your kitchen is gonna wreak for a week. When the ideas are not rolling off your tongue, you’re done.
The above list was created in about 30 seconds of brainstorming (including typing). So, in looking at the list, here is my first cut at some tags:
Deal tags: Proximity-Based | Mobile | People Finder
But we can do better.
Deal tags: Proximity-Based | Mobile | Stealth People Finder
That’s more like it. The word “stealth” adds a bit of mystery to the tags, and makes it both a little more unique and descriptive at the same time. However, the word “stealth” also conjures up the bazillion other startups that are in “stealth” mode all the time. And you don’t want to be the 25th business plan or deck for a “stealth-mode” startup that the investor has seen that day alone. I do like it, but I’m going to change it a bit.
Deal tags: Proximity-Based | Mobile | Stealthy People Finder
One letter makes all the difference in the world.
Again, we are looking “frame” the vision of the deal for someone here, not describe it fully. These tags describe it just enough – we get the product at a high level, and we get to allude to some possible business models by way of stating that we’re a mobile app. Avoid scalable, web 7.0, in the cloud, curve-jumping, paradigm-shattering, ad nauseum. Gist.
Lots of re-use with these, as you’ll see. These tags are going to appear on the cover of the business plan, the various decks, etc. Great for business cards, too :)
As you move forward with developing your product and venture, always, always, look back at your deal tags and ask yourself the question: Do these tags still adequately describe my vision? If not, you may have strayed off the path …
I’m done. Could it be better? Always. Everything can be improved, and these tags are subject to evolve just like everything else in the venture – and I’m sure they will. But I’m happy with it for now, so I’m moving on. Doing otherwise would just be burning daylight.
Total time invested in coming up with our tags: 5 minutes. As you’ll soon discover, the ROI on those 5 minutes will save us hours, if not days, down the road.
Now that we have some simple keywords and phrases to adequately frame our vision, we’re ready to move on to the next installment, where we put together our elevator pitch. After that, I’m going to engage some community mentors to give me feedback on it. Because, remember, all of us are smarter than any of us.