How to Create a Lean Canvas for Your Business Idea or Startup

Lean Canvas is a 1-page business plan template that documents the key assumptions of your business model, and works as a visual guide for communicating it effectively.

What is lean canvas

Lean Canvas was created by Ash Maurya as an adaptation of Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder. The tool follows Eric Rise's Lean Startup methodology. Compared to writing a business plan for your startup, which can take weeks or months, you can use Lean Canvas to create a snapshot of your business idea in one afternoon.

1. Sign in to Infolio or create a new account.

How to use this template?

2. Create a new project. Learn more in our quick start guide.

3. Add a space to the project via the panel on the left and select the particular template.

Like a business plan, Lean Canvas utilizes a 9 blocks concept, however, is modified to best suit the needs and requirements of a Lean Startup. It's perfect for brainstorming a potential business model, and guides you through its building blocks logically, starting with customer problem right through your unfair advantage.

When to use lean canvas

Business Model Canvas and Lean Canvas may look similar at first glance - both of them are visual and allow seeing the big picture.

Lean canvas, however, is entrepreneur-focused and designed for emerging businesses: it takes only minutes to create, lets you focus on building your business faster, by capturing your idea, collecting feedback, and iterating on it dynamically.

How to use lean canvas

Start with an empty Lean Canvas template and fill all 9 blocks in the set order with notes, links, images, documents or any other related information. Collaborate with your team to find the best way to explain your idea in a concise way.

Make sure your statements are specific and concise. No "but", "however", keep everything simple, straight to the point.

After you have prepared a draft, go through each step, telling this story to yourself: we will help these people (customer segments) to solve (problem) by providing them (solution). They will know about us through (channels) and they will be convinced to join us because (value proposition) and because we already (unfair advantage). We will charge them by (revenue) and we believe this will cover our (costs). We will measure our performance by tracking (key metrics). It should all flow and make sense, like a story where everything is linked. If it doesn't, the Lean Canvas needs more work.

Prepare a Lean Canvas for each customer segment of your idea. This is because each customer segment may have different problems, solutions, channels, revenue, costs, etc.

How to create a Lean Canvas

in Infolio: Uber London example

Lets assume you have a business idea that you want to capture, using Lean Canvas in Infolio, to brainstorm with the team and polish it, as well as to iterate on it after the validation stage. 

1. Open lean canvas template

Start by creating a blank space and select "Lean Canvas" from the templates list. Once on the Lean Canvas template, fill in the blocks in the suggested order, starting with the problem definition.

2. Fill in problem & customers

Brainstorm on your target customers' problem and document each problem as a note, by either dragging the note button from the top toolbar (zoom in first) or by right-clicking and selecting "create new note". Put yourself in your customers' shoes and capture their 3 key frustrations related to the need you intend to serve.

Using the same note feature, list the existing alternatives to your offering (per each problem nailed down above) that customers may utilize to meet their needs. 

Document your target customer segments with the notes of a different colour. 
Note that customers are not necessarily the users of your product (e.g. users of dog food are dogs, however, these are dog owners who buy stuff for the pets). 

Think of the potential early adopters of your product, and nail them down (yes, handy notes). 

3. Formulate your unique value proposition. 

Use notes to document your UVP and High-Level Pitch, and Unfair Advantage. Make use of colour coding to distinguish between information groups.

UVP is a curt and precise statement that refelcts the promise of value your product delivers. It explains how it solves your customer's problems (relevancy), outlines specific benefits (quantified value), and tells what makes your product better than the competitors' one (unique differentiation).

Get inspired by UVP's of admired brands and come up with a unique UVP that helps you differentiate meaningfully, targeting your early adopters, and keeping their key problem in mind. Also, focus on "finished story benefits", e.g. resume optimization service doesn't actually "sell" a well-drafted CV, but rather - a good job offer. 

Complement your UVP with a concise High-level concept. It is an effective brief pitch used to quickly get your idea across and make it easy to spread. Its your UVP distilled to a memorable sound bite.

Complement your UVP with a concise High-level concept. It is an effective brief pitch used to quickly get your idea across and make it easy to spread. Its your UVP distilled to a memorable sound bite.

Example: YouTube — "Flickr for video", Aliens (movie) — "Jaws in space".

Pin down your unfair advantage, drafting a note. 

An unfair advantage is something that cannot easily be copied or bought by your competition and is compelling enough - for your target customers to choose your product over the existing alternatives.

It can come from a number of sources, be it in-depth knowledge of a specific domain (e.g. multiyear expertise in a given industry), intense focus on one domain (e.g. Google's focus on search engine), the community behind your brand (think of Facebook or Apple ecosystem users), etc. 

4. Envision your Solution

Shift to the Solution section within the Template and add notes, reflecting your product vision, its possible details and features.

Ideally, do this in a team workshop, be open-minded and collect various ideas, however, nailing down the ones that can be grounded with some figures/evidence. 

5. Think of promotion channels

Using the notes, capture all the possible channels you can utilize to promote your offering: group apart the free ones (like social media, SEO, blogging, etc.) and the paid ones (Facebook ads, Google ads, LinkedIn ads, directories listings, trade fairs, etc). 

Try to center your efforts around inbound marketing tools that use "pull messaging" to let customers find you organically.

Automate activities, where possible and efficient. Also, think of retention first, rather than of referral. Its crucial to have a product worth spreading first, and then attempt to go viral.

6. Plan your revenue streams and cost structure

Pin down your intended revenue streams, dragging notes to the dedicated template section. To make things simple, start with a single and simple pricing plan first. It can be tested and got back to at later stages.

You may want to consider the Freemium model. Also, free trial is a good option to test the demand.

7. Write down your key metrics

Set up the clear metrics that can be easily measured regularly, in order to tell you how your business is doing. Post notes to the respective part of the template - to visually track your performance weekly/monthly.

You may think of metrics reflecting new users acquisition (e.g. No of app downloads, or user registrations), users engagement (No of interactions with your brand in SM - likes/reposts, followers base growth, referrals), user retention figures (e.g. No of active product/service users monthly), your expenses (e.g. funds spent on travel, or ads costs), etc.

Lean Canvas is a simple yet powerful tool that allows you to capture the essence of your business idea within 30 min, to get back to it repeatedly and iterate on it dynamically as the new data comes in. 

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