Lean & Agile Framework 2017-06-11T09:28:36+00:00

Lean & Agile Framework For Consumer Product Startups

What is My Lean & Agile Framework

I built a Lean & Agile Framework for developing, launching and growing consumer product companies at less cost with top selling products.  

This framework is my best practices roadmap for how to successfully develop, launch and grow consumer product companies.

It is a large collection of content, methodologies, processes, tools, spreadsheets, diagrams, resource lists, research, data and software, organized to take me from idea to $50 million in annual sales.

But you don’t have to aspire to be a $50 million business to use my framework. If all you want is a 5 or 6 figure business, my framework will work, because at the core, it is primarily designed to help you get a highly profitable business, with much less risk, that is sustainable and competitively defensible.

Why Did I Build The Framework?

I have always gone the more traditional route to starting and growing a consumer product company:

  • Capital intensive, so required raising money;
  • Depended on the ultra expensive direct response and retail channels, which took a lot cash and a long time to see if my products would show staying power;
  • Required economies of scale in my production to achieve any profitability;
  • And, was headcount (employee) intensive.

The traditional route means getting big, as fast as possible, or at least to a healthy 8 figures in sales to have promise.

Why could I not build a small consumer product business, that is highly profitable with a 30% or more net profit margin, sustainable with defensible competitive advantages, where I do not have to deal with investors and retailers and lots of employees?

Why could I not quickly test products where I am not investing large amounts of money and time before I know they will work?

There had to be a better way.

So, I set out to create a better way, which has resulted in my Lean & Agile Framework that is my roadmap for how to develop, launch and grow a consumer product company at less cost with top selling products.

My Lean & Agile Framework Took Me 3-Years To Build

I did not just build the framework from my experience successfully growing past consumer product companies.

I built it while applying it to growing a consumer product company that I co-own, which is why the Framework took me 3 years to fully develop.  

This has helped me test and refine the Framework using a real world business.  Now, I use it everyday to guide me in building my company and launching new products.

Is This You?  If So, Then You Need My Lean & Agile Framework

  • People like me who do not want to rely on investors, resellers, lots of employees, and high risk operations that take a long time to realize returns.
  • People like me that want a smaller, highly profitable and sustainable company with defensible competitive advantages.
  • People who cannot land investment because they lack experience or traction, so they need an effective plan for bootstrapping it themselves.
  • People that are in the idea stage or early startup stage and need a plan so they are not wasting their time and capital.
  • People who are small and already operating but are not profitable and need to figure out how to get there sooner rather than later.
  • People who are small and operating and are working all the time with no work-life balance and need to get more productive.
  • People who want to learn how to get smart with growing their company so they can attract investors.
  • People who want a comprehensive training program delivered online, so they can quickly learn all the best practices for growing a consumer product company, without having to find advisers, join networking groups to get expertise, go to conferences or hire expensive consultants.

What Is In The Lean & Agile Framework?

Is The Framework A Book?

No.  A business book would quickly grow out of relevance from our constantly changing business environment.

I built an operating manual that I am constantly adding to, changing and updating to stay current with the best lean and agile methods for growing consumer product companies.  

The Lean & Agile Framework is built in Google Docs. I have each section of the Framework open everyday as tabs in my browser so that I can easily add to it, change it and update it. Those Google Docs are embedded in my website so that others can access on any device. Any change I make is immediately published.

How Is The Framework Organized?

My Framework is organized sequentially into the following components.

Section 1: Strategy

Before starting your company, achieve alignment and fit between your goals, brand pillars, category/product selection and target market.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • What is strategy vs tactics, how they are different and why they are important
  • Why everyone should complete this strategy section, regardless of how small or big you want to grow your company;
  • How to determine your interest, passions and talents and why these should be aligned with your business;
  • Why it is important to have deep joy in building your company and how to make sure you build that into your company;
  • A list of resources and tools to help you determine your interest, passions and talents;
  • The difference between interests, passions and talents and what stays the same and what changes;
  • How to come up with the best business idea for you;
  • Why you should work on your strengths and not your weaknesses, but when it s important to work on your weaknesses;
  • What is a backstory and why it is important for your business idea;
  • Examples of backstories that you can find to learn from;
  • What is a company vision;
  • What is a company mission or values;
    What is company culture;
  • What are goals;
  • How vision, mission, values/culture and goals fit together;
  • How to align your interest, passions and talents with your company vision, mission/values and culture;
  • What are customer personas;
  • Why it is important to think about your target market in terms of customer personas;
  • What are brand pillars, why they are important and how to develop them;
  • One way to stand out in your business that you build into your brand pillars;
  • How to determine the viability of your business idea;
  • Characteristics for a great product (or business idea)
  • Which are you: product centric, marketing centric, sales centric and what are the differences and how do they impact your growth strategy;
  • What are the predominant marketing influencing factors how are they different and why timing if their use is important;
  • What are the major sales models for consumer products, how are they different, what is their relative cost to execute and risk factors;
  • Which sales models might you pick and why;
  • The major consumer product growth strategies and why the framework emphasizes certain ones over others;
  • Why having a lot of cash is often your most dangerous resource that can kill your company;
  • What is a scorecard and how to start using this tool;
  • Why it is important to measure, track and report;
  • How having to make fewer decisions can make you more successful;
  • How to manage strategic, tactical and day-to-day distractions in growing your company;
  • What is strategic alignment in your company;
  • Why you need strategic alignment;
  • When I ask people who are successful what is the one thing that they owe to their success, most say it comes down to one thing;
  • How to use my worksheet to achieve alignment in your company’s strategy, vision, mission/values, culture goals and brand pillars;
  • Examples of my worksheet I use to develop strategic alignment in my own companies.

Section 2: Systems

Implement the right technology and processes so that growth is easier to manage and scale.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • Why data and information is power;
  • Goals for the technology I use;
  • How systems can help you attain success;
  • My systems, processes and technology for productivity;
  • What are dashboards and KPIs;
  • Key KPIs I like;
  • Supply chain tools I use;
  • Production tools I use;
  • Logistics/Shipping-Warehouse/Inventory tools I use;
  • My main website infrastructure platforms I use and why;
  • WordPress plugins I use;
  • Woocommerce add-ons I use;
  • My website customizations and why I developed them;
  • My ecommerce sales funnel, why I developed it, and how the rules engine works to power it;
  • The email list infrastructure I use;
  • The social media tools I use;
  • The web analytics tools I use;
  • Systems I no longer use and why;
  • The database I use and why I developed it;
  • The table structure for my database;
  • How I map my data flows and determine what data is important and what is not;
  • The database reports I use;
  • The goals for my database;
  • Other database alternatives;
  • Sales tools I use;
  • Customer service tools I use;
  • Finance tools I use;
  • What I use to run my finance and accounting;
  • Systems to manage contractors and human resources;
  • My technology costs.

Section 3: Product Development

Develop “WOW” products that capture attention, document risks, determine COGS, pricing, profitability, apply identity and brand marketing and develop the growth strategy.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • How to develop products in context of value ladders and sales funnels;
  • How to develop products for a traditional retail approach;
  • What is rapid-prototyping and why you need to develop products this way;
  • What are WOW products and why you need them;
  • What things cause people to talk about and share;
  • Classic direct response marketing elements for blockbuster products;
  • Ten elements that make up WOW;
  • WOW products can be a combination of things;
  • A WOW product is relative to the target market;
  • Validate the existence of buyers;
  • Passive Consumer Voice Mining;
  • Use neuromarketing in place of surveys;
  • Resources for keyword & search phrases;
  • Why I am not a fan of traditional surveys;
  • Tools if you want to conduct surveys;
  • Key industry research questions to answer;
  • Key competitor research questions to answer;
  • Competitor research tools to use;
  • Key retail research questions to answer;
  • Key questions to help determine your competitive advantages;
  • Key questions to help determine your dream customers;
  • How to improve customer personas with affinities research;
  • How to determine your product positioning;
  • How to document sales objections;
  • Document risks with your product;
  • Document constraints to working with your product, category and industry;
  • How to apply your brand identity;
  • Get UPC and GTIN numbers.

Section 4: Finance

Budgeting, forecasting and Profit & Loss Statements.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • The ultimate goal in any company is to acquire AND retain customers where costs to acquire and retain are less than expenses, which leads to profits;
  • Lay out best practices in accounting and finance that will tell the business what activities are most successful for acquiring and retaining customers, so the business can do more of that, and where they are less successful (or not at all), and stop doing that;
  • The flow of money and key financial metrics that underpin the use of direct marketing to sell products;
  • The main profit and loss buckets;
  • The million dollar question: how much to spend on marketing & sales;
  • Why the common rule of thumb on marketing spend is wrong;
  • What is marketing efficiency and why do you want it;
  • Where to obtain the key data for building the key financial models;
  • The right way to track and categorize expenses;
  • Why you want to separate investment costs from all other costs in the profit and loss statement;
  • What is cost of goods sold (COGS) and what expenses make up this bucket;
  • The important questions to consider in determining and managing COGS;
  • A rule of thumb for COGS;
  • How to create profit & loss statements by product and sales channel and why you want to do that;
  • How to determine marketing costs by product and sales channel and why you want to do that;
  • How to determine return on ad spend (ROAS) contribution margin, and return on investment (ROI) and how to use these ratios;
  • How to determine average customer value and why you want to know that;
  • How to determine average order value in context of a product sales funnel and why you want to know that;
  • How to drill down and determine your suggested retail price (MSRP);
  • How to eliminate channel conflict in pricing;
  • How to set pricing based on profitability goals;
  • How to set pricing in context of discounts and special offers;
  • The right way to build a sales forecast model that is based not just on end consumer sales, but what you ship out;
  • How to use a resellers target weeks on hand inventory to manage your sales forecast;
  • How to use prior year data to help in your sales forecasting;
  • How to use promotions and seasonal spikes to help in your sales forecasting;
  • How to create profit & loss statements with actual results and forecasted numbers;
  • Why you want to avoid equity fundraising for your company;
  • The key questions your finances need to answer with respect to your company;
  • How it is often cheaper to retain customers than acquire new ones and how to use your pricing to do that.

Section 5: Production and Logistics

Supply chain, production, logistics and warehousing.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • How production and logistics is entirely driven off of your inventory management tool;
  • The different subsections of production and logistics and how to think about them in sequence;
  • What happens to finished goods in context of direct-to-consumer shipments and retail shipments and why;
  • What you need to do daily to manage your inventory;
  • What you need to do weekly to manage your inventory;
  • Sample SOP’s for managing direct-to-consumer shipments in-house or using a third party provider;
  • Additional items related to production and logistics to think through.

Section 6: Marketing

Organize the marketing of your product.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • Why you need a framework for marketing;
  • The one secret to success in marketing;
  • Why marketing is about trust and relationship;
  • The 1000 true fans concept and how it can work in growing your company;
  • The two broad categories of marketing and why you need to focus on both;
  • Hot vs warm vs cold prospects and how to market to them;
  • Direct marketing vs brand marketing vs grass roots marketing;
  • Paid vs owned vs earned media;
  • Awareness vs. engagement vs. conversion;
  • Active vs passive media;
  • How to organize the above marketing concepts into a framework to know what kind of marketing to create, why, when to deploy it, and where to deploy it;
  • How to get marketing to pay for itself (so you can spend a lot on it);
  • How to test marketing before you invest in more marketing;
  • How to visually organize the marketing framework into a useful tool;
  • Understanding basic and advanced concepts in behavior and psychology for use in marketing;
  • What is brand identity and how to create it for your products and company;
  • Understanding marketing creative & copy;
  • Using storytelling to market your products;
  • Understanding value propositions;
  • Product pricing from a financial vs marketing context;
  • Building landing pages, funnels, using conversion rate optimization (CRO) and UX/UI;
  • Basic analytics tools you want to have in place to capture marketing data;
  • Targeting your marketing to behaviors vs interests;
  • Marketing strategy vs. tactics vs. ideas;  what is the difference and why;
  • How to keep track of your marketing ideas;
  • Marketing channels & tactics list;
  • Diagnose marketing failures.

Section 7: Resellers

Sell through retailers, distributors, drop shippers, affiliates and others.

Here is what is covered in this section:

  • What does sales do?
  • A product vs a product line;
  • How the category buyer sees your product;
  • Why your product may not be if interest to a category buyer;
  • Questions you need to answer before selling through resellers;
  • Why you have to project tradespend and reseller ROI ahead of time;
  • What is pricing from financial and marketplace contexts;
  • How to account for tradespend in a P&L;
  • How to look at SRP, wholesale cost, product size by channel, retailer margin and distributor pricing in an example;
  • How to get into resellers and grow;
  • A process and checklist to sell to resellers;
  • Working with brokers;
  • How to handle annual reviews with resellers;
  • What is sales operations what does it do and why;
  • What is merchandising and how to do it;
  • What is account marketing and how to do it;
  • The best way to manage forecasting to keep you sane;
  • A complete diagram on all the components and activities of a sales department and how they interact;
  • List of qualified market of retailers for food, outdoor, home & garden and general merchandise, and toy & educational products.

Section 8: Support

This section is a basic high level checklist for support areas to build out the company, including:

  1. Human Resources;
  2. Legal;
  3. Insurance;
  4. Regulatory;
  5. Finance;
  6. Facilities.

Tools

There are a multitude of tools I have created as part of the Framework:

  1. Brand Pillars Worksheet;
  2. Strategy Worksheet.
  3. Business Organizer Diagram;
  4. Growth Plan & Timeline;
  5. One-Screen and Vertical Calendars;
  6. Task List Formats;
  7. KPIs & Metrics Dashboard ;
  8. Email SOP;
  9. Mailchimp SOP;
  10. Website Development/Changes SOP;
  11. Database SOP;
  12. System Costs Model;
  13. Specifications & Price List;
  14. Accounting General Ledger;
  15. Simulation P&L;
  16. Traffic & Funnel Model;
  17. SRP Pricing Model;
  18. Sales Forecast Model;
  19. Standard Ownership/Fundraising Capitalization Model.
  20. Amazon Marketplace-FBA-Pay SOP.
  21. Blog Posts and Social Posting SOP;
  22. UTM Formula Tool;
  23. Marketing Campaigns & Ideas Tracking Tool;
  24. Marketing Channels List.
  25. Retail Terms Sheet And Setup Checklist;
  26. Simplified Retailer ROI Model;
  27. Complex Retailer ROI Model;
  28. New Account Setup Checklist;
  29. Master Account Summary Tool;
  30. Daily Ship vs. Open Model;
  31. New Reseller Setup SOP;
  32. Purchase Order-Receiving-Fulfillment SOP;
  33. Sales Department Structure Diagram.

Additional Sections

Pitfalls

Keep an eye out for the bumps and potholes in the road. I keep a list of ones that have tripped me up in the past so I am less likely to make them again. It is organized by the core Framework sections:

  • Strategy;
  • Systems;
  • Product Development;
  • Finance;
  • Production & Logistics;
  • Marketing;
  • Resellers;
  • Support.

I list bullet points of things to watch out for in each section.

Investment Criteria

If you are a serial entrepreneur like me, or want to ever consider starting another business when you move on from your current business, or want to consider investing or partnering with someone, then you really need to have a set of criteria that helps you narrow down what you will consider.

This section gives you a process for doing so.  I list out exercises you can do to help you understand who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, your assets and limitations, and how those elements can manifest into a set of criteria that you follow to guide your business investment practices.

When I build my criteria, I list them according to my core Framework sections:

  • Strategy;
  • Systems;
  • Product Development;
  • Finance;
  • Production & Logistics;
  • Marketing;
  • Resellers;
  • Support.

This section is actually my process and criteria I use, so you can see how I did it for me and model it to develop your own.  I also list some very specific tactical investment criteria that I look for based on my experience, and you might want to copy some of them for yourself.  A number of these criteria are ideal if the goal is small, profitable, defensible, niche market and focused.

Trends Analysis

I try to stay on top of trends so that I can best anticipate the future and how my company will fit.  The last thing I want is to get disrupted and see my company suffer because I did not anticipate future changes and plan accordingly. Or,  miss opportunities because I am not paying attention to trends.

This section covers the changes I see coming and how they will affect me and what I should do now to be best prepared to handle them.  I look at trends across the following dimensions:

  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Health
  • Economics
  • Politics & Geopolitics
  • Environment
  • Consumer Trends
  • Education
  • Information

You can take my model and think through for yourself how these changes will affect you.

Supporting Software

I use technology extensively and customize some of it to fit the needs of a consumer product company.  Here is what I have developed thus far and implemented.

Consumer Product Marketing Database

You might think database = significant cost.

That is no longer the case.  Technology has advanced in capabilities, while costs dropping to allow even the smallest consumer product company to use.

If you do any level of direct-to-consumer sales, you’ll want a database to help you accomplish many things ,including:

  • Interest:  create customer segments based on interest data (through product purchases) to drill down into who my customers are and how to market to them based on their purchase and activity history with me.
  • Acquisition: create customer segments based on how they were acquired can be based on browsers used, devices and marketing campaigns.
  • Demographics (if this data is collected or appended to the database):  segments customers based on age, gender, income, etc.
  • Context: where your customer is located.
  • Visitor (non-buyer) segmentation:  I create segments based on non-buyers who subscribe to my email list.
  • Lifetime value:  I identify the lifetime value of customers and design my marketing and communication around those levels.
  • Recency, frequency, monetary:  I develop marketing to those customers who are recent, purchase with frequency and have higher monetary value, as they are most likely to keep purchasing.
  • Ascension:  I design marketing to ascend my customers up my value ladder with more purchases that will help them.
  • VIP’s: I identify my best customers and take care of them.
  • Non-customers or low spenders:  I identify those that may have accepted a free product or are on my email list but have never purchased a product or purchased a products but it was a low spend and try to ascend them to becoming paying or higher paying customers.

The possibilities are endless, depending upon the data collected, of course.  Out of the box, the database can be used to create many of these above segments, without any further appending of additional data.

I architected a database for consumer product companies and worked with a developer to implement it for my businesses that does all of these and more.  It really comes down to your imagination for how you want to slice and dice the data to use it.

This database works with my core systems, which are WordPress and Woocommerce, and is surprisingly affordable to implement, easy to learn and use.

Consumer Product E-Commerce Sales Funnel Shopping Cart

You might think customizing an e-commerce cart = significant cost.

That is no longer the case.  Technology has advanced in capabilities, while costs dropping to allow even the smallest consumer product company to use.

Sales funnels are designed to guide a consumer through the purchase process and present them with value-added offers that compliment their existing purchase.

The offers and sequences need to be highly customizeable and done so easily.

As I could not find:

  1. A customizable ecommerce cart to turn into a sales funnel;
  2. That fits with wordpress;
  3. In a multi-product ecommerce setup;
  4. Whose data can be sent to a centralized database;
  5. And, all done cost-effectively (there are enterprise-level systems I have used that can do this, but they are far too expensive for startups or small consumer product companies)…

I designed the flow and requirements for my own sales funnel and had developers code this into Woocommerce.

With this e-commerce cart flow, I can design the rules for how I want to display value-added offers based on what the customer has or does not have in their cart. Once implemented, you do not need to use a developer every time you want to make a change to your sale funnel.  I designed it to be run by a marketer, so it is easy and fast to setup new offers and change the rules and sequences.

This e-commerce cart works with my core systems, which are WordPress and Woocommerce, and is surprisingly affordable to implement, easy to learn and use.

I am Close To Completing The Framework

I expect to release my Framework in June 2017.  To get FREE access to my Framework, please subscribe to my emails to be notified when it is launched.  Scroll down to subscribe.

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