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Audri and Jim Lanford Copyright © 1997 NETrageous Inc. 301-570-5400

Although there are many books which try to teach you how to create an online marketing plan, our experience is that they are either superficial, a rehash of traditional marketing plan approaches, and most often -- almost useless.

Unfortunately, most books about Internet marketing plans have you create online marketing plans that take so long to develop that by the time you can actually do it, they'd no longer be valid!

Here's a framework that we use, and which our customers find very helpful. We call it the "Napkin Plan."


Simply stated, a "Napkin Plan" is a business and marketing plan which you can create on a napkin. It provides brief answers to key questions you need to answer to be successful. It takes advantage of the "80-20" rule: It allows you to gain at least 80% of the benefits of business planning with about 20% of the effort.

Most business plans are much too complex to be useful as real working tools to achieve success. Most businesses simply create plans which sit on a bookshelf (and sometimes keep investors or bankers satisfied). They aren't used on a day-to-day basis by company leaders as working plans to achieve success.

A "Napkin Plan" is especially useful for an Internet business and marketing plan. In fact, it's important that your Internet business plan *not* be too detailed for several reasons:

  • The Internet is changing so fast that valid assumptions you make today will stop being valid in the blink of an eye
  • The ability to log and track customers is not very precise or accurate on the Internet
  • The Internet is so new that you need to adapt quickly to new information.

In addition, successful entrepreneurs, professionals and small business owners simply don't have the time to over-analyze. You need a simple, useful plan -- and then you need to act.

Actually, the Napkin metaphor works well. If you can't describe and plan your business on a napkin -- because of razor thin margins, lack of huge demographic studies and so on -- then your plan for Internet success is most likely unworkable.

You certainly *don't* need big spreadsheets. Many very successful small businesses were laid out on a Napkin. (In fact, the initial hardware and software system design for our last software company was done on a napkin over lunch -- and this "Napkin Plan" is still the basis for systems being produced 12 years later!)

We've seen many business plans that were extremely precise (with huge spreadsheets based on impressive demographic data)... but they were missing key assumptions. These plans remind us of the carpenter who measures extremely carefullyŠ and then cuts the board *exactly* one foot too short!

Following this analogy, it's probably better to measure once and cut twice for the Internet portion of your business. Don't take time to develop a complex plan that just sits on your bookshelf.

Naturally, creating the right questions to answer is the key to an effective "Napkin Plan." We spent many months working on this, and developed nine "Napkins" which are the core of our very high end Internet Business Advisory service.

Shameless self promotion: Naturally, I'd be happy to send anyone who emails me a Special Report which outlines this program. (Please include your snail mail address -- the report is fairly long.) :)

However, I believe that this way of approaching Internet marketing plans is extremely useful with or without the "Napkins" we've developed. Simply thinking about Internet marketing from this perspective will point you in the right direction -- and save you a lot of time.

Dr. Audri Lanford, CEO - NETrageous Inc.
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