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How to use a lean canvas to start and market a business fast

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

Many consultancy firms state that you need a business plan to start your own company.

This is not true.

If you don’t have a lot of money to finance your business, you need to monetize fast and a business plan only slows you down.

In this article, you will learn how to start a business with a lean canvas, market your product or service even before it is actually available for sales and pivot swiftly when it doesn’t hit the target response from the market.

Table of contents

  1. A business plan is obsolete;

  2. The lean startup methodology;

  3. How to craft a lean canvas;

  4. Differences between lean canvas and business model canvas;

  5. How to implement a lean canvas in your marketing strategy.


Most entrepreneurs don’t always have huge capital to fund their business and this is the reason why they must earn profits as soon as possible.

The only way to do that is to shorten the time-to-market and validate a product/service fast.

A business plan is obsolete, because it postpones a company time-to-market.

Entrepreneur defines a business plan as:

A written document describing the nature of the business, the sales and marketing strategy, the financial background, and containing a projected profit and loss statement.

Such a document drains lots of precious resources (time and money) in the earliest stages of a company and the chances it is precise are low. As I always say, a strategy becomes successful only if it meets the expectations after being tested.

According to a 2019 study of CB Insights, the first reason why a startup fails is due to no market need (42%) and the second because of cash depletion (29%).

Top 20 reasons startups fail
CB Insights research on the top 20 reasons why startups fail. The percentages don't add up to 100%, because many startups offered multiple failure reasons.

It means marketing a product or service fast is fundamental to understand market’s needs and, eventually, promptly pivot before running out of cash.

So, how can you start and market a business fast?

You apply a lean startup approach.


Before learning how to use and make a lean canvas, you need to understand how to take advantage of lean startup.

What does lean startup mean?

Lean startup is a methodology to validate a business model by shortening the time-to-market (or development cycle).

A lean startup approach focuses on the needs of early consumers.

Early consumers or early adopters represent your ideal buyers who are ready to purchase new products or services before they become mainstream.

According to The lean startup: how today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses, published by the American entrepreneur Eric Ries in 2011:

A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

It means that startup is not equal to company and has much in common with a context or developing environment. For instance, the scope of a big corporation’s department can be developing and testing new products, but the department itself is not a company.

In Ries’s definition, there is no reference to the team size or years of business. The only important element is the uncertain operating conditions.

This uncertainty can only be reduced by studying the interaction between a new product/service and its early adopters.

How can you do that?

With an MVP.

Develop your Minimum Viable Product first

Minimum viable product (MVP) is a term coined in 2001 by Frank Robinson, CEO of SyncDev, and then spread by Steve Blank and Eric Ries.

According to Ries, a minimum viable product is:

A new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

In other words, an MVP is a product or service with a basic set of features enough to catch the attention of early adopters and get intel on their preferences and expectations. It allows a business to:

  • Shorten the development cycle;

  • Test the demand before launching a full version of the product/service;

  • Cooperate with customers to further the development cycle;

  • Pivo