Using Mind Maps for Business Planning
There are a lot of areas of strategic planning where Mind Mapping gives you a strong strategic advantage, both in the planning process and also in explaining what the business is all about to investors, staff, and customers, and when you get to the level of business planning, many of the same theories and techniques apply, and certainly the use of things like the SWOT analysis Mind Map is very valuable as you put together the shorter term business plans, but there are a lot of other things you can use Mind Maps for at the business planning level.
One of the significant issues with more traditional business plans is that they tend to end up as long boring documents that few people read and even fewer understand, and therefore they are ignored by precisely the people who could make the most difference by following them.
By contrast, using Mind Maps for business plans allows you to create engaging, unique, memorable business plans. The color, shapes, images, and summarized nature of the Mind Maps makes them memorable and useful.
Getting Started with your Business Plan
When creating a business plan, we once again brainstorm the particular areas we are interested in at the time, but this time, everything is cross-checked with the company strategic plan to ensure consistency, and to make sure that the business plan is advancing the company in the direction of the long term goals.
The second Mind Map to the right could be used as a starting point for putting together your business plan. Just like the strategic plan, you can create individual Mind Maps for each of the key areas of your business, and then produce a summary Mind Map which highlights the key points for use with clients and general staff, and you have the more detailed Mind Maps available to use with the staff who are employed in that particular area of the business.
When using Mind Maps for planning, it is important to use the general planning principles, as shown on this Mind Map. The first step is brainstorming, where you start at the center of the Mind Map with the subject, then add topics for each main idea or objective, and then generate the ideas for the sub-topics as quickly as you can, without worrying about organizing them at this stage.
The second stage is one of organization, culling and scoping, so that you have the main objectives at the first level, and then the supporting goals and objectives, and eventually down to whatever level of detail you need in the Mind Map. At this stage, you are comparing the things that you are putting on the Mind Map with the strategic plan, to make sure you are going in the right direction, and also looking at the feasibility and desirability of the ideas. Some ideas are not appropriate for the particular business plan being created, but may be worth keeping for later, and these ideas can be put into another Mind Map for later implementation.
From the resulting Mind Map, you refine it until you get to an action plan for each area of the business, by confirming the objectives and making sure the tasks have been identified properly, and then prioritize and schedule them.
The last, and most important part of the process is to make sure you have appropriate measures in place for tracking and feedback into future plans. These mechanisms can be built into the Mind Maps, so you record the feedback in the appropriate places on the Mind Map as the plan is put into action.
An Example: Marketing Plan
Let’s look at one area of your business planning to give you some ideas of how it could be helped by the use of Mind Maps – let’s pick marketing plans.
A Starting Point
So you would start at the high level and perhaps draw in a Mind Map like the top one on the right from your strategic plan and update it to match the needs of your current business plan, so here we look at various aspects of:
- the current market position, looking at what products and services you currently offer, who your clients are, what your sales levels are like, where the business expenses go, how you get new clients, and what the perception of your company is amongst your prospects and clients,
- an overview of the market – how big it is, what your share of it is, whether the size of the market it increasing, staying steady, or decreasing (and of course your share in relation to the overall market), and any other business specific considerations,
- do a SWOT analysis of the market, noting all the relevant strengths and weaknesses your company has, as well as opportunities and threats, then
- set your objectives as to how you want to grow the overall market, your share of the market, how you will differentiate yourself as a business, what resources you will bring to bear to achieve those objectives, and how you will know whether you have achieved them, and then
- work out what specific strategies you are going to apply, noting the risk factors and expected outcomes of each strategy, and how and when you are going to measure their effectiveness.
As you go through this exercise, make sure you are very thorough. Make sure you include all the services provided, including things that you do as a free service for your clients.
Make sure you identify the demographics of your clients, their spending patterns, and attrition rates. Really dig in to as much information as you can about who they are so you can understand how to serve their needs better. What is the lifetime value of a client?
When considering the market position, think not only of the position in terms of the overall revenues and number of units shipped, but also break it down by product line and product where appropriate.
When considering the cost of products and services, think of it both for the business as a whole – how much does it cost to provide the products and services to the clients, and what are the overheads that need to be spread over the revenue generating areas of the business, and also from the individual product lines – what are the costs of purchasing the goods to be sold, and the costs of holding inventory, and the opportunity cost of the value of the inventory?
As you think about your clients, note how they find you – how many come in by word of mouth, by Internet advertising, by print ads etc – break it down. What is the cost of acquisition of clients from each source?
The High Level Plan
From there, you might create a plan something like the one to the right for use in your detailed planning
This helps you address specific issues to do with sales obstacles, leads, and clients.
You can see here that the sales obstacles that have been identified as coming from three sources: clients, the sales team, and the product itself.
The issues in this example are that the existing clients only buy once or twice, have limited contact with the company, do not refer other people, and they have a low retention rate for existing clients, so they are always having to go and get new clients.
The issues around new clients are the acquisition cost and the amount of time it takes to bring in a new client, and when they are there, they still don’t spend a lot. The company is short on leads, and the leads they do have are low quality – not hot prospects with credit cards in their hands.
The issues with the sales team is that they have low morale, so they don’t put the effort they should into the marketing, and their commissions are low, so they don’t have much motivation to do anything about it.
Although the value of the product is high for the clients, their perception doesn’t match the actual value, so they see it as only a low value item.
You can see that by breaking it down like this, it becomes painfully obvious the many areas where the business could focus on removing those sales obstacles, and certainly they would be well advised to brainstorm around those areas.
And so the Mind Map goes on to identify many other opportunities when looking as leads and existing clients.
These are pretty typical issues and structures, so you might like to download the Mind Map and customize it for your needs, but of course at the same time, it is just an example which shows you the concept which you can apply across all areas of your business plan.
You need to tie things down to specific objectives so that you can create a working plan to achieve those objectives. Some of the objectives may be externally imposed, for instance by shareholders saying that they need to have a certain percentage increase in profits, but many of the objectives will also come from the analysis you have just done.Make sure that you follow proper project planning techniques and that you have all the objectives supported by tasks and resources and feedback mechanisms so that you can monitor results.
Make sure that where there are known and established strategies that you are following those tested strategies, and that if you are doing something for the first time, it is strategically planned so that you have a proper environment and feedback system in place to be able to accurately record what was actually done and what the results were.
Other Business Uses of Mind Mapping
There are many more uses of Mind Mapping in a business context, many of which are dealt with in detail in the Business Guide to Mind Mapping book, and some are also covered in other articles on the NovaMind web site, but just to give you a couple more ideas, here are some other things that NovaMind is commonly used for in businesses:
- Project planning
- Project management
- Vision and Mission statements
- Business Presentations
- Employee induction
- Employee reviews
- To-do lists
- Business continuity and disaster response planning
- Training and skill enhancement plans
- Meetings, including agendas, minutes, and action items
Just to take one example of the above ideas, here is one that is included in the first NovaMind document download on this page, which you can use for employee reviews:
You can see here that the goals can be identified, the meetings that were held during the period, the issues that were encountered, and how they were dealt with, what the employee learned, the expenses, and finally the major wins, so you can end on a positive note. Now if you go into a review period with the knowledge that this is the way you will be assessed, you can make sure that all areas are covered well when you are going about your daily business, and get a fantastic review.
There is more information in the blog article about planning and managing your goals using Mind Maps.
I wish you all success using Mind Mapping to enhance your business.