The Third Step in Developing Your North Star is Defining Who You Are Selling to

In this ongoing series of articles concerning the five-phased agile business operations system for startups, Business Operating Support System, of BOSS, I have discussed the various steps in the development of the North Star. A startup’s North Star is the definition of the desired business outcome of your startup which includes what you are selling, why you are selling it, who are you selling it to and how you will exit.


Briefly, BOSS is an agile operating system that incorporates ideas and best practiced from the most effective methodologies in business, software and manufacturing. It creates efficiencies through a structured approach with five phases that set the vision (or North Star), strategy, execution, standardization and business improvement processes needed achieve alignment on company objectives, goals and measurable results utilizing leading and lagging KPIs.


The first phase of BOSS, North Star, consist of the above mentioned steps; What, Why, Who and Exit. In this article, I’m going to focus on the Who.


The development of your North Star’s Who will focus on creating a clear and concise description of who you are selling to. There are three major steps within the creation of your North Star Who; Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), Ideal Buyer Profile (IBP) and User Stories.


Your startup’s Ideal Customer Profile is a detailed description of the ideal company you are selling to that would most greatly benefit from your offering. It should be a perfect match to the What (you are selling) and Why (you are selling it) steps developed in the first two steps of the development of your North Star.


The elements that will help define your ICP include revenue, company size, geography, ownership, customers and products sold. Also important are less numerical metrics such as the role of the company and the goals of the company.


Second, your Ideal Buyer Profile is a detailed description of the elements of that company. In essence, it’s a buyer persona for the company. Elements of the IBP include industry, revenue or available funding, size, geography, competitors and specific needs. Also important are the company’s buying process, value proposition, competitive stance, marketing activity and perception within the industry.


Third, your User story is a brief statement from the end user perspective that zeroes in on and combines who the customer is, what they want to do and what they hope to achieve if they do what they want to do. It’s usually expressed as follows: “As a ___ I want to ___ so that ___” The first part addresses the buyer profile. The second part addresses the desired action and the third part speaks to the expected outcome. An example might be, “As a transit authority, we want to install a new fare collection system that will simplify fare collection, save money, save time and provide ridership data.”


These three elements of the Who stage of the BOSS North Star are designed to paint a very clear picture of your customer and how you can tailor the way to sell your offering so that it ideally matches their needs.


The North Star and its incorporated elements is, perhaps, the most important step in the development of the five phases of your BOSS process. The other four phases, Strategy, Execution, Standardization and Improvement are difficult to implement without the clear starting point developed in the North Star phase.

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