Making a Case for Investment: The 5Ps Conceptual Tool

The Five Ps approach to making presentations and proposal writing.

Example—organizing the main points of a pitch, writing an invitation to a potential investor.

The 5Ps is a conceptual tool. Exactly like the business model canvas, it is used to organize both thoughts and actions. The 5Ps is a template for creating proposals, making a case, making a pitch, arguing a point, justifying an investment in a set of recommendations, creating a business plan. What you generate using the 5Ps can be short or long, formal or informal. It’s just a template for organizing thoughts and actions through which you would like to achieve a result, realize an ambition. Like normal physical tools, to use them to their best effect conceptual tools have to be practiced. Mastery has to be gained over a conceptual tool much as you would a chisel when carving, a paintbrush for painting.   I took 4Ps from a VideoArts training video on how to make an effective presentation, and added a fifth P at the front—Purpose (see below).

Although it might not be obvious looking at the many different approaches, formats and designs, an effective report or presentation will probably be organized or structured according to the 5Ps. Note that these are not necessarily the section headings, although they could be. You must think of these as the necessary components of any document that purports to make a case for a particular line of action. Here is a brief outline of the 5Ps. If you want to see the idea applied to a formal investment proposal created from the BMC see here.


 The Purpose of the document. This is usually to justify or sell an investment in a solution of some kind, including investments in products or services, which embody or are integral parts of solutions.

The Position or the context in which the opportunity to make a proposal arises.

A description of the Problem or the Opportunity which arises to solve that problem (for your customer/client)

The Possibilities are the alternative ways in which the problem-opportunity might be responded to, which will cast light on the reasons for choosing what you propose. In other words, this section provides the background to your decision. These will equate to the possible business models generated, the possible alternatives. Revealing options is like showing your working when answering a question in a maths exam.

The Proposal. This may be one of the possibilities, or a combination of them.

Each of these parts has a function or purpose within the overall document, which I explain briefly below. Although I will be referring to documents and readers, the 5Ps applies to presentations, formal and informal, with and without Powerpoint or similar.

The Purpose component

In this first section you should establish the purpose of writing the document. This section stands alone from the subsequent sections, its function is to provide a necessarily brief introduction to your objectives, what you want to achieve, and what you want from the reader/investor/partner etc. Here you can briefly describe the business or selling opportunity you have in mind, but only what is sufficient to ‘hook’ the reader into reading the rest of the proposal document. Do you want some one to buy into your idea, do you seek money or other kinds of support for a business idea or a solution you have developed to a problem you have identified? You have to have in mind the audience for the report, the people who are going to read it, who you need to get on-board. You also need to think about what these investors, financial and non-financial kinds, would want from agreeing become partners/collaborators of some kind. Ideally you should get to know your audience, what they want to read in your document, their track records, what they value in a business. Having gained the initial interest the next stage is establish the context for the problem or opportunity you will try to exploit— the foundation of your proposal.

NB. This section is not a summary or an abstract. It is an integral part of the main document. An executive summary or abstract may be added when the whole proposal has been completed.

The Position component

This section contains a description of the situation or context from which an opportunity to solve a problem and make a proposal has emerged. For an academic research paper this would incorporate the literature review, which is itself a structured approach to summarising the context in which the research opportunity arises. Position is everything your market/customer research has revealed to you. A business opportunity is actually an opportunity to solve a problem (or to do good). Context is usually referred to as the business or competitive environment, which always provides constraints as well as opportunities and threats. The Position statement is usually constructed through a combination of competitor and market analysis using well established analytical tools to do so. Although the information required to construct this section will be substantial and require a great deal of time and effort to gather collate and analyse, it still needs to be communicated concisely. Again, what you tell the reader (the potential investor) is enough to get them interested.

The ‘Problem to be solved’ component

The problem to be solved is the basis of the business opportunity so it needs to expressed in a clear and concise fashion to be sure the reader understands it. The opportunity to solve a problem is revealed and validated or confirmed by your research. The solving of the problem is the essence of the Lean Startup approach.

The ‘Possibilities’ component

This is the section in which you demonstrate you have thought about the different possible ways in which the opportunity to provide a solution could be exploited, the alternative business models you might have played with. It is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your chosen field of endeavour, knowing, for example, that the different ways in which the opportunity might be pursued will each have different resource implications and probably costs. The extent to which you can generate alternative business models and are able to demonstrate an ability to evaluate and make a choice between them, I believe, will be of considerable interest to investors in your proposed solution.

The ‘Proposals’ component

This is the crux of the document. You will need to expand on any information provided on this option if it was included in the ‘Possibilities component’ of the report. Your proposal, however, could be a combination of the options previously outlined.

5Ps and Mind Mapping

 A quick way of mapping out the contents of any document is to use mind mapping as indicated in the diagram here. Exactly the same mind map can be used to structure each section for each P (a kind of iterative approach). Each section should have a purpose, a short context summary, the ‘probortunity’ to be addressed, the options, the proposal.

Regarding the whole document, your purpose in writing it is to win investment for your business idea. The business idea always emerges from a context and the position statement should cover the various factors that give rise to the opportunity to solve a problem, which is described under the 3rd ‘P’. The opportunity to solve the problem can usually be tackled in a number of differnt ways. Alternative product designs, lead to alternative production strategies, lead to different business models. Your final proposal should emerge from a discussion about the alternatives.

  5ps mind map


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