Examining Your Firm’s Business Model

Several years ago, our Executive Team conducted a five-year visioning session. This session challenged us to not only imagine what the future could look like for our organization but to evaluate our current business models. What we found was that by using a known framework for examining the various business models in our company (e.g., Communities, Consulting & Training), we had plenty of opportunity to evolve, serve our clients better and leverage resources.

In our experience, some of the best strategies for evolving and leveraging resources in one area of our business could be found in another area of our business. For example, key partnerships were being properly leveraged in one of our training services and not so much in another training service. While some of this was natural evolution and growth of new services, it highlighted our need to tap into the confidence and capabilities of all areas of our business to accelerate growth.

Similar to your firm, our organization doesn't have just one business model. While we have a "macro" business model overarching our entire organization, we have several "micro" business models depending on the type of service (e.g., Communities, Consulting & Training). Depending on the number and types of services your firm offers, I trust you have various "micro" business models as well.

The framework we used to evaluate our various business models was the Business Model Canvas created by Strategyzer. This framework focuses on nine building blocks that make up your firm's various business models. In this article, I will highlight three of the building blocks that stood out for us. For more information regarding the entire framework, I recommend picking up a copy of "Business Model Generation" by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur.

Building Block #1: Customer Segments

The Customer Segments Building Block defines the different groups of people or organizations your firm intends to reach and serve.

While you could quickly say who your main customer segments are, I'd challenge you to examine them in more detail. It’s likely that within at least one of your main customer segments, there are distinct differences that would influence how you position and deliver your services.

The Business Model Canvas will have you ask these two big questions regarding your Customer Segments:

  1. For whom are we creating value?

  2. Who are our most important customers?

There are at least three big qualifiers for determining whether customer groups represent a separate segment:

  • Their needs require and justify a distinct offer

  • They require different types of relationships

  • They are willing to pay for different aspects of the offer

Building Block #3: Channels

The Channels Building Block describes how your firm communicates with and reaches your Customer Segments to deliver your services.

When we examined our channels, we found we could be more targeted depending on our services offering. For example, the best channel to grow our Boomer Technology Circle community was not necessarily the best channel to grow our CIO Circle community. However, at face value, it could be easily assumed that the channels would be identical.

The Business Model Canvas will have you ask these six big questions regarding your Channels:

  1. Through which Channels do your Customer Segments want to be reached?

  2. How are you reaching them now?

  3. How are your Channels integrated?

  4. Which ones work best?

  5. Which ones are most cost-efficient?

  6. How are you integrating them with customer routines?

There are at least four big functions your firm's Channels serve:

  • Raising awareness among customers about your firm's services

  • Helping customers evaluate your firm's services

  • Delivering services to your customers

  • Providing post-purchase support

Building Block #8: Key Partnerships

The Key Partnerships Building Block describes the network of suppliers and partners that make the business model work.

Your firm has many suppliers (e.g., technology and software providers) as well as partners on which your business model relies. Are you fully leveraging these relationships to grow and serve your clients? We found that in some areas of our organization we were, and in other areas, we weren't.

The Business Model Canvas will have you ask these four big questions regarding your Key Partnerships:

  1. Who are your Key Partners?

  2. Who are your Key Suppliers?