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Business Model Alignment: Business Model Canvas Explained

Discover the ins and outs of business model alignment with this comprehensive guide to the Business Model Canvas.

The business model canvas is a strategic management and entrepreneurial tool that allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model. It is a visual chart with elements describing a firm's or product's value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. It assists firms in aligning their activities by illustrating potential trade-offs.

The canvas is designed to be simple, intuitive and flexible, enabling users to sketch and visualize business models. It has been used and adapted by many organizations across various industries, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, and is taught in business schools and design schools around the world.

Components of the Business Model Canvas

The Business Model Canvas is made up of nine building blocks. These blocks cover the four main areas of a business: customers, offer, infrastructure, and financial viability. The nine blocks are: Customer Segments, Value Propositions, Channels, Customer Relationships, Revenue Streams, Key Resources, Key Activities, Key Partnerships, and Cost Structure.

Each of these components plays a critical role in the overall business model of an organization. Understanding each of these components in detail can help organizations to identify potential opportunities for innovation and growth, and to align their business model with their strategic objectives.

Customer Segments

The Customer Segments building block defines the different groups of people or organizations an enterprise aims to reach and serve. Customers are the heart of any business model. Without (profitable) customers, no company can survive for long. In order to better satisfy customers, a company may group them into distinct segments with common needs, behaviors, or other attributes.

A company's market could be segmented by various factors including age, gender, income level, education level, occupation, geographic location, lifestyle, attitudes, etc. The segmentation can be done based on the product offered or on the basis of the market served. This segmentation helps the company in identifying their potential customers and in understanding their needs and wants better.

Value Propositions

The Value Propositions building block describes the bundle of products and services that create value for a specific Customer Segment. The value proposition is the reason why customers turn to one company over another. It solves a customer problem or satisfies a customer need. Each value proposition consists of a selected bundle of products and/or services that caters to the requirements of a specific Customer Segment. In this sense, the value proposition is an aggregation, or bundle, of benefits that a company offers customers.

Some Value Propositions may be innovative and represent a new or disruptive offer. Others may be similar to existing market offers, but with added features and attributes. Value Propositions have always been the key to a company's success. It is the unique mix of product, price, image, service, and accessibility that a company offers its targeted customers. It is what each company offers its customers that makes it different from its competitors.


Channels are the touch points that deliver the Value Propositions to the Customer Segments. Channels are customer touch points that play an important role in the customer experience. They represent how a company communicates with and reaches its Customer Segments to deliver a Value Proposition. Communication, distribution, and sales Channels comprise a company's interface with customers.

Channels have several functions including raising awareness among customers about a company's products and services, helping customers evaluate a company's Value Proposition, allowing customers to purchase specific products and services, delivering a Value Proposition to customers, and providing post-purchase customer support.

Customer Relationships

Customer Relationships are established and maintained with each Customer Segment. A company should clarify the type of relationship it wants to establish with each Customer Segment. Relationships can range from personal to automated. Customer relationships may be driven by the following motivations: Customer acquisition, Customer retention, Boosting sales (upselling).

In the early days, Customer Relationships were often personal, that is, established between an individual customer and a company representative. Over time, however, companies have added other types of relationships, like self-service relationships, where customers can order and receive products or services without human assistance, and automated services, which extend self-service by including automated processes such as CRM systems.

Revenue Streams

Revenue Streams are the cash a company generates from each Customer Segment (costs must be subtracted from revenues to create earnings). If customers comprise the heart of a business model, Revenue Streams are its arteries. A company must ask itself, for what value is each Customer Segment truly willing to pay? Successfully answering that question allows the firm to generate one or more Revenue Streams from each Customer Segment. Each Revenue Stream may have different pricing mechanisms, such as fixed list prices, bargaining, auctioning, market dependent, volume dependent, or yield management.

Revenue Streams can be generated in many ways, including product sale, usage fee, subscription fees, lending/renting/leasing, licensing, brokerage fees, advertising, etc. Each Revenue Stream may have its own pricing mechanism. It can be a fixed price, which is set by the company based on the perceived value of the product or service, or it can be dynamic, which can change based on market conditions.

Key Resources

Key Resources are the most important assets required to make a business model work. Every business model requires Key Resources. These resources allow an enterprise to create and offer a Value Proposition, reach markets, maintain relationships with Customer Segments, and earn revenues. Different Key Resources are needed depending on the type of business model. A microchip manufacturer requires capital-intensive production facilities, whereas a microchip designer focuses more on human resources.

Key resources can be physical, financial, intellectual, or human. Physical resources include buildings, vehicles, machines, systems, point-of-sales systems, and distribution networks. Financial resources include cash, lines of credit, or stock options. Intellectual resources include brands, proprietary knowledge, patents and copyrights, partnerships, and customer databases. Human resources include the staff necessary to execute on the service, such as research and development, marketing and sales, or customer service.

Key Activities

Key Activities are the most important actions a company must take to operate successfully. Like Key Resources, they are required to create and offer a Value Proposition, reach markets, maintain Customer Relationships, and earn revenues. The Key Activities needed will depend on the type of business model. While some businesses may require a strong sales team, others may need a strong production process.

Key Activities can be categorized as production related (designing, making, and delivering products or services), problem-solving related (finding new solutions to customer problems), or platform/network related (building and maintaining networks). These activities are crucial for the success of the business model and need to be managed effectively.

Key Partnerships

Key Partnerships are the network of suppliers and partners that make the business model work. Companies forge partnerships to optimize their business models, reduce risk, or acquire resources. There are various types of partnerships including strategic alliances between non-competitors, co-opetition (strategic partnerships between competitors), joint ventures to develop new businesses, and buyer-supplier relationships to assure reliable supplies.

Partnerships are essential for many business models and can have several benefits including the reduction of risk and uncertainty, acquisition of particular resources and activities, and economies of scale. The choice of partners depends on the company's business model and strategic goals.

Cost Structure

The Cost Structure describes all costs incurred to operate a business model. This building block describes the most important costs incurred while operating under a particular business model. Creating and delivering value, maintaining Customer Relationships, and generating revenue all incur costs. Such costs can be calculated relatively easily after defining Key Resources, Key Activities, and Key Partnerships.

Costs can be categorized as fixed costs (costs that remain the same regardless of the volume of goods or services produced) and variable costs (costs that vary proportionally with the volume of goods or services produced). In addition, costs can be either direct (costs that can be directly attributed to producing specific goods or services) or indirect (costs that cannot be directly attributed to producing specific goods or services).

Understanding the business model canvas in detail can help organizations to align their business model with their strategic objectives, identify potential opportunities for innovation and growth, and create a sustainable competitive advantage in the market.

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