Applying Business Model Frameworks to Marketing Strategy

A tool for connecting the needs of your customer and the needs of your business

jeremy mathis
7-minute read

In brief

  • Problem: Our target audiences demand a tailored experience but delivering on customer expectations can sometimes be at odds with business goals.
  • Solution: creating a customer-first strategy map will clarify where customer needs and company strengths intersect.
  • Response: What’s a customer-first strategy map?

A business model canvas for marketers

You may have heard of the Business Model Canvas, a graphical tool created by Alexander Osterwalder to outline and visualize the relationships between the nine essential components of a business model: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, resources, activities, partners, and costs.

The tool is equally effective at the center of a whiteboarding session with a group or on a piece of paper as you pull together the elements of a business model for yourself. It’s one of our favorite resources for bringing clarity to a conversation or decision-making process. We love it so much, we decided to take the elements and create a version more tailored to marketers – the customer-first strategy map.

The goal of the customer-first strategy map is to help marketing leaders set goals and document their strategy with a specific focus on the audience. It’s not another persona template or content strategy. It’s a foundational piece that combines elements that can help you better understand and navigate strategic decisions as you build your roadmap.

In other words, this tool helps marketers think like CEOs, an essential skill in today’s business landscape.

Creating your own customer-first strategy map

The customer-first strategy map asks you to look both internally and externally–and then find ways to bring these elements cohesively together. If you can answer the following nine questions, you’ll collect the insight necessary to craft an incredible customer experience and translate it for the C-suite.

1. Who buys your products/services? / Customer Persona

When identifying your current audience, you’ll want to consider how you describe your customers, how you segment them, what industry your customers are in, and what their key influences are for marketing a purchase.

2. What problems do you solve for your customers? / Products + Services

Now that you know who your audience is, identify how you solve their problems by asking yourself what your solutions solve, what your best and worst performing products are, and what the positive outcomes of your products and services are.

3. What is the process for the customer to purchase? / Buying Process

Once your audience knows you can solve their problems, how do they go about buying from you? To answer this question, think about what channels your products/services are purchased on, what the buyers’ journey is for your offerings, what stage in this buyers’ journey tips your customers over to initiating contact, and how long a sale or purchase typically takes.

4. How do customers compensate your organization? / Revenue Model

You know you need customers to survive. But, do you know how often they buy from you, how many products they typically buy, how loyal they are to your organization, and how much money you spend attracting and retaining them?

5. Why do customers select you? / Value Proposition

There’s a lot of competition out there. Knowing why your customers choose you–and why they don’t choose your competitors–will allow you to capitalize on your current advantages. Discover your advantages by asking yourself what your key selling points are, what you competitors’ key selling points are, and–whether you win or lose a deal–why did you win or lose it

6. What other solutions does the customer consider? / Competitive Landscape

The idiom ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ rings very true in marketing. Intimately knowing your competitors will keep you ahead of them. You’ll stay in tune with the competitive landscape if you’re aware of the organizations that you consider top competitors as well as the organizations that consider you a top competitor.

7. Where does the customer learn about you? / Channel Strategy

Do you know where your brand’s most loyal customers find you? How about the customers that are one-and-done buyers? Flesh out your knowledge of each of the channels you use, what the goals of these channels are, how they perform in terms of leads and revenue, and which of these channels brings in your best customers.

8. What is the customer’s relationship after the initial sale? / Retention + Growth

Closing a sale or purchase is always exciting. But, what happens after that first sale? Loyal customers and clients can be incredibly valuable, so work on your relationship with them by documenting the channels you use to communicate with current customers, the individuals responsible for retaining and growing customers, and the customer service strategy of your organization.

9. What does the customer hear you saying? / Content Strategy

Important from beginning to end, knowing your customers and speaking to them in a consistent, compelling way is a never-ending process. Ensure that you know the words you use to describe your business–as well as the words you never use–document your brand tone, and sum all of this up in a content calendar that details your content production process.


As you’re thinking through these questions, it will be important to take an outside-in point of view. Assuming the role of your end users during this process will allow you to go beyond the approved corporate language often included in planning documents and identify the true areas of opportunity for your organization.

With the customer-first strategy map outlined, you’ll have a clearer understanding of where customer needs and company strengths intersect. This clarity is critical for marketers who hope to be catalysts of meaningful change within their organizations.

To make the process easier, you will find a link to download a worksheet version of the customer-first strategy map in the Resources section below. If you have questions as you work through the exercise or would like to see examples, please reach out.

Resources

Download a worksheet version of the customer-first strategy map
Business Model Canvas