What is a Business Model? | The Startup Process

Your prototype might be ready for presenting to investors or licensees but it is worth nothing if you do not have a business model in place. How are you going to explain to anyone what your product does/intends to do and how it is going to add/create value for customers as well as the company? You need a business model for that. It is a term people frequently use but do they truly understand what it means? Michael Lewis, the author of The New, New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story, says that a business model is a “term of art”. Most people know it when they see it but cannot accurately describe it. We don’t know if we can refute it completely but while we try to explain what a business model is here, in the next article, we will try to give you a framework so as to help you understand it better. How you decide to sum up the parts of that framework and look at the bigger picture rests with you.



What is a Business Model?

A Business Model is a conceptual structure that supports the viability of a product or company and includes the purpose and goals of the company and how it intends to achieve them. All the business processes and policies that a company adopts and follows are part of the business model. According to management guru Peter Drucker:

a business model is supposed to answer who your customer is, what value you can create/add for the customer and how you can do that at reasonable costs.

Thus a business model is a description of the rationale of how a company creates, delivers and captures value for itself as well as the customer.

The widespread use of business models came into existence with the advent of the personal computer which let people test and model the different components of a business. Successful business models before that were mostly created by accident and not by design. Every business model intrinsically has two parts – the first part deals with designing and manufacturing the product while the second part deals with everything related to selling the product, from finding the right customers to distributing the product.


Different Types of Business Models

There are different types of business models meant for different businesses. Some of the basic types of business models are:

Manufacturer

A manufacturer makes finished products from raw materials. It may sell directly to the customers or sell it to a middleman i.e another business that sells it finally to the customer.  Ex: Ford, 3M, General Electric.

Distributor

A distributor buys products from manufacturers and resells them to the retailers or the public. Ex: Auto Dealerships.

Aggregator

Aggregator business model is a recently developed model where the company various service providers of a niche and sell their services under its own brand. The money is earned as commissions. Ex. Uber, Airbnb, Oyo.

Retailer

A retailer sells directly to the public after purchasing the products from a distributor or wholesaler. Ex: Amazon, Tesco.

Franchise

A franchise can be a manufacturer, distributor or retailer. Instead of creating a new product, the franchisee uses the parent business’s model and brand while paying royalties to it. Ex: McDonald’s, Pizza Hut.



Bricks-and-clicks

A company that has both online and offline presence allows customers to pick up products from the physical stores while they can place the order online. This model gives flexibility to the business since it is present online for customers who live in areas where they do not have brick-and-mortar stores. Ex: Almost all apparel companies nowadays.

Nickel-and-dime

In this model, the basic product provided to the customers is very cost-sensitive and hence priced as low as possible. For every other service that comes with it, a certain amount is charged. Ex: All low-cost air carriers.

Freemium

This is one of the most common business models on the Internet. Companies offer basic services to the customers for free while charging a certain premium for extra add-ons. So there will be multiple plans with various benefits for different customers. Generally, the basic service comes with certain restrictions or limitations, such as in-app advertisements, storage restrictions etc., which the premium plans shall not have. For example, the basic version of Dropbox comes with 2 GB storage. If you want to increase that limit, you can move to the Pro plan and pay a premium of $9.99 a month for it. Some online image editors allow you to edit only a certain number of images in the free basic plan while an unlimited number of images in the paid plan. Youtube’s free plan comes with ads while the premium (Red) plan has no ad interruption plus it has other benefits too. This model is one of the most adopted models for online companies because it is not only a great marketing tool but also a cost-effective way to scale up and attract new users.

Subscription

If customer acquisition costs are high, this business model might be the most suitable option. This model lets you keep customers over a long-term contract and get recurring revenues from them through repeat purchases. Ex: Netflix, Dollar Shave Club.

High Touch

The High Touch model is one which requires lots of human interaction. The relationship between the salesperson and the customer has a huge impact on the overall revenues of the company. The companies with this business model operate on trust and credibility. Ex: Hair salons, consulting firms.

Low Touch

The opposite of the High Touch model, the Low Touch model requires minimal human assistance or intervention in selling a product or service. Since as a company, you do not have to maintain a huge sales force, your costs decrease, though such companies also focus on improving technology to further reduce human intervention while making the customer experience better at the same time. Ex: Ikea, SurveyMonkey.

 

Of course, most companies do not operate on any one of these business models but rather on a combination of some. Like it is perfectly possible for you to be a Bricks-and-clicks Low Touch Retailer or a High Touch Subscription-Based Manufacturer. What business model you choose depends on your business needs and what value you want to create for your stakeholders. Next, we will see how to develop the perfect business model for your startup, so that the chances of your success are amplified.


The Startup Process

We know how important your dream business is to you. Therefore, we’ve come up with an all in one guide: The Startup Process to help you turn your vision into reality.



About the author

Sourobh Das

Product Guy. Introverted Marketer. Engineer by education. Movie and TV Geek by nature. Can be seen reading comics and non-fiction books when not binging on movies and Netflix shows. Pop-culture junkie. Out and out foodie. Wee bit self-obsessed."

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