5 Tips to Tell Your Business Model as a Story

Added on by Nabila Amarsy.

"Telling Your Story" is Ep. 6 in the six part animated series "From Idea to Business" presented by Strategyzer Academy and the Kauffman Foundation (download).

The ability to clearly communicate your ideas and vision is crucial in a corporate or start-up venture. You need a convincing story to get your team, managers, or investors excited and  turn an idea into reality. 

Use the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas to present your ideas in crystal clarity. These two visual tools are just as great for communicating ideas as they are for creating and testing them. Companies like MasterCard, a credit card company, are already leveraging the two Canvases as a shared language across important parts of their organization to tell stories of value creation. 

Here are five tips to tell your business model and value proposition as a story:

1. Don't commit cognitive murder! Passionate users of the Business Model Canvas often show their audience an entire Canvas all at once and then try to explain it. That leads to what we call "cognitive murder". Unveil your Canvas one sticky note at a time to communicate your idea effectively step by step. 

2. What's the essence of your story? Don't be tempted to explain every detail of your business model. The most important is that people get the essence of your model. Focus on the critical elements and leave out details. Why is your business model different? What makes it stand out? Why is it going to succeed where others didn't? You can always follow-up with more details in document if required. 

3. How do the pieces reinforce the whole? The 9 building blocks of the Canvas were designed to visualize how all the pieces of your business model fit together and reinforce each other. Avoid "filling out" each block one after the other, like you were going through a checklist.

Instead, create a thread to your story and walk your audience through it. Show which customers you are targeting. Explain which value proposition they will want from you. Outline why they will pay you and via which revenue streams. Clarify which resources and activities are required to create and deliver your value proposition. 

Connect your sticky notes in the order that logically makes sense to tell your story. And if you do it well, you'll never have an "orphan element" that doesn't connect to another business model building block (e.g. a revenue stream without a customer who is paying for a value proposition). 

4. Use color-coding to explain the mechanics of your model. This is a powerful technique to visually highlight how elements of your business model are connected. It helps your audience understand the inner workings of your business model in an instant. E.g. use the same color for all channels, revenue streams, and resources related to a specific customer segment. Use another color for the elements related to another segment.  

5. Provide evidence. Reinforce your story by telling your audience what you tried, what worked, and what didn't. Provide hard data that supports your business model idea!

Check out how Owlet, a medtech startup, pitched their ideas to a panel of judges including Alex Osterwalder & Steve Blank and won the 2013 International Business Model Competition!

Did you ever experience cognitive murder when somebody explained you their business model? What was your best experience of listening to somebody pitch their business model? Tell us about it!