Create a Business Plan for Your Startup in 9 Steps With the Business Model Canvas Template

You have a great new product idea and the details are beginning to take shape. Perhaps you’ve done some market research, identified a likely customer base, and found some partners that will support your venture. How do you bring all these resources together to form a viable business plan?

This is where the business model canvas comes in. Use the Business Model Canvas template with your startup team to consolidate your brainstorming and research in one place. Consider your value propositions, find the gaps in your business model, and strengthen your strategy. Then, create a slide presentation or interactive demo on the virtual whiteboard to present your plan to key business stakeholders.

Keep reading for a detailed guide to the 9 canvas template steps, with helpful business model canvas examples.

Business model canvas FAQs 

What is the business model canvas? 

Business Model Canvas on
Business Model Canvas on

The standard business model canvas provides a systematic way for your startup to cover your bases as you develop a working business plan. The 9 fields of the business model canvas bring together key information about your resources, relationships, and objectives so you can map out the important connections among these moving parts.

How does the business model canvas work?

To complete the canvas, you’ll fill out all 9 sections in detail. The sections bring together 3 broader categories of information that help your team answer these questions:

  • Is our business model feasible? Can we deliver this product or service?
  • Is our product desirable? Do customers want what we propose to deliver?
  • Is our plan financially viable? Can we actually make a profit?

Iron out the details on the business model canvas until you can answer “yes” to each of these questions and can also explain your reasoning to your business stakeholders. 

When do I use the business model canvas? 

Use the business model canvas at the beginning of any startup venture or when your company is branching out to deliver a substantially new product or service. 

In the second case, your business may already have established partnerships, supply chains, and other relevant resources lined up. However, you’ll want to consider each of these with fresh eyes in the context of your new plan. Can current suppliers meet the requirements of your proposal? Are your existing partners the right ones for this new venture? The business model canvas helps you connect the dots and make informed decisions.

What are the benefits of the business model canvas? 

The business model canvas guides your business or startup to:

  • think through the details of your business model systematically
  • assess your value propositions in depth from all relevant angles
  • find the weak spots in your current plan and do further research
  • minimize the risk of acting on faulty assumptions or magical thinking
  • create a convincing presentation for investors and other potential partners

How do I use the Business Model Canvas template?

Work through the 9 steps with these business model canvas examples.

Business Model Canvas on
Business Model Canvas on

Add the Business Model Canvas template to your virtual whiteboard and start a video chat to collaborate with your team. As you fill out the template, keep in mind that the business model categories are interdependent, so your process steps will not be linear. Brainstorm each step with the team, add your initial thoughts to virtual sticky notes, and place these notes in the relevant template section. Circle back to previous steps as you discover considerations that inform the fields you already filled out.

1. Key Partners

In this section of the canvas, list your suppliers and any proposed business alliances or joint ventures. What key people or groups will contribute to the success of your product or service? What activities will they perform and what resources do they bring? 

To think about this more clearly, consider that key partners typically provide one or more of these benefits in some form:

  • They contribute to process optimization and give you access to economies of scale. 
  • They minimize the risks your startup is facing.
  • They fulfill your acquisition or outsourcing needs: whatever aspects of product development, delivery, marketing, or support are not within your current purview.

Focus on what you do best, then develop relationships with partners who will do the rest to your standards.

2. Key Activities

What specifically will your team do to deliver value to your customers? What other essential activities will you outsource to your partners in step 1? Consider which key activities are part of your business model:

  • design, develop, and/or deliver a product to end users
  • do branding, marketing, distribution, or support for your product or for a client
  • provide ongoing consultation services to customers
  • create custom solutions for individual clients
  • maintain platforms for product promotion, customer help, or user community building

Typically a company will not perform all of these activities, and may only do one or two. Define your business scope, examine your key resources, and determine which activities you will entrust to partners.

3. Key Resources

What resources does your company need to provide the services your business model proposes? What assets are required to support and sustain the business?

Business model canvas examples of key resources include:

  • Human resources. Who are your contributing employees, teams, contractors, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders? 
  • Financial resources. What will sustain your business until it is profitable? What are you looking at in terms of startup capital? Who are your potential investors? 
  • Physical resources. What equipment, tools, or real estate does the business require?
  • Intellectual resources. What proprietary property does the company own or need access to?

4. Value Propositions

This is where your team articulates the product vision. What problems will your product solve, what customer needs will it meet, and how will it deliver this value? 

The key question at the center of any value proposition is, what distinguishes your product from its competitors? Consider your product or service in light of which primary type(s) of value it provides:

  • Novelty. It delivers a unique experience or new solution to a problem.
  • Design or performance. The visual appeal or intuitive interface are exceptional.
  • Risk reduction. It solves a key source of user anxiety or worry.
  • Customization. Users receive uniquely valuable personalized services.
  • Accessibility. It breaks down barriers to a desired user experience.
  • Convenience. Customers will pay more for how it makes their lives easier.
  • Value. It beats the direct competition on value for cost.

One of these attributes – or a strategic combination – is what sets your product apart. Create value propositions centered on these key points of differentiation. For a deeper dive into analyzing competitors, see our Guide to the Competitive Analysis Template.

5. Customer Relationships

What will your relationships look like with your target customers? How will you attract them, retain them, and grow revenue through that retention? Consider these customer relationship avenues:

  • Personal assistance. How will you communicate with customers one on one as necessary?
  • Direct outreach. What does your email marketing and other mass outreach look like?
  • Community facilitation. Will you foster an online community around your product? Can you leverage social media or an existing forum? Will you create a new platform where customers can share experiences, leave reviews, or ask each other questions?
  • Automated services. Will you use algorithms or AI to enhance customer interactions – for instance, suggesting additional products or relevant information in response to individual inputs or broader usage patterns? 
  • Self service. Can a robust blog or help desk allow users to answer their own questions or discover additional value in your product?
  • Co-creation. Do you plan to work directly with clients, creating solutions in response to their needs?

6. Channels

What are your marketing, distribution, and support channels? As a team, establish where you will: 

  • reach prospective customers with your product
  • communicate its benefits to them
  • deliver on this value proposition
  • maintain this customer relationship
  • provide product support services
  • offer additional value to the customer

List every channel you intend to use for these purposes, consider if you will manage this channel in house or outsource it, then add to your list of key partners if necessary.

7. Customer Segments

What audience do you aim to serve, and how will your value proposition benefit them? Here are some business model canvas examples to help you envision your product in terms of customer segments:

  • Mass market. Is it for the general public? For example, Netflix reaches a broad audience with a wide array of TV shows and movies. Spotify is the same, except with music and podcasts.
  • Niche market. Does your product appeal to a narrow demographic – for instance, a workout app for long-distance runners or a website devoted to superfans of a cult TV show?
  • Segmented market. Will you serve customer segments with related but divergent needs? An example would be a travel services app that caters differently to users seeking budget vs. luxury accommodations.
  • Multi-sided market. Does your business model involve interdependent customer segments? For instance, your app connects busy dog owners with local dog walkers. You’ll be managing two complementary user groups: those looking for dog care and those seeking this kind of employment.

Whiteboards’ User Persona template can help you map out each target user segment, and our Guide to Empathy Mapping explains how to work with these personas as you develop your product.

8. Cost Structure

What are the fixed and variable expenses of operating your business? Review your key resources as you think through your projected business costs:

  • labor (employees, consultants, independent contractors, etc.)
  • partner services (supply, distribution, advertising, design, other outsourced tasks)
  • tools and equipment, whether physical or technological 
  • real estate, either rented or purchased
  • compliance and risk management (insurance, legal, and regulatory assistance)
  • miscellaneous operating costs
  • additional budgeting for unforeseeable expenses

If you don’t have an accountant or financial manager on your team, seek out a qualified professional to review your budget for viability.

9. Revenue Streams

What is your expected return on investment, and what channel or channels will deliver this return? One or more of the following revenue streams may apply:

  • Product sale. The customer makes a one-time purchase of your product.
  • Usage fee. Customers pay a per-use fee for your services.
  • Subscription. You charge a monthly or yearly fee for ongoing access.
  • Licensing. Users pay royalties to access your intellectual property.
  • Brokerage. You’re compensated for serving as an intermediary between two parties.
  • Advertising. Revenue comes through affiliate links or selling advertising space.

Business model canvas next steps

Study your completed business model canvas to assess alignment among the 9 sections. What are the weak spots in your plan? Where do you need to do more research or troubleshooting? Can you defend your value propositions and business strategy to key stakeholders?

When your business model is solidified, create a presentation or record a demo and invite your audience to the virtual whiteboard to make your proposal. Once you’ve received buy-in and launched your project, use Whiteboards as a virtual collaboration hub with your team. Video chat as you collaborate in real time and leave comments on the digital canvas to communicate asynchronously.

Create your business model canvas today, and discover how Whiteboards can help you see your plan through to success.