What is a Business Model?

Understanding the types of business model and how to create one for a new business?
What is a Business Model?

What is a Business Model?

A business model encompasses much more than just a company’s plan for making a profit. It represents the fundamental framework and approach through which a business creates, delivers, and captures value. It defines how a company operates, generates revenue, and sustains its competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Rather than solely focusing on profit generation, a business model outlines the key components that drive a company’s success.

These components typically include the value proposition, target market, revenue streams, cost structure, key activities, key resources, channels, customer relationships, competitive advantage, and sustainability and scalability.

By understanding and refining their business models, new and established companies can better align their strategies, resources, and operations to meet customer needs, seize opportunities, and navigate challenges. A well-designed business model can also attract investors, inspire employees, and create a clear roadmap for future success.

Understanding Business Models

A business model serves as a strategic plan for operating a profitable business in a specific market. At its core, the business model revolves around the value proposition, which defines the unique products or services offered by a company and highlights its desirability and differentiation from competitors.

For new ventures, a comprehensive business model should encompass essential aspects such as startup costs, potential funding sources, target customer base, marketing strategies, competitive analysis, and revenue and expense projections.

It may also explore collaboration opportunities with established companies to leverage mutual benefits, such as referrals or partnerships.

Successful businesses develop business models that enable them to meet customer needs at competitive and sustainable costs. However, as business environments and market demands evolve, it is common for companies to review and revise their business models to remain relevant and responsive.

When considering an investment opportunity, it is crucial for investors to delve into a company’s business model to gain a clear understanding of its revenue generation mechanisms.

While the business model may not provide a complete picture of a company’s prospects, investors who grasp the intricacies of the business model are better equipped to make informed decisions based on financial data and market trends.

How to Create a Business Model?

Developing a business model is not easy and definitely not a one-size-fits-all process. There are several different recommendations when it comes to creating a business plan and designing your business model. Here are some general steps you can follow to create your own plan:

Identify your Target Audience

When crafting your business model, it’s crucial to define your target market and understand the audience you are trying to reach. This understanding will enable you to effectively tailor your product, messaging, and approach to connect with your intended customers.

Define the Problem

In addition to identifying your audience, you need to determine the problem or need your business aims to solve. Whether you are selling products for home repairs or providing a community with a dining experience, a well-defined problem or need is essential for your business to thrive.

Understand your Offerings

With your audience and problem in mind, consider the products or services you can offer. Evaluate your expertise and match it with the market’s demands.

At this stage, your business model should involve adapting your products to meet the market’s needs while aligning with your capabilities.

Document your Requirements

After selecting your product or service, take into account the challenges your company may face. These challenges encompass both product-specific issues and operational difficulties. Documenting these requirements will help you assess your readiness for future business launches.

Find key Partners

Most businesses leverage partnerships to drive success. For instance, a wedding planner may establish relationships with venues, caterers, florists, and tailors to enhance their offerings.

If you are a manufacturer, consider who will provide your materials and the criticality of your relationship with that supplier.

Establish Monetisation Strategies

A business model remains incomplete until it identifies how it will make money.

This involves selecting a monetisation strategy or strategies that align with your business model type. Initially, you may have had a specific type in mind, but after reviewing your client’s needs, a different model might make more sense.

What are the Types of Business Models

Different business models exist to accommodate the diverse needs and strategies of businesses. Examples of traditional business models include direct sales, franchising, advertising-based models, and brick-and-mortar stores.

Hybrid models, such as businesses combining internet retail with physical stores or partnering with sports organisations like the NBA, are also prevalent.


Manufacturers source raw materials and produce finished products using internal resources, machinery, and labour. They may sell goods to distributors, retailers, or directly to customers.

Apple, IKEA and Hyundai are some examples of manufacturing business models.


A retailer acts as the final link in the supply chain, purchasing finished goods from manufacturers or distributors and directly interacting with customers.

Amazon, Costco, and Walmart are some examples of retailer business models.


Fee-for-service models revolve around providing labour and services instead of selling products. They typically charge an hourly rate or a fixed cost for specific agreements. These businesses often specialise in offering expertise or services that require specific training.

Walmart is one such company which offers a Free-for-service business model.


Freemium models entice customers with free basic products or services and offer premium, advanced versions requiring payment. The goal is to demonstrate the benefits of upgrading to a paid membership, although customers can theoretically stay on the free version indefinitely.

Zoom and LinkedIn are some of the prime examples of freemium business models. Both these companies offer both free and premium memberships.


Subscription-based models aim to attract and retain customers by offering ongoing benefits in return for regular payments. While commonly used by digital companies for software access, subscription models are also popular for physical goods, like monthly agricultural produce deliveries.

Some examples of subscription-based business models are Amazon Prime, Spotify and Netflix.


Bundling involves selling multiple products to a single customer to mitigate customer acquisition costs. Companies capitalise on their existing customer base by offering pricing discounts for purchasing multiple products together.

The Happy Meals served by McDonald’s is an example of product bundling. Instead of selling burgers, drinks and fries separately, they are sold as a meal, leading to more sales. 

Razor Blade

The razor blade model involves selling a durable product at a low cost while generating high-margin sales from disposable components or complementary products. Companies often give away the main product, such as a razor handle, and profit from subsequent sales of razor blades.

Some of the common examples of Razor blades models include coffee machines that require single-use coffee pods, inkjet printers with highly-priced ink cartridges, and video game consoles for which you need to make additional purchases.

Reverse Razor Blade

In contrast to the traditional razor blade model, the reverse razor blade model focuses on selling a high-margin product up front. Low-cost or free complementary products are provided to enhance the usage of the main product, even though they may not generate significant profits.

Apple is one of the very first companies who use the reverse razor blade business model. Their iPhones and iPods are the dependent products, while the applications and the songs from their iTunes store serve as their consumable products.

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Marketplace models provide a platform for business transactions and earn compensation for facilitating those transactions. They aim to make buying and selling easier, safer, and faster.

eBay and Etsy are some of the prominent examples of the Marketplace business model.


Affiliate models rely on marketing through influential individuals or entities to promote products. Companies pay affiliates to endorse their goods, and affiliates receive compensation, either through fixed payments, a percentage of sales, or both.

Amazon and Social Media Influencers are prime examples of the affiliate business model.


A business with a brokerage model connects buyers and sellers without directly selling the goods themselves. Brokerage companies typically earn a percentage of the transaction amount when a deal is finalised. They are prevalent in real estate, construction, development, and freight industries.

QuickBuy and ReMax are two examples of businesses having a brokerage model.


Franchise models replicate and expand existing businesses by leveraging established business plans. Franchisors support incoming franchisees in financing, promoting, and managing the new location while receiving a percentage of the franchisee’s earnings in return.

Chaayos and Domino's Pizza utilises a Franchise model.

Evaluating Successful Business Models

When companies develop their business models, it is crucial to accurately estimate the funding required to sustain the business until it becomes profitable.

Merely considering the costs associated with product introduction is insufficient. A company must ensure its revenues exceed expenses to sustain operations effectively.

Analysts and investors often assess the success of a business model by examining the company’s gross profit. Gross profit is calculated by subtracting the cost of goods sold (COGS) from total revenue.

Comparing a company’s gross profit with that of its main competitor or industry peers provides insights into the efficiency and effectiveness of its business model.

However, relying solely on gross profit can be misleading. Analysts also consider cash flow or net income, which represents gross profit minus operating expenses, as it indicates the actual profit generated by the business.

Pricing and costs are the primary levers within a company’s business model. By increasing prices or finding inventory at reduced costs, a company can boost its gross profit.

Many analysts consider gross profit to be a critical factor when evaluating a business plan, as it indicates a solid foundation for the company.

If expenses are not properly managed, they may be attributed to the management team, but these issues are typically fixable. Consequently, analysts believe that companies with strong business models are capable of running themselves efficiently.

When evaluating a company for investment potential, it is essential to understand how the company generates its revenue, not just the products or services it offers.

This understanding provides insights into the company’s underlying business model, which plays a pivotal role in assessing its potential for success.

Testing Your Business Model

Once your comprehensive plan is in place, it’s important to test your business model. Conduct surveys or soft launches to gauge customer reactions and obtain feedback. Ask potential customers about their willingness to pay for your services at your specified prices.

Consider offering discounts to new customers in exchange for reviews and feedback. Utilising direct market feedback allows you to make necessary adjustments to your business model.

Analysing Competing Companies

Instead of reinventing the wheel, it’s beneficial to analyse what competing companies are doing and how you can position yourself in the market. By observing other businesses’ models, you can identify gaps and opportunities for improvement in their approaches.

  • A business model is a fundamental strategy that enables a company to operate profitably.

  • It encompasses important details such as the products or services the business intends to offer, the target markets it aims to serve, and the projected expenses.

  • There are numerous types of business models, including retailers, manufacturers, fee-for-service providers, and freemium providers, among others.

  • Pricing and costs are two essential levers within a business model that impact its profitability.

  • As an investor, it is crucial to evaluate whether the product or service being offered fulfils a genuine need in the market when assessing a business model.

Answering Some of the Most Commonly Asked Questions

How do you define a business model?

A business model is a description of how a company creates value, generates revenue, and sustains profitability.

What are the four basic business models?

The four basic business models are manufacturer, distributor, retailer, and franchise.

What is a business model in e-commerce?

In e-commerce, a business model refers to the approach used by an online company to generate revenue, such as direct sales, subscriptions, advertising, or marketplace facilitation.

What is a business model vs business plan?

A business model outlines value creation and revenue generation, while a business plan details objectives, strategies, and operational plans.

What is the business model of Amazon?

Amazon’s business model focuses on e-commerce, acting as an online marketplace connecting buyers and sellers.

Which business model is best?

The best business model depends on the industry, target market, competition, and value proposition.

Why is a business model important?

A business model is important for guiding strategic decisions, aligning operations, and ensuring long-term success and sustainability.


A company is more than a mere seller of goods; it is a complex ecosystem that requires a well-defined strategy regarding its target customers, offerings, pricing, and value proposition.

The business model serves as a systematic description of how an organisation generates sustained value for its customers.

By establishing a robust business model, a company gains a clearer sense of its operational approach and secures a foundation for its financial success.

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