As a business owner I need to clearly articulate what I do and how I add value to my customers. Like many others, this is something that I’ve struggled with. I know what I do, but how do I communicate this most effectively to those that matter?

In a classic ‘lightbulb in the shower’ moment, it struck me that I needed to develop a service model. By ‘service model’, I mean a visual representation of how I serve others.

Not only does a visual representation help us to organise our own ideas and thoughts, but it provides a foundation for communication, sales and marketing strategies. A model or a map is a brilliant communication tool as it cuts through the jargon and complexity and explains in one fell swoop how you help others. Done right, it is really powerful.

After a few days, scribbling, thinking, testing and getting feedback. I’ve just landed my own service model. Boy it feels good, and I’m already seeing benefits, so I thought I’d share how I did it.

Begin by answering the following questions:

  1. Who: Identify your target customer (I’m using customer to mean client, service user, participant, or which ever terminology resonates best with you). Think about all the different groups that you serve. Next, list all their ‘pain points’ or the challenges that you are helping them with. Don’t assume you know. Take the time to really understand these challenges through their eyes. Write these challenges down in the words that they use. This will help you to understand who you are writing your model for. You may need different versions of your model for different groups of customers.
  2. Impact: Define the desired impact that your services or products have. This involves describing where your customers want to be, not where you want them to be. Try articulating what the outcome would be if a customer didn’t work with you, then the difference that you hope to make. Be specific and outcome focused.
  3. How: Describe how you work with your customers. This is not a menu of services or programs but the common practice, values and behaviors that underpin your work, regardless of what service, product or touch point that a customer has with your organisation. This is your unique ‘way’ and why you are different to others.
  4. Why: Describe why you work in this way. This is your rationale or philosophy of change. What evidence or theories do you use to inform your thinking and how does this play out in your actual work?
  5. What: Now it’s time to identify your menu or ‘service offering’. What are the different options that a customer has for connecting with you. How do you serve them? Is there a set pathway for customers or do they engage with you at various levels. Try to chunk up your offering into distinct groups, for example one off advice, referrals, a long term relationship, products.

These steps require deep thinking and won’t happen overnight. Consultation, engagement and discussion are key. They are big questions and often create lots of words.

Now it’s time to pull the words into a visual model. There are different ways to do this, but here’s a template that I use as a starting point. Play with the arrows, boxes, colours, but the key is to keep the words simple. You can always develop a supporting document that explains the model in more detail.

There are multiple benefits of having a service model or a map. You can use it to:

  • Translate complex strategy into easy to read format
  • Market to funders, investors and partners
  • Communicate with existing or potential customers
  • Engage staff and ensure common understanding
  • Guide decisions regarding business development i.e. defining what you do and don’t do


You can apply this process to the whole organisation or to different programs, service streams or functions. In fact it’s helpful to have multiple models for the different parts of the organisation and audiences that you communicate with. If you find yourself writing long and detailed briefs or proposals, try using a model.

When you get it right and the model lands, you get awesome clarity and momentum. Models can save a lot of time, effort and wasted words.

Translating words into visual models is a passion of mine and I’ve helped many organisations to accelerate their results this way. Please get in touch to book a free strategy session.

Laura Breslin

Laura Breslin is the founder and Director of Dandelion Consulting, a boutique consultancy which builds the capability of not for profit organisations. In this current climate of constant change, Not for Profits need to rethink their models, processes and systems and continuously evolve to be able to serve the people that need them. Laura has 14 years experience in the Not for Profit and Government sectors and has a deep understanding of the sector and the challenges facing organisations. Laura works in partnership with Not for Profits to develop strategic solutions to their complex challenges and to implement change which delivers lasting results.

Please get in touch to discuss how we can work together