Business Models

Business models in the digital age

The business model is a "scaffolding" on which the foundation of the company is built. A good one can in itself be a guarantee for success, while a bad one condemns the company to failure from the very beginning. But even the best business model must be implemented well in order to reap the greatest benefits. At the moment, both young and established companies are constantly facing new challenges. It's not just a matter of keeping up with the times, but of being ahead of them. Even though increasing digitalization threatens long-established systems, it also offers us all the opportunity to outperform the competition and strengthen our own position. But only if we are prepared to move with the times in a wide variety of areas:

New opportunities for business models in the digital age

Challenges for new and established business models

Established companies are faced with the challenge of continuously adapting their business model to the ever faster-changing markets, competitive structures, and customer expectations. In doing so, their own experience can quickly turn into operational blindness.

  • Traditional instruments such as innovation management promise new impulses for established business models, but rarely question the real barriers to growth and cannot foresee digital disruptions.
  • However, if an established player then starts a spin-off for a new, disruptive business model on a greenfield site, the experience gained in the core business is often insufficiently taken into account. The management team of the corporate start-up then runs the risk of reinventing old business models in parts and bypassing the development of competition and customer demand.
  • In the worst-case scenario, business models are tried out that have no direct link to the core business and therefore have to finance themselves in the long run - usually with far less revenue potential than the core business.
At first glance, one would think that original online start-ups with innovative business models such as SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), fintech, or multi-sided platforms are capable of mastering the rules of market success in the digital age - but in most cases, this is a fallacy.

  • The success factors of business models in the start-up sector are subject to unwritten rules that are not written in any manual. Important supposedly tried and tested concepts such as growth hacking are often adopted and copied in an undifferentiated way - without adapting them to the key performance indicators of one's own business (or even knowing them sufficiently).
  • Startup management and investors still stick to KPIs that have nothing to do with the actual success. Measures such as Google rankings, website traffic, number of new software users or first-time purchases do not say anything in isolation and are rightly called "vanity metrics" in the USA. Only when the entire marketing & sales funnel is recorded and controlled in a performance scorecard does a start-up have any chance of survival and market success at all.
  • Only very few startups succeed in achieving a unique position in the market with their business model and brand, as well as in winning and retaining new customers. Many startups do not differentiate their business model strongly enough or only question facets of market leaders. Many young companies try to enter a mass business with niche competences. Most companies have neither the time nor the means for this - neither start-ups nor established players.

What established companies must do

A firm place in the market, which has been fought for over years, leads to stagnation for many established players. Especially long-established companies are often afraid of weakening their hard-earned leadership position and their own brand through risky innovations.

This stagnation, however, causes them to increasingly lose touch with their own customers and ultimately end up on the sidelines. Many companies that were once at the top have now slipped into insignificance. The reason: they have clung on desperately to old practices and images.

Traditional players in all industries have to further develop established business models and, especially in the post-Corona era, adjust their marketing and sales to permanently changing customer behavior - especially in the B2B environment.

The days when the company's own sales force could approach new customers in the early stages of the buying process are over. Today, not only is the search for information done digitally, but also the contacts to the sales department are online and have to be specifically supplemented with content in order to establish a continuous dialogue with the prospective buyer.

These changes require some companies to completely reposition themselves in the market - without losing touch with their own traditions.

What young companies have to do

Even the most innovative product or business model can easily go under if it does not get the stage and support it deserves. Many young companies and start-ups fail not because of creativity or intelligence, but because of the operational implementation of their business model or the wrong management decisions.

Jumping into the cold water of starting a business with a new, unproven business model is hard enough. And to keep a clear head between cost management and expansion with your own business model, you need a true masterstroke: this requires vision, strategic thinking and analytical know-how.

Many young companies consider their business model to be tried and tested after the first few months. Banks, investors, and even your own employees demand that you stick to your chosen path - a terrible and momentous management mistake.

The so-called Business Model Generation with the well-known Business Model Canvas helps to discover the most important business potentials, resources, and revenue streams when developing a new business model.

Even start-up gurus such as Eric Ries or Geoffrey Moore emphasize that successful start-ups only consider their business model a "minimum viable product" and must adapt it several times until the so-called "product-market fit" is achieved. Only rarely are the customers and services that make the first money at the beginning also the success factors of the later, scalable business model.



Development of established business models

Business models are created for customers. You to adapt to their wishes and requirements in order to bind them to your brand and increase sales. Unfortunately, many companies fail to keep up with their customers and, above all, with the times.

Always keeping an eye on your own original roots is the first step towards maximizing success. Because it is not for nothing that every tradition began as an idea.

The goal is therefore the reinterpretation of old success factors with the help of an analysis of your own company. Because one thing is certain: without an overview of your own strengths, you cannot play to your strengths.

Repositioning of your company

Our approach to analyze and reposition your business model is based on four basic steps (see chart). In this way, we discover your specific strengths and weaknesses.

The analysis of these four factors is the basic building block for the strategy on the basis of which we reposition your company and set new priorities.


Business model generation & success

Even the best business model has to be well implemented and executed to get the most out of it. However, it is precisely this point that confronts many, especially young companies, with almost insurmountable hurdles. What is needed is a clear operational understanding, a clear vision, and far-reaching strategic thinking. Every start-up requires a different approach.

It is just as difficult to change the entire business model after a few years. This can also prove to be very difficult or almost impossible. This makes it all the more important to take the right path from the very beginning. New business models must be perfectly tailored to the respective market, product, and customers.

We at Thought Leader Systems are at your side if you want to make your established business model fit for the digital age. Together with you, we will find the perfect framework and bring your company step by step on the road to success.

Thought Leader Systems is also at home with the development and successful introduction of new business models. We support successful players in industries such as high-tech, software, medical technology, energy, and finance - with the complete service chain for market success in the digital age:

We are a think tank: We screen markets and identify untapped market potential, unseen customer groups, innovative marketing approaches, and new sources of income in the market (revenue streams).
We are business architects: We build complete business models - with business cases, feasibility studies, financial and capital planning, and planning of the implementation in product management, marketing, and sales. Our references include international payment platforms, multi-channel business models for energy, finance, and B2B world market leaders.
We are system partners: Business models in the digital age need a digital infrastructure. We supply you as a partner of leading manufacturers such as SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe. Turnkey ready and perfectly implemented. With the associated consulting and training for teams of startups and corporations. With the experience of over 100 implementations and about 500 training.
We are a full-service digital agency: we provide holistic support for our clients' business models in marketing and sales. We transform the websites of global market leaders with SEO, content, and UX into ranking boosters and lead generation machines. We develop leads with email marketing, marketing automation, CRM, and customer loyalty programs to regular customers.

As different as our customers' business may be, our success is always evaluated in the same way: by the newly acquired leads, customers, sales, and by the customer lifetime value of the acquired customers.

That is why we not only activate the acquisition of new clients but also and above all, the retention of existing clients, the exploitation of their potential, and the potential for recommending them to others.

The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles. (Oren Harari, an American professor of economics)

Three pillars of success

We assign three different attributes to each business model, which should be individually adapted and optimized in harmony with each other.

  • Value Proposition

  • Added Value

  • Revenue Model

This modular approach enables us to find the optimal approach and to set different priorities according to your ideas. Together we will find the right building blocks for the foundation of your success.



The Value Proposition

The value proposition, also known as "value proposition", is simply what you offer to customers and partners. It is a mistake to assume that the customers are the only beneficiaries of your own business. Every supplier, marketer and business partner is an integral part of their own success. If you make the mistake of excluding these partners, you also exclude half of your own potential.

Any partner who could be a part of your success should also become a part of your business model. Because every partner creates value. This value must be optimized in its three central components (price, product and service). In this way, together with you, we create the best for your products and for your customers.



The Added Value

The value creation architecture is the most strategic part of the business model. The goal is to determine how your company can create value, by what means and what drives success. These factors are constantly adjusted and changed in the course of ongoing business. The structure of this process is therefore very complex and requires a clear overview of the company, ongoing business, and the market itself. We help you to implement your ideas and to define a clear value creation process. For this purpose, we divide all company activities into the "primary" and "supporting" divisions:

1. Primary activities: They map the chain from product manufacture to sales and customer service. Primary activities have a direct value-creating influence on the creation of your company's product or service.
2. Supporting activities: These do not directly contribute to production and sales. They are, however, necessary so that the primary activities can be carried out. This concerns, for example, infrastructure development, human resources, system landscape, or procurement. Supporting activities make an indirect contribution to value creation. These activities are often necessary prerequisites that make the primary activities possible.

The process model 

These highly simplified business areas provide the basis for our optimizations and the structure of the process chains. In order to control the processes and make them as responsive as possible, they are further broken down.

Directly involved in value creation for the customer


Ensure the execution of direct activities


Ensures the quality of other activities



The Revenue Model

The revenue model is the part of the business model that deals with the buyer personas and distribution channels. The questions we help you within this respect are no longer just "How?", but also "Where?" and "Who?".

Once your product and value creation are set and optimized, the question is how, where, and to whom your product should be advertised and sold so that it receives the attention and success it deserves.

With our help, you will find the perfect profit model for your company, so that nothing stands in the way of success.