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Channels Overview

Channels are how you will reach and interact with your customers—your buyer, user, and target impact (BUTI) segments—and are a critical part of your business model. There are five core stages of activity that are carried out through your channels.

Five Core Stages of Activities1

  1. Awareness-raising: This is how the customer learns about your brand, solution, and thought leadership.
  2. Evaluation: The customer will evaluate your product or service by reading about, looking at, or testing it. They will then form an opinion about it and decide whether to choose you, the competition, or stick with their current product/practice.
  3. Purchase: This is the buying and selling process itself.
  4. Delivery: This is how the product or service is provided to the customer when they are ready to use it.
  5. After-sales: This is the support offered after the customer receives the product or service. It is the phase that empowers the customer and creates “defenders” of your brand. At the end of this stage is when decommissioning of any hardware and management/deletion of any data will need to occur. (See Product Lifecycle for more information.)

There are multiple channels that can be used for each stage of activity. This guide identifies six that are commonly used within the humanitarian and development sectors. They are not unique to these sectors, but they are used in specific ways in it.

Six Channels

  1. Online/social media: A well-managed online presence and social media strategy will help provide assurance to potential customers and partners regarding your credibility.
  2. Formal events: Participating in formal events such as conferences can be a good way of networking. They are also a chance to show your organization’s thought leadership in the area of your digital solution.
  3. Informal events: Creating and participating in informal groups will provide you with key touch points with potential customers and partners in between larger formal events.
  4. Word of mouth: The aid sector relies heavily on word of mouth as a way of building trust and relationships. Ensure you provide excellent service to all of your customers and give them easy ways to recommend you, such as brochures, product/service profiles, reviews, and testimonials that can be shared.
  5. Partnering: Collaborative arrangements are possible in this sector, but partners often require significant changes to your offering. There are many types of possible partnerships, from co-creation to transactional subcontracting. For more information on partnership typologies, see Building Block 8: Key Partnerships.
  6. Competitive procurement processes: Humanitarian and development organizations often have to go through a competitive procurement process when selling their digital solutions to a government department or agency.

Being part of an established humanitarian aid or development organization, or having experienced and well-connected humanitarian or development professionals on your team, will help you establish the right channels quickly. You can still access and use all of the channels even if you don’t have this experience or connections, but you will need to be prepared for a steep learning curve.

To complete the channels building block in your Business Model Sustainability Canvas, you will define your pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase activities and channels, and then outline the key channels that you will use to build your reputation, position your brand, and make connections. In section 3.1, there is a helpful guide and tool to assist in designing your channel mix strategy.

Section 3.1: Reaching Your Customer Segments

This section provides an overview of the channels that are used in the development and humanitarian sectors that will help in creating a channel mix strategy for each stage of the relationship.

Key discussion areas:

  • Understand the importance of online and social media
  • Highlight strategies for conferences and convening
  • Provide an overview and tips for using word of mouth, partnerships, and procurement processes successfully

Key Takeaways

  1. There are five stages of activities: Awareness raising, evaluation, purchase, delivery, and after-sales.

  2. There are six channels that are used regularly in the humanitarian and development sectors.

  3. Develop a channel mix strategy to ensure that you are carrying out the right activities through the right channels based upon the sector, your customer segments, and your value proposition.

Complete the following in your Business Model Sustainability Canvas:
  • Identify and capture the key pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages of activities and channels on three separate post-it notes.