The Customer Relationship Canvas is a tool for founders to find clarity for their products. It helps get abstract ideas locked in your head out into a more concrete form. It’s an early step for having a solid battle plan for yourself and others to take action.

Video: Intro to Customer Relationship Canvas

Get Into Customers’ Shoes

The Customer Relationship Canvas is designed to make you communicate your product from your customers’ point of view. Get into their shoes and write in their first person when filling out the canvas.

Focus on What Customers Value Most

Space is limited on the canvas. This tool forces you to focus on the things that you believe customers value most. Focus on the things worth putting resources to. Your website, your ads, your landing pages need to communicate well. This Customer Relationship Canvas will be your source for these projects.

The Complete Experience is Your Product

Your product is more than the features and benefits the direct widget or service itself offers. Customers often value very “non-product” things — sometimes more so than the “product” itself.

Online shoe retailer Zappos is an example of a company that found success not by having better prices, more selection or faster delivery of shoes as compared to its larger, better-funded competitors. Instead, it focused on outperforming the market in customer satisfaction during pre-sales and post-sales contact with Zappos staff.

There are different ways to win. And there are different ways to make customers’ lives better. This document helps you stay mindful of that larger picture. Stops along the customer journey and squishy things like taking a stand on shared values can be areas where you provide great value and relevancy to your customers.

Video: Example Customer Relationship Canvas

Above, we walk through an example Customer Relationship Canvas for a travel app.

What’s the End Result?

Clearer thinking about the value of your product and how your customers experience it. Discovery of opportunities for your product, sales and marketing. A physical document that gets you, staff and partners on the same page (literally). An internal resource used to improve the product, improve the full customer experience and improve marketing and sales communication.

A Living Document

You start with your educated assumptions. Through the course of talking with customers, of testing prototypes and launching and evolving your product, the information here will change. Create new canvases as you go along.

The Backstory

I’ve used a handful of tools like this designed to help get squishy ideas into more actionable form. Some felt intuitive. Some did not. Some helped. Others, less so. Some helped, but were complex. Some helped, but had different goals than what I needed.

My goal: a tool for founders to proactively craft a rewarding — and highly valuable — product-customer experience. And a way for a founder to see a snapshot of their product as their customers experience it.

For defining a product’s greatest value, for positioning a product in the marketplace and for helping demonstrate the customer’s point of view — all in a one page canvas — I didn’t see anything that fit my needs.

So I built this Customer Relationship Canvas. I’m sure it can improve over time. Contact me on Twitter, in the chat on this page or via email. I’d love to get your feedback.

The Customer Relationship Canvas focuses on two core components: the Value Proposition and a Customer Journey Map.

“Value Proposition Design is a “must have” for anyone creating a new venture. It captures the core issues around understanding and finding customer problems and designing and validating potential solutions.” – Steve Blank

For those familiar with Steve Blank and Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas and for Lean Startup practitioners, you can see this as a customer-centric companion tool that dives deeper into the Business Model Canvas’ ever-important value proposition component. It also considers that the value you are building can be found not just in the immediate product, but also within the complete customer experience.

You do not need to use the Business Model Canvas to use the Customer Relationship Canvas. But if you find this Customer Relationship Canvas helpful, I’d highly recommend you spend some time with the Business Model Canvas. If you use the Business Model Canvas and try out the Customer Relationship Canvas, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Your Next Steps

Step 1

Download the Customer Relationship Canvas PDF and the example Customer Relationship Canvas PDF below. Print them out.

Step 2

Watch the two short videos above.

Step 3

Get into the mindset of, perhaps just one, concrete customer, and fill out the canvas.

Step 4

Go talk with customers and prospects. See if the ideas you wrote down register with them or if they stare at you blankly. See if the things you said they value are what they truly value. Test with rapid prototypes to prove it further. And go launch great projects and products to prove it further still.


Customer Relationship Canvas v0.3.3

Download and fill out this tool to help get clarity about your product from the point of view of your customers.

Download PDF

Example Customer Relationship Canvas v0.3.3

The Customer Relationship Canvas filled in with an example travel app product.

Download PDF

What customer experiences do you want to improve quickly?

Where's your greatest opportunity right now? Customer acquisition experiences? Onboarding? Core product experiences? Retention? The purchase process? It starts with a conversation.