Determining what the value proposition is for your product or service can often be an elusive pursuit.
What value does your company deliver? To whom is the value delivered? How is your company’s value communicated? These are some of the crucial questions that require research and competitive review. But there is another fundamental question that should always come first, yet often gets skipped:
From whose perspective is value best described?
I think the answer to this should be obvious. Unfortunately, far too frequently, it is not. We tend to focus on the value of our offering – from the perspective of the company we work for. Does that make sense? Sure – but let me ask you, does it make sense to lead with a product or a service before you’ve confirmed with the buyer what their needs are?
Let’s start by taking a look at the standard accepted definition of a value proposition:
A Value Proposition is a clear and succinct statement indicating the specific value of a service or product or offer to a specific audience in order to differentiate its value.
OK, tough to argue with that. But maybe we can improve it by making it a buyer-focused value proposition:
A Buyer-focused description of value that demonstrates our knowledge about the Buyer’s experience or challenge and our specific offer to address it, underscored by what differentiates our offer from any other.
The major distinction is the point-of-view that is embedded in the Value Proposition. It’s not about you or your offering. It’s all about the buyer. It’s about showing that you understand the buyer, that you have a clear picture of their experience (i.e. their challenge, issue, objective or goal). Your response to that experience is specific and relevant. It is differentiated by what truly makes your offer stand out from market alternatives. It is buyer-centric, which is a far more engaging way of attracting and retaining their attention.
What side of your value prop is showing?
Unfortunately, value propositions typically are developed from the “inside-out,” with their primary focus on the product or service itself, trumpeting its greatness. Many people believe the value proposition should be from the perspective of your own company and focused on your own products and services. Why do we think that? Because it’s our job to market and sell that.
Thus, the core message is centered on “here is what we have to sell and here is why you need to buy it” (as the old-school marketing types nod their heads in agreement). But you still have a big challenge here, even if you are offering up the single greatest product or service ever.
This type of product-first messaging puts the potential buyer in the position of having to figure out on their own if your offer is a match, instead of making it easier to recognize your solution as the one they were looking for. Don’t make buyers have to come up with the missing links on their own. And frankly, if they are not already familiar with your company, why would they even bother?
Does your value prop answer the right questions?
In today’s market, a halfway intelligent prospect most likely already knows the relevant facts and figures. So, put that features & benefits dog-and-pony show of a value proposition aside. It no longer works. Replace it with one that presents your wares through the lens of the customer you are trying to attract. Buyers want to hear about the value that your offer delivers to them, not the value of your offer. The discussion must be outcome-based (theirs), not offer-based (yours).
Every buyer-centric value proposition needs to answer the following three key questions:
For this proposition to be meaningful in a customer interaction, these questions need to be answered beforehand, accurately and honestly, and in specific terms. Don’t ballpark. Don’t “guesstimate” (ugh, I hate that word!). Don’t even trust your experience/intuition. Do the extra homework and be sure of your answers. Know thy prospect!
This is the “value” of a value proposition that sells. The better you understand your prospects’ needs, the better you’ll be able to deliver that value right where they need it. And they will love you for that!
Is your value proposition ready for 2019? Need help? Start with my book, Value Propositions that sell - check it out here. Or drop me a line at Ldennis@knowledgence.com to talk about it. I have lots of tips that might help!
Lisa Dennis is president and founder of ValueProposition.expert and Knowledgence® Associates. She is an international marketing and sales consultant, trainer, writer and strategist. Her forte is in helping organizations develop and integrate customer-focused value propositions into the marketing and sales mix of B2B companies across a broad range of industries.