Most of us experience a value prop as essentially a tag line or an elevator pitch. Short, sweet, to the point. Because that is our daily experience as buyers, the assumption is that this IS what a value prop should look like. The challenge is that it’s really, really hard to create content and sales conversations when the source material is only 3 or 4 words long or just a single sentence. A tag line and an elevator pitch are just a distillation of the overall message. There is a large amount of information involved in creating a complete value prop. To capture and organize this information, I created the Value Proposition Platform™, a two-page summary of all the key elements needed to fully develop and enable a strong and consistent message. It serves as both a blueprint and a framework for successful interactions with prospective buyers.
How Many Value Props Do I need?
Typically, businesses require a main value proposition, focused on a flagship product or service offering with a primary target audience. But there is a very good chance that we may also need to fine-tune that message for other targets, and for different industries as well. The business issues could be different; the language or market imperatives could be different. Therefore, we need to be prepared to take our “foundational” value proposition and create additional versions as needed. We don’t want (or need) to recreate the wheel each time. We’ll produce a similar format for each version that we need. The Value Proposition Platform helps keep us on point and organizes our approach to interaction – verbally, digitally, and in print – with prospects.
There are three sections to the Value Proposition Platform. The first section defines your target, the second articulates your value proposition statement, and the third shows quantification of your claims with documented proof. Each of these sections have important, well-defined sub-sections. It is this type of organization that gives your value proposition its strength.
Section 1: Defining Your Target
The first section begins with a focus on the business SECTOR at which we are aiming, and it identifies our prospect’s primary industry and industry segments for the value proposition.
If you have product or service offerings aimed at additional industries, it is imperative to create additional versions of the Value Proposition Platform to ensure that your messaging is still industry- and segment-relevant. But by being that specific, you are demonstrating your company’s knowledge of the industry that the prospect is in. This is the first step in engagement – by demonstrating that you know and understand their markets.
The next part is focused on the TARGETS at which we are aiming, identified by the titles of key decision makers as well as those who typically influence their decisions at companies in these industry segments. For example, at the top of any such list will be the person “in charge,” be it the CEO or the business owner. Then, there are the VPs & Directors of the departments that your product or service impacts. The influencers? Certainly, the head of Finance will want to weigh in on any significant purchase. IT managers and production managers may also be involved, whether overtly or covertly. It is important to understand that your value proposition is just not aimed at the person who signs the contract. You are communicating with a team of people. This means that you will need to potentially tweak your value prop when you are aiming at widely different targets. Think CMO and CFO as an example.
The next piece identifies key BUSINESS ISSUES that we know are significant to the decision-makers and influencers, and that are also relevant to our offering. All business issues must be discussed from the point of view of the target audience. This section is not about the issues that our product or service solves. An outside-in perspective is needed here – outside of our company, from inside of their world, and in their language. These issues can be as basic as “Our sales results aren’t good enough” or as complex as “We lack a standardized and automated process to collect mentions in media – we currently use multiple systems and individual research.” The point is, you have to know exactly what hurts in order to address their pain.
Combined, the Sector, Targets, and Business Issues help us identify the value proposition audience. To achieve true relevance, we must be crystal clear in this section, and we must learn the nature of the issues, goals, or problems this audience seeks to solve.
Section 2: Value Proposition Statement
Now we get to the Value Proposition Statement itself. This section is also in three parts.
First is THE BUYER OBJECTIVE. This is a statement (in the words of the buyers) about something that they hope to accomplish, or are struggling with, or need to address in their own business. First brainstorm the needs, issues, challenges and problems they face. Keep in mind that this has to be from their point of view. Beware of trying to solve those problems by listing them as things “they need to do.” This must be completely from the buyer’s viewpoint, in the buyer’s language. This statement is entirely about them.
But the next section is our turn! Time to articulate THE COMPANY OFFER, a clear and concise statement of our product / service that specifically addresses the Buyer Objective statement. The offer is a response to the needs stated in the Buyer Objective statement. This is our first opportunity to connect the buyer’s needs to our offer. It is also very important that our offer is communicated in their language, rather than using internal company-speak.
The “kicker” to your offer should be THE DIFFERENTIATOR, at least one provable point of differentiation from your key competitors that is both relevant and important to your buyers’ objectives. At the same time, keep in mind that more differentiators do not automatically equate to greater value. Quality over quantity; relevance and proof are critical to this section.
Identify Value Drivers
The final segment of the platform lists three – five primary Value Drivers, conceptual points that are typically top-of-mind for the buyers which drive them to action. Every potential buyer has some drivers that will guide their purchasing behavior. We’re talking about very basic concepts that typically become very important issues to business leaders. Some examples are:
Rest assured, there will also be other value drivers that are directly related and highly specific to their business needs that you may not have yet discovered. One or more of these drivers will most likely affect the target’s thinking about what they need to accomplish, and how they are going to get there. Always be on the lookout for the ones that make your buyers tick. Using this information wisely allows us to get directly to the heart of a reason to buy. It also demonstrates that we “get it,” in terms of the buyers’ needs, which gives us credibility. These drivers allow us to extend, validate and demonstrate our differentiation.
As we build our offer around these value drivers, we need to provide Quantification of our claims. Buyers will pay attention and respond when there is clear and objective back-up to our claims. No vague or nebulous terms here! None of this “We’ll save you money!” crap... No, if you want to make a claim, back it up. How about “We’ll save you 25% over the first 12 months.” Formulate a way to truthfully quantify the impact that the prospect can expect after signing up with your company. If you can’t quantify it, then the claim is generic and not impactful enough for a buyer to consider.
And most importantly, show some Proof. Without proof, your claims are empty. Phrases like “We’re the only one in the market” ring kind of hollow unless you can point to some reputable testimonials, expert sources, and other credible and objective third-party validation. Industry awards, positive media recognition, sponsorships, that kind of thing. This is not a place to be blowing your own horn; you want other people blowing their horns for you.
Perhaps one of the reasons that buyers have commandeered the sales process over the past several years is that they have not been able to rely on vendors to deliver relevance across the range of information that they provide. It all starts with the Value Proposition Platform, which gives the first real indicator of whether we are tuned in and communicating in a way that resonates with the buyers’ reality. Given that most companies’ value propositions have inherent weaknesses, you can clearly shine a light on differentiation by crafting your value proposition using this organized, buyer-centric platform approach.
You want to know more about it? Reach out! I’d love to talk!
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.