I often get asked for the “right words” that will make a value proposition appeal to buyers. Many B2B companies wonder why their value props are not hitting the mark as often as they’d like. Given that the buying and selling process has grown more sophisticated, it can be hard to figure out what is going to engage buyers most. Actually, figuring this out is easy and hard at the same time. The secret sauce? We need to really understand and communicate what drives the buyer to buy, how to quantify the importance of that value, and to offer solid proof that your product delivers that value. As part of my Value Proposition Platform™, the Value Drivers, Quantification, and Proof Statements that back up your value proposition are critical to meeting the needs and piquing the interests of various buyers, and to ensure proper focus on what buyers need at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Let’s focus on Value Drivers first.
Developing Value Drivers
The first place to go is the buyer’s needs and ask yourself: Have I chosen just those needs that we can legitimately address? How does our offering stand up to them? What is really and truly differentiating? This is crucial to having the “back-up” that make a value proposition statement really stand out.
Keep in mind that a well-thought out Value Proposition Platform™ will give you all the supporting factors which you need to deliver a solid, consistent and buyer-focused message across all modes of marketing and sales communications:
What is a Value Driver, Anyway?
It is a set of key words that quickly highlight the most important value points that are front-of-mind for the buyer as they work through their buying process. It helps focus your messaging to center on the points that a buyer considers first in every decision around your offer category. It extends the Value Proposition beyond the statement itself. It forces the discipline of figuring out what ARE the key value points for your buyer? Once you’ve come up with these key words, then you have a couple of tests that will help you decide if these value points really are the right ones.
Test 1: Can you quantify the value point?
Quantification can be done in a couple of ways. The first is to approximate any subjective aspect (attribute, characteristic, property) of the stated driver into numbers. It can take the form of things like statistics, actual numbers or metrics, survey results. The second method is to use hard metrics that you already have collected and use them directly to back up the point. These are real numbers or percentages that measure things like increases or decreases in factors that buyers’ value. If you can’t come up with quantification using either method, then how important do you think that driver really is for inclusion in your Value Proposition Platform? Is that Value Driver actually real?
Test 2: Can you prove that your offer delivers on the value point?
Proof is all about credibility. What makes it credible is when it has been validated by an objective third party. This means what someone or something OTHER than your company says about the product or service. Buyers expect you to say good things about your own offer. Most buyers take that with a grain of salt. Quantification and Proof take the “claims” of your Value Drivers and elevate them to real, provable points that will flesh out the Value Proposition in a tangible way. In effect, it “certifies” that it is real.
To create a set of Value Drivers, begin by answering the following question:
What are the most important values that guide your buyer in considering products or services in your offer category?
Notice that the question is not about the most important features of your offer. These values should relate directly to the needs of your buyers and what is important to them.
Your product or service might have the best features in the world. It may even be the only one in the world (for now - but beware of competitors who may add it soon). The key is to identify and articulate what it is about that feature that delivers something of value to the buyer. One way to start this section is to look at the business issues of your buyers that you have identified and the Value Proposition statement to pull key words out.
Here are some options that a buyer looking at vendors of social media market analytics might find important:
The next step is to take this list and boil them down to one or two words. Your list now looks like this:
The advantage that you get from boiling the phrases down in this manner is many-fold. First, you now have a key set of topics that you can build content around – blog posts, articles, whitepapers, etc. Secondly, each of these enable salespeople to conduct highly focused sales conversations on the most important aspects of the offering – without focusing entirely on features. It enables a VALUE conversation. The modularity of this approach provides consistent messaging and vital flexibility. You can lead with any one of these drivers, depending on what most interests the buyer at any given point in time. Or you can choose to zero in on a particular driver in different kinds of content. This is so much better than the typical “elevator pitch” approach to Value Propositions!
Now, edit some more! Focus on no more than five Value Drivers, as buyers won’t retain more than that. Of this list, narrow it down to just those Value Drivers that you can provide some “meat” with when you’re discussing them. By meat, I mean being able to quantify the Value Driver in some way and then offer objective Proof to support the Value Driver. With those two items - Quantification and Proof - the value point stays on the list. If you can’t quantify it in some way, or you can’t offer some form of Proof, then it obviously is not a strength of your organization, and therefore is of no advantage to including it in your Value Proposition Platform.
Boiling down the Value Drivers this way is an excellent exercise to keep the focus on the buyer, guide key marketing messages, and serve as good talking points for salespeople. Any salesperson will be happy to receive a list of key values that are important to the buyer, with a way to strengthen the conversation with data points and proof points. It’s worth the extra steps to have these additional pieces to make using the Value Proposition clear and consistent across your marketing and sales channels.
In my next blog post, we’ll work through how to quantify each value driver to validate its importance in buyer terms, and options for objective, 3rd party proof to drive it home.
Till then, here’s a refresher on the Value Proposition Platform™.
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.