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Sales and Marketing Software

Too Many Value Propositions Don't Talk About Value

By Bob Johnson, VP & Principal Analyst

Think about the challenge to create meaningful value propositions. They are most often me-too single words or one-liners that simply get lost in the competitive noise and do little to motivate behavior.  Vendors need to fix how they create and package value propositions beginning with understanding what a true value proposition should be.

One of the better definitions I’ve seen is from Knowledgence Associates.  A value proposition is a customer-focused description of value that demonstrates your knowledge about the customer’s experience or challenge, your specific offer to address it, underscored by what differentiates your offer from any other.

Value propositions must be defensible, sustainable, differentiating and quantifiable. They should articulate how the vendor is able to deliver needed, distinct value or impact if a buyer invests in a particular solution. It is hard work to create an effective set of value propositions. So, many marketers simply make standard product or service statements, using buzz words that are in common use within a market and tout them as value propositions. A word that often is touted as a value proposition is the word “agility.”  But the reality is that a single word that describes a feature or a capability does not make it a value proposition.  What are the challenges or goals that a prospect or customer has that agility can address?  What about your offering leads to improved agility? What does the prospect have to do to get there? What are the tangible improvements they gain along the way? The value could impact how people are allocated, how processes take place, the types of insight a solution provides that leads to clear action steps.

To define strong, customer-focused value propositions is not a simple exercise. It requires working interactively and collaboratively with a broad team that can come from marketing, finance, product management, sales, operations and customer service. The combined team effort brings forth a more complete view about what drives buyer interest by connecting specific needs directly to your solutions. Working together collaboratively will get everyone in the shoes of the customer - a place where they should stay.

The most effective value propositions begin with the customer and ends with the customer.  Unfortunately, the majority take the short cut to nowhere by beginning and ending with the solution. So look at it from a perspective that builds connections between the different areas of value in how they reflect and impact the buyer’s journey, their business imperatives and tactical requirements. It bears repeating.  If you do not take a team approach you can virtually guarantee that the value proposition will come out fragmented and hollow.

It is time for a more well-rounded approach to value to move from statements to conversations.  Who is responsible to drive this group effort within your organization?  Do they have the expertise to avoid the common mistakes made in the development process? Is there anything more critical than a clear, customer-centric statement of value?  Or course not! So don’t treat this as some simply, top-of-mind exercise or else you’ll end up right where you started with broadly used words like agility.

Once you have developed a strong, customer-focused value proposition, how do you present them effectively? According to Lisa Dennis of Knowledgence Associates, “Value propositions can take many forms: in elevator statements, in presentations, in content and sales conversations. The key is to be sure to present them from the perspective of your customers.”  Dennis continues, “One way to give your value propositions context is to embed them in stories. Storytelling is a focus area for many vendors right now, and when you use them to convey value propositions you tap into the emotional triggers of buyers.  Combine elements of emotion, value and stories to have the greatest impact and move buyers in your direction.”

The bottom line is that value propositions are about dialogue, not tag lines, unless you’re buying a can of soup.  To gain notice among short-attention-span buyers address this challenge now, and leverage a context-rich conversational style rather than a word byte mentality.

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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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