Your Value Proposition
Being in business means that you have something of value for sale, that is desired by someone else who is buying. Being in business isn’t just about running your own business, it also means that you are working within a commercial workplace where goods or services of value are being sold and delivered to a customer who is buying. These customers can be external to the business for example selling products and services to another business or to the public, or these customers can be internal if it is delivering value to another department or to your colleagues within the organisation or your workplace. Apart from providing your services to the customers, other people also benefit from your deliverables. These people are stakeholders and they can include your business partner, the board of directors, your manager or team leader, your team, the shareholders or even other businesses for example your vendors and suppliers who would all benefit from your success.
Even if you are not running your own business and are working for an organisation to earn your living, you are in business – the business of selling your own skills, experience and knowledge, which is of value to the company you are working for, in exchange for a salary or wages. The organisation hiring you is in essence your customer.
To be successful in business it is clear that you need to have something of value. Something of value means you have a defined product or services (skills, knowledge and experience) and a market with customers who value what you have on offer and are willing to exchange it for money. The customer must be aware of your product or service and more so must understand its value, before they will engage and buy. Creating this customer awareness is done through marketing, which is dependent on a clear definition of the product and it’s value to the target audience (the customers). This value definition is your value proposition.
Remember – you define your value proposition, but it’s true value is in the eyes of the beholder – your customer. Ultimately it is the benefits that your product and service bring to the customer that defines it’s value.
The value proposition is the backbone of the business – everything what your business is about evolves around delivering and continuously improving the value proposition. To gain new customers and to keep current customers and stakeholders involved and happy, you need to be crystal clear of your well defined value proposition.
Having a look at the value proposition examples of some of most successful companies like Uber, Apple, Slack, Digit, reveals that a good value proposition includes four elements:
Need – understand what your customer really wants, what do they need, what problems are they looking to solve. This is probably the most important part of the value proposition as without understanding the need, you’ll find it hard to define the solution (the product or services) that will satisfy the customers need in such a desirable way, that they are willing to spend money to get it.
Approach – having a solution to the customer’s need, your approach explains how you go about applying your solution (product or service) to satisfy the customer need – how the solution will solve their problem. The solution must be a direct fix for the problem. The approach you choose in delivering your solution must be the most effective means to apply your solution to the specific problem or customer need. Your approach will consist if specific components i.e. methodologies, solution architecture, prototyping, processes, templates, standards, etc, selected specifically to optimise the success in applying the solution (product or service) to the customer’s problem (need).
Benefits – focussed on the customer, what benefits would they get from using your services or products. Back to defining what value will you bring to the life of the customers when they are using your product or receiving your service. To understand this, you have to understand how the customer experiences your offering, answering fundamental questions like: “How much does this cost?”; and “Is the benefits worth the price?”. Benefits are tangible and measurable – usually in monetary terms. Benefits are not just ideas. Define the benefit in the terms the customer will relate to. Benefits should attract customers to what you offer.
Competition – what is your unique differentiator that sets you apart from your competition in the market. Again this should be approached from the customer’s perspective. How does your customer perceive your offering in relation to the other providers competing for their money. In what way does your offering differentiate from the competition i.e. quality, durability, reliability, guarantee and price.
Example: Let’s apply this to the Apple iPhone Value Proposition
Need: everyone uses smart phones – but it can be complicated to navigate. Your phone has become an accessory, and expression of your personality, a needed tool conducting our day to day lives.
Approach: Apple offers a unique user experience and design; it is not just a phone but also a lifestyle.
Benefits: Hassle free, superior operation – “It just works”. There is nothing quite like iPhone as every iPhone is built on the belief that a phone should be more than a collection of features. Exceptional design and state of the art engineering that oozes with built-in quality. Simple, elegant, beautiful and magical to use. (Just listen to their launch keynotes)
Competition: Genuinely unique iPhone features are highlighted on all marketing media i.e. security. Most of the iPhone features are not unique but experiencing the already known features on a iPhone is magical – that is what sets iPhone apart.
Using your Value Proposition
Breaking down your value proposition using the four elements mentioned above, puts you on the front foot to easily position all customer conversations towards insight and perspective of your proposition, to the value you deliver for your customers and your stakeholders. Following through on all four elements during conversations takes the customer on a journey, a journey that makes it easier for them to relate to you and a clear holistically understanding your offering in context to the bigger picture. It also gives them the reassurance that you have the needed insight in what matters to them. Even if a prospect customer wants to focus on only one area for example the benefits aspects, you will be prepared for the engagement.
Keeping your value proposition front-mind during all customer and/or stakeholder engagements. This keeps you focussed on what’s important for business success – satisfied and happy customers.
In real live you cannot predict the future, especially as you know that every situation is unique in it’s own right. In presenting your value proposition, it is your responsibility to have the agility to adapt to situations as needed, to ensure that you can validate the actual need, have reassurance that the approach will work, know that the benefits as real and that you are a competitive player in the market.
How well you can demonstrate agility in aligning the right value proposition to the customer, will determine your success in business.
Also read “How to Build a Compelling Business Proposition” for some valuable tips to consider in compiling value propositions.