Andrea Belk Olson headshot Andrea Belk Olson

Is your Value Proposition actually working?

A value proposition’s job is to gravitate your prospects towards your business. To stand out. To connect and resonate. Customers are constantly looking for unique benefits and advantages they can capitalize on – but too many organizational value props are focused more on the company than the customer. They aren’t framed through the eyes, perspective, and context of the customer’s needs, wants, and challenges.

The end goal is to build your message into something not only distinct and differentiating but also memorable. Adjectives like best, world-class, and high-quality mean nothing. If I ask you what your value proposition is, and your answer begins with “We have the best…”, then I expect I am going to hear a lot of platitudes about quality and service – probably the same things most folks say about their company. If your response is about how you help the customer maximize their return on investment, then we might be talking about a true value proposition.

We also often get taglines and UVPs confused, so a value proposition that was originally relevant gets distilled down into something that’s irrelevant. Think of phrases like, “Making your results vivid” or “The world’s best learning platform”. Blah and unclear.

What companies also get wrong is that they focus too much on how they internally think about their own differentiation from competitors. They ask questions such as why are we better than our competitors, but this question will rarely provide a unique value proposition. In addition, companies often don’t effectively listen to customer needs. Even when customers clearly express what is important to them, companies often end up offering something else.

So it requires a new way of thinking about crafting and creating a value proposition that’s worthwhile. This starts with a proposition that will address your customer’s needs in context, in measurable and valuable ways.

For example, a car tire manufacturer may try to create a value proposition by focusing on the features they provide. For example, things like:

  • High tilting stability
  • Large load capacity
  • Less rolling resistance

It is unclear how these features will benefit, address challenges, or needs as a car owner. A better way to frame the real value would be:

High tilting stability = makes me safer while driving

Large load capacity = reduces the risk of a blowout

Less rolling resistance = makes my car more fuel-efficient

Increased safety, smaller risk of blowouts, and higher fuel efficiency are things that the average customer understands and values. While there is certainly a place for listing features, features don’t tell the customer how they benefit from buying the tires in a context relatable to them.

In short, a strong value proposition focuses on framing value based on the customer’s context – around their needs, their challenges, their wants, and benefits – using a simple equation from Steve Blank:

We help (X) do (Y) by doing (Z).

For example, your local coffee shop may frame their value proposition not in the sense of product features, but in context, such as:

“We help our local customers to feel good and do good by fueling them up with artisanal coffee in a community-focused space.”

By thinking about your customer’s context rather than your features or simply what the competition is offering, you can develop a value proposition that not only helps you differentiate but also better communicates something of real value and substance.

About the Author:

Andrea Olson is a speaker, author, behavioral economics, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of The Customer Mission: Why it’s time to cut the $*&% and get back to the business of understanding customers and No Disruptions: The future for mid-market manufacturing.

She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been featured in news sources such as Chief Executive MagazineEntrepreneur MagazineThe Financial BrandIndustry Week, and more. Andrea is a sought-after keynote speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer and is Founder’s Club lead coach at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, a TEDx presenter and TEDx speaker coach. She is also a mentor at the University of Iowa Venture School.

More information is also available on www.pragmadik.com and www.thecustomermission.com.