Whose job is it to come up with your organization’s value proposition?
As a lifelong marketer, I’m aware that value proposition development is widely seen as a marketer’s “thing”. But what really gets to me is that this narrow view of value proposition forms the crux of the alignment problem that most businesses face. According to IDC, when a B2B company’s sales and marketing teams have differing views — about what to sell and to whom to sell it — it costs them more than 10% of revenue every year. Despite this – Forrester Research recently found that only 24% of organizations collaborate internally to define target segments and accounts.
But, it’s not just about the sales and marketing teams. Every employee across organizational levels and departments is responsible for understanding the company’s value proposition and ensuring that it is delivered to the customer. From your product team to your accounting department to customer service — it’s everyone’s job to stay relevant to the customer, regardless of how big or small your company is.
Some years ago, I found this Harvard Business Review article that drew interesting parallels between innovation and value propositions and discussed why a culture of collaborative innovation is key.
Simply put, if your organization, as a whole, isn’t in tune with your customers, you can’t innovate. And if you can’t innovate, you end up becoming obsolete.
What is a Value Proposition?
In our book Value-ology, we define an ideal value proposition as something that should be MUSICAL:
Monetary calculation—of financial benefits minus cost
Unique—things that set you apart from competitors
Spend—how much the customer is prepared to pay
Impact—how it will positively impact the customer
Capability—what it is that you can do for the customer to make this impact
ALigned—to the key needs of the customer
Your marketing team may help drive the discussion around “what’s our value proposition?” but that’s not enough. The above “formula” shows that various departments must provide input to ensure that the value proposition is tangible and real, and not just marketing fluff.
Let me explain with the help of an example. Imagine that your company provides technology services to mid-size enterprise customers. There are over thousands of other companies that provide the same services. But you’ve learned that there are two things that make your company different:
You only bill your customers for what they use; rather than a typical ‘all or nothing’ package. Your customers love this because they know they can scale their business with you when the time is right and save their precious capital for other investments that impact their growth now.
Your customer onboarding process includes a dedicated program manager and proprietary education platform to help customers get the most out of their engagement with you. Your customers find value in this because they aren’t bombarded with ‘information overload’ right when they sign up. They can find the answers they need, when they need it.
Now, let’s take a look at all of the departments that need to get involved to deliver this value to your customers. Your IT department has to ensure that the data collected from customer usage is accurate before sending it to the accounting team. Your accounting team has to ensure that the billing statement is easily understood, conveniently delivered and easy to pay. Your sales team, customer service and training team have to make sure the onboarding process is cohesive and smooth. And of course, your product has to work perfectly. Finally, a step that often doesn’t happen in organizations, is that someone needs to follow-up with the customer to validate that value was actually delivered.
Value Goes Beyond Marketing
So you see, creating and delivering your company’s value proposition isn’t just a job for the marketing department. It’s a process of constant reinvention where many different departments have to participate. From what we have seen, typically product, marketing, strategy, service and sales need to join hands when it comes to creating the ideal value proposition.
5 Steps to Create Your Value Proposition
Gain buy-in across the leadership team. Research into the Sea of Sameness (published in our whitepaper) illustrated how the top 40 global telecom companies are telling the exact same story – using the same words and “why us?” messaging. This lack of differentiation problem isn’t just prevalent in the telecommunications space, it impacts most B2B industries.The first step in creating an impactful value proposition is to recognize that your current message isn’t producing the results you want to see. Then gain buy-in from your leadership team that it’s time to revisit and refresh your message to be more relevant and effective.
Agree upon the definition of “value proposition” in your organization. Fornaise Group found that 83% of marketers don’t know how to define or apply the correct definition of a value proposition. In our work, we’ve found that this is a term that has very different meanings to different people. Yet, it is thrown around internally as if everyone has a consistent understanding.
Define and agree upon your ideal customer target. In order to build a value proposition that resonates with your customer, you must first define who your ideal customer is. This fundamental work may seem obvious, but a lot of organizations haven’t taken the steps to define this. In fact, nearly 90% of businesses fail because they don’t know their target audience.So if you think “enterprise” is your target customer, it’s time to dig deeper to figure out which companies are most likely to benefit from your product/ solution. Get into the specifics of who they are, which industries they belong to, the challenges they face, their motivations to buy, and so on.
Agree upon a value proposition “framework”. Consider the model we use at SHAKE, which incorporates feedback from four sources:
What the market says
What your competitors say
What your customers want and value
What your company can provide and measure
We’ve also included several frameworks and templates in our book, Value-ology to aid in this discussion. Ultimately, the point is—you need to agree upon the approach your organization will take to create value propositions.
5. Agree on the process and ownership. Who will be responsible for collecting customer input? What about conducting competitor intelligence or market research? All of these areas need to be defined.Today’s increasingly complex business landscape demands organizations to break the silos within and adopt a unified approach. But this can only be achieved when different organizational departments—that are involved in the creation of value propositions—are in clear agreement on key foundational aspects such as the target audience and the value offered to them.
We are on a mission to help companies differentiate themselves and communicate value to customers!
To this end, we’d love to invite you to learn more about how our Value-ology approach can help your organization work together to deliver more profitable growth.