IABC Victoria Board member, Wayne Aspland, talks about the value of a good value proposition.
Vision. Mission. Purpose. Values. Culture. Strategic enablers. Brand attributes.
Sometimes, just to prove I don’t have a life, I’ll spend my quieter moments thinking about which of this milieu of phrases is the most important. Which has the most potential to define, direct and differentiate an organisation and its people?
And, whenever I do this, I always come back to the same answer… your value proposition or, to put it another way, why you’re worth it…
- What are the benefits a stakeholder can receive from supporting your organisation?
- Why should people choose your organisation over somebody else?
There’s two reasons why I always end up at this conclusion:
- Every organisation on earth exists to do one thing… create value for someone else. And that notion of value goes far beyond customers. In fact, it snakes right through the organisation in an almighty big vicious circle. Your ability to deliver on a powerful customer value proposition drives revenue. That revenue underpins your value proposition to investors, your people and other stakeholders. And their support has a direct impact on your value proposition to customers (and round and round we go!).
- Every organisation (bar monopolies and governments) survives by creating value better than its competitors. That’s how you get chosen.
For these two simple reasons, the need to define your value proposition is paramount: not just to your sales effort but to leadership, engagement and strategic alignment. This one simple statement (if done well) can:
- Inspire your customers, employees, investors and stakeholders to support you.
- Align and guide your people by anchoring everything they do in the context of a clear, stakeholder-focused goal.
- Get complete buy-in from everyone. While there are many (sadly) who question the role of things like visions and values, everybody gets the importance of a value proposition.
But, here’s the irony. While most organisations can readily spout their visions, strategies, values and so on, very few seem able to clearly define a powerful, resonant and unique value proposition.
And that creates a challenging state of affairs. After all, how do you capture the hearts and minds of your stakeholders if you can’t clearly explain why you’re worth their while?
So, with this in mind, here’s a few thoughts on defining and articulating your value proposition.
1. Take value proposition seriously
Value proposition is a phrase you don’t often come across in the communicators’ lexicon. It tends to be seen as the preserve of sales people and marketers. But a strong value proposition is critical to leadership, which means it should be critical to the communications function as well.
2. Go beyond customers
Value propositions have the potential to drive every aspect of your organisation. To do this, however, you need a value proposition that resonates for all your stakeholders and cuts right across your organisation… not just Sales but from HR to IR to CSR and everywhere in between.
3. You have a value proposition
Every organisation has a value proposition – whether it’s defined or not. You would have failed long ago if you didn’t. But, despite that, there are many organisations that don’t believe they do. If I had a dollar for everyone who’s said to me over the years that “there’s no real differentiation in my industry…”
Put simply, there is differentiation in every industry. If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t need competition. You might offer the same sort of things as other organisations, but you are different people. And that makes you different and (hopefully) better.
Try asking yourself this. “Our success as an organisation comes down to one simple thing. Are we better than the guys down the road or not? And, if we are… how?”
4. Avoid vanilla
Recently, I’ve been developing value propositions with two organisations. In both cases, I reviewed the value propositions of their competitors and found that every single one of them said pretty much exactly the same thing. In other words, two entire industries of vanilla.
If your organisation is in an industry like this, you have a huge opportunity to really stand out, inspire your people and stakeholders and set yourself on a unique path. As Apple once said… “think different.”
5. It’s about you, not me
You’ll often hear people say “you should choose us because we’re the leading blah blah blah.” That’s not a value proposition. That’s chest thumping and it won’t mean much to anyone.
Put yourself in your stakeholders’ shoes. What do they want from you? What really makes the difference to them? Try asking your long-standing customers and other stakeholders why they stick with you. Then ask everyone else why they don’t and what you need to do to change that.
6. Make it real
Don’t be tempted towards embellishment when creating a value proposition. A ‘pie in the sky’ value proposition – one that isn’t backed up by reality – does more harm than good. It sets everyone up for disappointment. So make sure you can demonstrate and deliver your value proposition at every step of the way.
7. Start long… go short
When defining your value proposition, start by describing it in detail (one to two pages). What are the major drivers of your value? What are the programs and initiatives that underpin it? What are the data points that demonstrate it? What’s in your plan to make your value proposition even stronger? Imagine writing a short speech that really nails your value proposition and all the detail behind it.
Then take all that information and create a short paragraph or two that sums it up… the elevator pitch if you like.
And, finally, give it a headline… a three to four word phrase that brings everything together and that everyone can remember.
By taking this three-tier approach, you will end up with a value proposition you can prove and a script for pretty much every occasion.
As I said earlier, your success as an organisation hinges on your ability to create something your customers, people, investors and other stakeholders really value.
And the first step in creating that value is to define it.
So, here’s a quick question to ask yourself today.
Why are you worth it?