When you build a new product or service you’ll have to decide what value you’re going to bring to your customer, what problem you’ll solve, and what that should be worth. As you bring that product to market, you will create value propositions that define your position across product planning, marketing messaging, and sales messaging. This simple framework helps to keep the product and messaging aligned, clear, and on track.
The key factors of value propositions are that they must be clear, simple, and consistent. Developing a framework for how you think about them is incredibly valuable, manifesting itself across your organization and the industry. A clear value proposition will provide direction for product decisions, marketing decisions, sales process decisions, and messaging.
“Discipline of Market Leaders” by Treacy & Wiersema states that there are 3 positions from which to lead;
3) customer intimacy
Think Walmart, Target and Nordstrom. While every company must have elements of each you must lead in one of these categories so as to not confuse the market with the unique value you provide. Why? Because you cannot be everything to everyone! You need to decide who you are as a company. When you decide what kind of company you are, then you will have the guiding light to all the decisions you will need to make.
Price Leaders provide customers with reliable products or services at competitive prices, delivered with minimal difficulty. If you are a Price Leader, then the theme of your value propositions highlight low cost and sufficient features and services to satisfy most customers. Something like, “we have the features you need at the price you can afford.” As a Price Leader, new features will not be the priority. Efficient marketing without a lot of branding or image advertising will be normal, and the sales process will likewise be efficient, not flashy. Compared to the other market leadership types, the Price Leader will not be encumbered with building extra value needed by Intimacy and Feature Leaders.
Feature Leaders provide products that continually define the state of the art. They are on the cutting edge. A Feature Leaders messaging has themes like, “More features mean better performance.”, and “It does everything you could ever ask it to do.” Feature Leaders live and die by the product. New, innovative features give you a clearly defined place in the market that cause early adopters and technology advocates to eagerly await the next feature or function available. Products are continually upgraded, marketing is obsessed with the product and innovation, and the sales process uses product demos and flashy technology to build value to the buyer.
Customer Intimacy Leader
Customer Intimacy Leaders provide the customer a total solution, not just a product or service. If you decide to be an Intimacy Leader, the theme of your value proposition is “We will provide the support you need to get the most from your purchase” To the Intimacy Leader, price and features take a back seat to solving the problem in terms the customer can understand, and is comfortable with. The features of the product are only addressed in terms of the solution, and the price is addressed in comparison to the value delivered. Products are often customized or highly configurable. Marketing is about users, industry solutions and communication with customers. The sales process is usually a solution selling process, with significant discovery and scope forecasting done before the solution is proposed.
The worst thing that can happen within your company is to have a Development group that focuses on features, a Marketing team that wants customer intimacy, and a Sales group that pushes a low price. These mixed messages are very confusing to the market, and terrible for your brand and revenue. In a competitive market there is not enough margin to have the most features, best price and best customer intimacy. You must pick one, and lead with it.
Picking your value proposition theme has many considerations. Competitors may already dominate some of the leadership positions, and you may be forced into leading in what’s left. The other difficulty is getting everyone in your company on board. This team building is a critical step however, because you want every department to understand what the products’ value to the market is. It will guide how you allocate resources between product development, marketing, sales, support, and administration. Having everyone in your company understand, and buy in to your market positioning will reduce the friction that naturally occurs between departments competing for resources. It will also drive the culture to emphasize operational efficiency, innovation, or customer service.
Once you pick a leadership position, many things become easier. Customer personas become clearer as the targeted buying motivation is better defined. Marketing messaging is consistent and better aligned with Sales messaging. The proper sales process becomes apparent as either price, features or intimacy take the lead message.
The product is better defined to fit the parameters of your message.
Service and support are defined in the context of your value proposition.
This guiding message will keep everyone on track and focused on the same goal and pulling the rope in the same direction.