Why most value propositions don’t work and how to build one that does
Given the hard work, time and resources businesses put into developing value propositions, it’s galling to learn that only 14% of B2B buyers notice a difference between suppliers’ offerings and see that difference as worth paying for. Extracting and amplifying that difference can be a daunting challenge. But it’s one the JPC team routinely tackles head-on. We know the problems, see the patterns – and importantly, have identified the solutions.
So, what’s going wrong?
One of the main problems we see is that businesses often misinterpret the concept of a value proposition, dooming themselves to failure before they even get started.
A value proposition should be the embodiment of everything your target customer is going to experience once they take you up on your offer. Handled correctly, it should capture the essence of the value delivered by the combination of your products, services and expertise, and convey it in an engaging manner that addresses customer challenges with acute relevance. And all of this to an audience with an ever-reducing attention span – now apparently just shy of seven seconds.
How do we fix it?
We believe true success boils down to one key ingredient: the ability to stop telling stories and start having conversations. Storytelling has become a much overused tactic in B2B marketing particularly. Yes, it’s key to humanise, but telling too many stories, in a literal sense, is a habit which does most businesses more harm than good. In fact, a survey conducted by Fractl and Buzzstream found that 45% of people would unfollow a brand on social media if they began talking about themselves too much.
The reality is, that in today’s aggressively time poor and competitive culture, nobody wants to hear you talking about yourself all day long, even if you have artfully designed it to “speak to the customer challenge”.
Effective value propositions work because they’re more customer-centric. Great value propositions need to go much further, involving the audience and appealing to their growing desire to co-create. Audiences should see themselves truly reflected in the solutions or services you are offering them. To warrant a genuine partnership, you should be having a simple, clear dialogue that reaches deep into your prospect’s world.
The journey you take them on has to make room for their input in deciding the destination. It’s no longer enough to channel or map them along your own proposition funnel. And like all good journeys there needs to be enough excitement in the beginning to grab your client’s attention (research by QuickSprout goes as far as to say you must do this in five seconds and given the aforementioned average human attention span, I think they may have a point!), but once they’re along for the ride, your proposition needs the flexibility to allow your prospect to explore and maybe even adapt it a little for themselves.
Who should we be talking to?
It’s not just your clients that matter, of course. It’s their customers, too. And you need to frame your offering in a way that addresses the needs of both these audiences and demonstrates you understand the challenges facing your customer’s customer.
We’ve helped our clients to unpack some of the most complex propositions and adapted them to achieve this using Day In the Life Of scenarios (DILOs). A simple narrative and interactive tool that steps into the end customer’s world and lifts the lid on their concerns through real world circumstances, while allowing the user to navigate the path THEY want to choose. This way, your target audience gets a clear, succinct picture of exactly how you can solve their problems. Or, more to the point, their customer’s problems.
The important thing to bear in mind is that to make an impact, your proposition needs to come from a place of empathy. A recent ITSMA study found that 82% of companies who take action to understand their audience groups have better value propositions for the effort.
You must grasp the challenges your clients face like never before and offer tangible solutions to these issues to avoid the fatal ‘why should I care?’.
What is value anyway?
When it comes to value propositions the clue really is in the name. Your proposition must articulate value in the context of your client’s world. Too often brands begin to treat the process as if it were product marketing, listing the features of their offering one after the other, while wrapping them in a nice ‘outcome orientated’ activation line. But in this case, that’s missing the point.
You need to identify exactly what it is that you can do which will bring about a change in your prospect’s life, then bring this to the fore of your messaging.
Again – seems pretty obvious, but surprising how few actually get to the true value in ‘value’. We believe that the only way you can really get to know your clients is by actually stepping into their world rather than mapping them to yours. And while they have their worth in other contexts, generic customer profiles and personas won’t get the job done here. You have to go far beyond that, immersing yourself in the specific preoccupations and problems of your prospect and, where possible, inviting them to actually co-create the proposition with you.
For some clients, emotive marketing is more effective than raw numbers grounded in rationality. For others, it’s all about quantifying the specific benefits you’re bringing to the table. The main function of your proposition is to work out in which direction your audience leans, and then speak to these tendencies in whatever way will resonate with them most.
Isn’t that just Account Based Marketing?
Not exactly. It’s hardly feasible to understand each and every member of your audience to the same degree an ABM marketer does – but there are many similarities between the creation of a value proposition and an effective ABM strategy.
They both involve cultivating a deep understanding of the client’s universe and defining uniquely targeted solutions to the challenges that crop up therein.
There’s a timely lesson to be learned here: the most increasingly prevalent forms of marketing in 2017 are the ones that centre around inhabiting the client’s perspective. Just like a good ABM strategy, a good value proposition will identify their pain-points and the pain-points of their customers, and then hone in on these with surgical precision. There’s no room for diluting the content according to the most common denominator when you’re addressing a time-poor C-suite.
To hold their attention, your proposition has to be rooted in their world. To secure their custom, it has to demonstrate an ability to make that world a better place.