Branding and Your Value Proposition: A Primer

We who do marketing, PR, and communications for a living have our own  language that we have adopted over time to tell each other what we do. In my  case, the marcomm* language of Silicon Valley has become so  ingrained after 20 years that I find it is making its way into my everyday  conversation as well as proposals and other materials – my wife keeps telling me  to cut out the business speak. Since we live in our own world of buzz words and  code phrases, we tend to forget that the rest of the world sometimes needs a decoder ring to follow the thread.

A case in point. I was having coffee last week with a friend and we started talking about his consulting business. He works with medical professionals but  has no marketing background at all.

I asked him what was his value proposition?

Response: Blank stare….

I then asked him about his personal brand and the brand promise of his consulting practice.

Response: “You mean my logo?”

Which led to a lengthy discussion about marketing strategy and how to think  about your brand value as it relates to customer needs. I dug through my digital archives to try to find a good primer on branding and identifying your value proposition, and I found a copy of “Irresistible Value Propositions: How to Entice Your Prospects to Switch from the Status Quo,” a white paper developed by  Chief Sales Officer and author Jill Konrath. Konrath has some really good tips that I found valuable as a refresher, so I thought I  would share a few of them here.

Every product or service needs a value proposition, which Konrath defines that as:

A value proposition is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. It’s outcome focused and stresses the business value of your offering.

Where most B2B companies fail here is in creating a unique value proposition that appeals to the customer’s point of pain, and show them how to make money or save money. You need something that will capture the  prospect’s attention and imagination. Unfortunately, most companies speak about features and functions; speeds and feeds:

  • “Our systems is the fastest on the market” (Speed doesn’t matter to me.)
  • “We offer the most cost-effective solution in the category” (But I am
    willing to pay more for something that suits my needs.)
  • “We offer one-stop shopping.” (So does Wal-Mart. Why does that help me?)

The other day I remembered an age-old joke from the tech sector that  denigrated the poor marketing of the late Digital Equipment Corporation: “If DEC were to sell sushi, they’d market it as cold, dead fish.” You get the idea, features and functions only matter if they fix my problem!

What appeals to customers? Performance that drives revenue. Whether it’s increasing revenue, reducing costs, shortening time to profit, shortening sales cycle, reducing cost of sales, minimizing risk, whatever, you need to appeal to tangible returns using real data.

(As an aside, FUD – fear, uncertainty, and doubt – can also be a good value proposition. “If you don’t buy my product and the feds audit you it could cost millions of dollars.” Averting risk is a solid motivator.)

So think about your value proposition in terms of what you offer of value to your customer. The mistake a lot of my clients make is selling what they have to offer, not what the customer wants. So walk a mile in your customers’ shoes and then ask yourself, “Why can’t they live without my product or service.” Then you have a value proposition that you can package as part of your brand.

* Here is where you can start playing Buzz Word Bingo – see how many buzz words you can spot in this blog, starting with the techspeak term “marcomm.”

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