Fun with your value proposition

2011-08-12-Elevator-Pitch1If you want to have some fun at work, start asking some key people to articulate the value proposition your firm offers.  Sales and marketing people are the most fun because they can get really enthusiastic.  Asking your executives this question could get you in a little trouble, especially if you intend to challenge them even a little bit.  The fact is that 90% of the people you ask will simply not get it.  Typically, when I ask someone to tell me their firm’s value proposition as if we were in an elevator for 30 seconds, they will recite one of two statements, neither of which is a value proposition.  They might say:

  • We manufacture willy widgets that are the most accurate and fastest on the market, proven reliable with more than 100 years in business and we have the largest market share.
  • We’re a global leader in the willy widget industry building on 75 years of experience contributing to better quality of life by making willy widgets that are innovative and leading edge, blah, blah, blah…

If you challenge either of these types of statements, be prepared to offer your own, better defined and more proper value proposition.

If you were in an elevator with your absolutely best prospective customer, could you succinctly state how you offer value to that person and their firm? Could everyone and anyone in your company deliver the value proposition in, say, an elevator?  What’s that you say, you don’t know the definition of your ideal prospective customer? Don’t worry, we’ll cover that in a separate blog post.

Here’s a quick 4 step process to get you started with a messaging hierarchy based on the value proposition:

Step 1 – Answer the question ‘What does [insert company name] do?”

If you say, we manufacture widgets with feature, feature, feature and benefit, benefit, benefit then you might as well shut up and go home right then and there. If you haven’t realized it by now, features and benefits do not foster engagement unless there is a distinct and immediate need at the very moment you state your F’s & B’s. Statistically speaking, chances are slim that you’ll be lucky enough to hit that sweet spot.

Instead, try starting with your (or your company) unique and interesting value. You might say, “we [state your value proposition]”, then you have a good shot at gaining your elevator companion’s interest. For example, you might say “we’re in the business of reducing risk of FDA violations for food manufacturing companies”. Hmmm, thinks the VP Quality of Kraft. Since your prospect is the VP Quality for a major global food manufacturing company, maybe he’s interested in a bit more information.

Step 2 – Answer the question “Just how do you do that?”

Here is where you can introduce your offering and how the features and benefits support the value proposition.  “By providing environmental monitoring systems with feature and benefit that is unique to the market, our customers see a 40% reduction in FDA violations. “

Step 3 – Prove it.

Here is where you could tell a success story or talk about a major customer and how they use your company’s offering to achieve the value proposition you are discussing.

Tell how you are unique or different. “We’ve just launched a patented product that does this and that” or “we’re the only company with this technology that ……” We’ve been in business for 80 years and here’s how that may benefit you and your firm….” State that you are providing this service for a major competitor (must be authentic here).

Step 4 – Leave the elevator.

If you did well and your elevator mate is indeed one of your ideal prospects, she will not let you go without getting your business card.

Naturally, good and proper message development takes thought and should align with corporate strategy. In any event, if you can’t make a 30 second speech like this one, you should take a hard look at your value proposition.



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