Is Differentiation Overrated? What About Being Just Good Enough?


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A week ago, I wrote a post,“‘Me Too,’ Is Not A Value Propsition!” With this post you’ll think that I’ve gone mad or am speaking out of both sides of my mouth. But actually this article and the “Me Too” article represent different stages our Value Propositions go through — at least in B2B sales.

Too often, in speaking to people, they talk about “the value proposition,” as if it is the Holy Grail. Something that if our marketing people or product managers just got things right, all we’d have to do is utter those words, “This is our value proposition……” and immediately customers would get it, stop all competitive evaluations and buy. But value propositions are really nothing like this. Value propositions are dynamic, living, and have a very short life span. Through it’s life cycle—in a deal, the value proposition moves from being just good enough to unique, personalized, and differentiated.

Recognizing the dynamic nature of value propositions, developing the support materials, tools, enabling all who touch the customer to correctly determine and position the value most appropriate for where the customer is at in their process is

Marketing spends a lot of time trying to come up with The Value Proposition—-this is the statement or statements that capture the hearts and imaginations of our customers. But let’s think about the value proposition at this stage. Our only goals are to create visibility and awareness in our target markets, to create interest in our products and solutions, and, ideally, to get the customer to contact us–whether they research us on the web–ultimately, asking for information, or they pick up the phone, or they express interest—asking us to put them on our mailing list and start nurturing them, or asking for a meeting with our sales people. While a strong and compelling Value Proposition at this point is important, it doesn’t have to be differentiated or superior to the competition. In reality, it has to be just good enough. Just good enough to engage our prospects, just good enough to cause us to be considered as our customers embark on a buying process. Doing anything more and trying to sustain that over time is probably meaningless and a waste of resource.

But what happens beyond this is critical. And this is where marketing and sales need to work very closely—but too often, I see little focus on this. The journey from being “in consideration” to being the winner is the tough work in developing, communicating, and delivering differentiated value. In fact, it is remarkably personal—what each customer values is different, both from organization to organization, and within the organization. If I’m selling a complex enterprise software solution, what the CFO, CIO, End User Management, and all their organizations value will be different–by role in the organization and by individual.

One key secret to developing differentiated value propositions is to understand what each person value–then to use that as the context to position your value and differentiation. You must be able to say what you do for that person, how it is differentiated, and how it is superior. And you have to do this for each person involved in the buying decision.

Another key is creating value in the process–our customers don’t necessarily know how to buy. Just because they have researched alternatives on the web means that they are informed. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are well informed–sales, with support from marketing can take great leadership on this, differentiating themselves in the customer’s buying process.

Marketing plays an important role in throughout this process. Marketing must first create the value proposition that creates awareness that is “just good enough.” The purpose of the value proposition at this point is to get the customer to take the next step in engagement. Then marketing needs to help build a series of content, messages and tools that can be leveraged in increasing the personalization of the messages through the buying process. These include, series of white papers and thought leadership articles, case studies and related materials that may be very specific to market segment, problem type, business process and any number of items. Marketing needs to build tools to facilitate sales ability to personalize the value proposition even more. These can include questioning guides, justification guides or other materials that help the sales person understand and respond to the unique needs of each customer. Building materials to support differing buyer personas or differing use cases all improve the ability to personalize the value to the customer.

Too many organizations focus on The Value Proposition—that silver bullet, that crisp statement that is applied throughout the buying process that wins. The Value Proposition doesn’t exist (I’m not sure it ever did. Starting with Just Good Enough, then buidling the materials, tools and knowledge to refine and peronalize Value is critical to success and differentiation with today’s buyers.

Related posts:

  1. Value Propositions Change Through The Sales Cycle
  2. Is There Real Value In Your Value Proposition?
  3. Can Value Propositions Be Generic?
  4. Setting Yourself Apart, Developing and Communicating Differentiated Value
  5. Do You Know Your Customer’s Value Proposition? What Are You Doing To Help Them Deliver It?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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