Why Value Propositions are a Bear


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Why is it so hard to define value propositions?

It’s your company, after all. You know the product its features. Why is putting it all into a sentence that will make people want to pick up the phone so flippin’ hard?

In our work with B2B companies we delve deeply into our clients’ value propositions. Usually we’re given a list of features and benefits to start with. Over the years we’ve come to understand that features and benefits are not in themselves compelling. In fact, getting to the VP from the features can be an excruciating process – it’s like doing dental work from the back of the head instead of the mouth.

So what do you need? You need a promise.

If you really look at things with your customer’s eyes, the first thing you see is that they’re under pressure. That pressure creates pain, and the pain is tied in with the feeling that they’ve lost control.

Let me repeat: ultimately, pain in business comes from a feeling of being out of control.

Your task, then, is to relieve that feeling of being out of control. It’s not giving them more of this, a better that, or faster something else. It’s removing this horrible, scary feeling of not being in control.

Perhaps they’re losing control of their sales results, their customer satisfaction, their employee morale, their reputation, or a hundred other things. Your job is to promise to give them control.

So what’s the value proposition? It’s your way of articulating how you will relieve their pain.

So don’t start with product features. Start with your audience. What’s pressing on them? Who’s beating them up? Your value proposition beings with, “Would it relieve that pressure if you had a way to [insert what your nifty product does here]?”

Give your customer a reason to think you can help them get back in control, and your phone will ring.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Thompson Morrison
Thompson Morrison has spent the last couple of decades figuring out how companies can listen better. Before co-founding FUSE, Mr. Morrison was Managing Director of AccessMedia International (AP), a consulting firm that provides strategic market analysis for the IT industry. His clients included Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, IBM, and Vignette.


  1. I’ve also found that working through the development of a value proposition can be a difficult exercise with clients. There’s the obvious confusion that you mention about features, advantages etc which are not the value.

    Mapping persona groups to pain is one method which is useful. That helps in the market messaging and positioning, as far as the overall value proposition goes. From that value propositions can be derived. But note I said value propositions plural, as unless a company serves one narrow persona with one pain point then they will need more than one value proposition.

    I’m not sure what you think, but I’d say if you have a broader value proposition, one serving more than one segment or persona, then you just have marketing.

    The connection between a value proposition, and the value perceived by a customers, is the interesting bit. It probably depends on your mental model. For me the value for a customer can only be specific to a customer, see this post I wrote “Value is in the mind of a customer not a persona” http://goo.gl/hNVH7

    A value proposition can be a bit broader but still has to serve a persona, not a person, and yet not be just a marketing message.

    It’s as much an art as a science, but customers really learn a lot and appreciate the development of these concepts if they are not familiar with them.

    Walter @adamson


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