Q: I struggle with the value proposition for our product. Either I am too abstract “we offer a positive return on time invested” or too vague “help increase your ability to manage critical challenges.” Do you have any suggestions for how to frame or formulate a value proposition?
Here a few questions that a value proposition normally addresses
- Who is the customer and what is the critical business need you address
- Quid pro quo: what do they invest (time, money, expertise, other opportunities not pursued)
- What impact do they see when and how do they scale it up if they like the result.
- How is this different from other options available to them (test that you have defined their status quo)
Pick Fast Time to Benefit For Early Customers
Pick your strongest example (who will gain the most benefit) and your fastest example (who will take the least amount of time and/or effort to see benefit). But it’s normally easier to close business based on your fastest example. This is one place entrepreneurs can wander astray in the beginning: they chase prospects where they will have the largest impact instead of chasing those where they can have a satisfactory impact but very quickly. A reasonable improvement or time to implementation measured in a few days to a week or two often beats a situation where it will take three months or more.
You can use the small wins to encourage prospects who will take longer to see an impact to take the risk, but in the absence of real results, even if they are minimal, it can be hard to get that first penguin in the water.
My point is your value proposition evolves over time as you move down the learning curve on implementations, add features, and develop case studies and testimonials that substantiate your promise. People who are in a lot of pain will accept partial solutions that provide some improvement or relief quickly. You don’t have to stop there in your business relationship but if a prospect is requiring substantial return on time/money/expertise invested and you don’t have many (or any) customers it may be better to keep talking to them but look elsewhere for your early customers.
Time to benefit, the prospect’s calculation of the likelihood you will actually deliver a benefit, matter more than the size of the benefit once you pass a certain threshold on the size of the benefit.
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If you are looking for help walking around your value proposition or you worry that your current value proposition may be making it more difficult to generate leads and close deals, consider scheduling “office hours” to walk around your current value proposition. It’s a no cost no obligation working session where you get a chance to sort out your thoughts and get some practical advice on next steps to consider.