Thoughts from Ciana

  • 01:30:54 am on March 18, 2009 | 2
    Tags: ,

    Value propositions: Hidden Beneath the Iceberg

    Let’s say you’re launching a new product in four months. Or you’re introducing an existing product into a new market with hopes of expanding sales. Sounds like it’s time to sit down and crank out that value proposition — after all, how hard can it be?


    Think of your value proposition as the bottom of the iceberg – most people don’t see all the research and hard work that goes into developing a value proposition. Instead, it’s the story or messages (the tip of the iceberg) that most people “see.”

    Strong Words of Advice: Don’t minimize the work involved in developing your value proposition. It’s critical that you take the time to research, analyze and thoroughly understand your customer, your industry and your competition (and how your offering stands out). After all, a value proposition is arguably your most important undertaking, as it becomes the foundation for future marketing activities.

    I like the way Scott Berkun, author of The Myths of Innovation (O’Reilly Media, 2008) elegantly describes this concept when referring to innovation:

    An epiphany is the tip of the creative iceberg, and all epiphanies are grounded in work. If you take any magic moment of discovery from history and wander backward in time, you’ll find dozens of smaller observations, inquiries, mistakes, and comedies that occurred to make the epiphany possible.” 1

    (Similarly, messages are the tip of the iceberg and all messages are grounded in value proposition work. And it takes dozens of smaller observations, inquiries, research, and analyses to develop a robust and credible value proposition.)

    So how do you begin developing a value proposition? Here are a few questions from our TRUE model to get you started:


    • Who is the target audience?
    • What do they care about?
    • Who or what influences them most?


    • What problem(s) are they trying to solve? (What keeps them up at night?)
    • What does this audience value? (expand beyond features, e.g., as measured in price, convenience, service or experience)
    • How would you rank the audience’s buying criteria?


    • What do you offer that’s unique and relevant to solving their problem?
    • Why and how is it better? (factual and emotive)
    • Why is your offering the better choice?


    • What proof or results help prove the value of your offering?
    • How do these results show the customer will get the unique value that you claim with your offering?

    For a real-life example, take a look at the Trader Joe value example that Nancy talked about previously.

    Do you think companies invest the proper amount of time in developing their value proposition(s)?


    1 From Guy Kawasaki’s latest book (full of humor and wisdom!) called Reality Check, The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging and Outmarketing Your Competition (2008).



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