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Customer Centric Value Proposition

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In marketing strategy, Value Proposition is defined as an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers.

You’re getting to know my customer-centric approach by now so of course there is “customer” in the definition! 

I’m here with a real problem that EVERY company has, or will face.

Did you know 42% of startups fail because no-one wants to buy their product? 

For corporations, nearly 80% of new products fail each year for the exact same reason. 

And what these numbers show is nothing new. The first instances of studies are from the Harvard Business Review in 2012; lately Nielsen has also published results which indicate it’s not a trend – it’s been an issue for years! 

I invite you to carry out some online research into the main causes for different industries; you’ll always find the same results… They are very clear: Companies build stuff nobody wants or there is no market demand for. Imagine your customers don’t care about almost 8 products out of 10 you’re putting on the market!

The product-market fit is a huge issue for a LOT of managers 

I cannot tell you how long I’ve been facing this problem. It can also be extremely frustrating for some ‘go-to-market’ departments or teams which ‘just’ received a product to market and, after multiple tries and fails, the results are not forthcoming.

Frequently, even with the best team, tools, and methods on it, it’s just about the product or service that nobody wants! If we know that the first reason to fail is likely a product-market fit, why are we still developing products no-one wants?

This type of continuous failure is because companies focus on products and not on their customers’ needs. They see business or product opportunities through their own lens instead of looking at what their customers’ or prospects’ needs are, and how they could meet them.

Usually, it starts this way: They have a great idea, gather some insights and start to build a Business Case. This is basically a complex projection of what can happen in the future, based on assumptions. We may call that fantasy. 

Even if I’m convinced ‘failure’ is ok because it’s a way to learn, in this scenario, I don’t think it’s an efficient practice. This is because what you’re learning with this long-building approach is something you can learn way earlier in the process if you adopt a lean-approach. Failure is ok but at some point you need to stop making the same mistake, right?

I hate building and creating for nothing. That might be ‘lazy me’ talking but if I invest my energy into something, I need results. Building a 50-page business case with assumptions is not something I believe in. 

I recommend a lean approach as it’s a method I have used for years, and it’s efficient. Yes, again – as with all the methods of my practice – it is inspired by lean methods, agility, innovation – call it what you want. These are the methods I have used since the start of my career, and they work well.

Why? Because your business evolves. Your ideas, business cases and all types of slide decks expire like yogurts in a fridge. So you need the processes and tools to be proactive and reactive. 

As a marketer, using a customer centricity value proposition for creating value, improving the customer experience and optimizing customer engagement, can provide a roadmap of marketing strategies, including content-marketing, promoting differentiation and the importance of customer relationship management. 

Paired with personalization, this centric approach can be used to improve relationships with customers, help attract new customers, and increase retention of your best customers. 

So, does it work? How do you create a Customer-Centric Value Proposition? How do you create products that people actually need? 

It starts with an idea, well… it starts with ideaS

Even if you have excellent, stand-out ideas to start with, these will probably not be the best ideas. You will need to confront them, test them, fine-tune them. So iterate your ideas until you get them right.

From that right idea/those right ideas, you will create a value proposition which needs to be clear and explicit. I’m not talking about the solution itself or the performance of your products but it does not make any sense if these pieces of information do not connect with the Customer’s needs. 

Basically, you need to define how the problem of the customer and your solution fit.

In other words, how your product or service solves the customer’s problem or helps the customer to get their job done.

Finally, you need to ensure this value proposition fits into your business model. For example, if you build and sell devices, your whole business is organized to produce and sell devices. If you discover during the process that your customer needs a service in addition to the devices, you might want to become a service provider as well.

This added value may improve customer engagement and the customer journey, but will require a LOT of adaptation in your business. Same if you discover your customer wants or needs new technology, it might be a challenge to scale a new production. Again, don’t forget to reflect this value proposal in the Business Model but please… don’t use the business model as an excuse. 

It’s not the case that, because you are a device provider, you can’t be the best service provider tomorrow. Also, if you’re not ready to change and seize an holistic opportunity for added customer experience strategy, you can be sure a competitor will. 

Netflix used to rent DVDs and now they produce movies. Apple was a computer company but they created the iPhone – so far, still the biggest living nightmare of BlackBerry.

So how can you spot the right opportunity and propose the right value proposition? Thanks to a user-friendly canvas I’ve used for years because it’s clear, straightforward and extremely efficient: the Value Proposition Canvas from Strategyzer.

Follow them, you’ll love their tools and content. The thing I really love about it, is that once you have filled the canvas, you are able to summarize the value proposition in one simple sentence that everybody can understand. It’s easy to work and rework over and over and it remains clear for everybody.

How do you use Strategyzer?

First, download their free canvas. This canvas is composed of two parts: the Customer Profile and the Value Map. Then, follow these instructions…

With the Customer Profile for a specific segment, describe the job the Customer is trying to get done.

This a job-to-be-done – it could be a task that people are trying to accomplish, a goal or objective they are trying to achieve, a problem they are trying to resolve, something they are trying to avoid, or anything else they are trying to accomplish.

The job can be: 

  • Functional – they want to go from A to B.
  • Social – they want to convince their bosses, colleagues or relatives.
  • Or Emotional – they want a more balanced life or to take [better] care of their health

Then you list the customer’s Pains which prevent them from getting the job done. In this list you find the negative outcomes the customer is trying to avoid. It can be anything: frustration, obstacles, dissatisfaction, challenges or any complication that makes the job complex or impossible to achieve.

Finally, you highlight the Customer Gains which describe how the customer measures the success, quality and achievements of the job when completed. It provides concrete results, benefits and can also include aspirations as well.

Also, it is very important to understand the priorities of your clients within the job to be done, and the pains and gains, so you break down the elements on which to focus.

You can use the Customer Profile to visualize and test your understanding, as well as the people in your team or company, that you intend to create customer-value for.

The more you know about your customer, the clearer it gets. Having a Persona or Client Avatar, is a definite advantage.

The second part of the Canvas is the Value Map. On this one you list the product and services your unique value proposition builds on. Then you describe how these products and services are pain relievers; how they reduce or eliminate the pains the customer cares about. In short, how your product and services make their life easier.

You also list what the customers’ gains are. How they produce, increase or maximize the outcomes and benefits your customer expects, desires, or would even be surprised about!

This part of the mapping clarifies how your product and services relieve pains and create gains. This is where you test and iterate until you figure out what resonates the most with the pain and gain of your customers. 

You have achieved a clear fit between these two aspects when you connect what matters the most for the customers, with the different features of your product and services that ease their pains and create gains. 

And that my friend, is a product-market-fit – or what you could also call a solution-problem-fit!

It may appear easy when you look at the canvas, but it’s a heavy, collaborative workload to map, test and iterate around this tool. That said, the tool is easy to use! You just still have a lot of work to do. Sorry… I don’t do magic… yet 🙂

There is also one step I like to take once the fit is found. The one sentence to summarize and pitch the work! You just have to fill in the blanks:

OUR ( “product&services” )
HELPS (“Your customer Segment”)
WHO WANTS TO (“fill with the job to be done.”)
BY (“reducing,avoiding,… the pain”)
AND (“maximazing, increasing,…the gain”).

You now have a better idea of the methodology you can use to create a Customer-Centric Value Proposition. A clear mandate to build a product or service that people need.

I invite you to test on the Strategyzer canvas and if you need any support with this, you know you can always contact me! I’ll be happy to hear about your projects, and your challenges.

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Amélie Beerens

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