The phrase “value proposition” has lost its way, staggering aimlessly through a sea of buzzwords and empty turns of phrase that confuse, befuddle, and daze corporate advisory boards into believing that the marketing department is doing something.
Let’s break it apart.
Value: n. 1. Relative worth, merit or importance. 2. Monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade.
Proposition: n. 1. the act of offering or suggesting something to be considered, accepted, adopted, or done. 2. An offer for terms for a transaction, as in business.
There are several other definitions of course, but these being the most prevalent.
In essence, then, we can define a “value proposition” as the act of offering something worthwhile. Yes?
Seems simple enough. So why do so many people screw it up? And why are we stopping at attaching a bunch of words to our “value proposition” and walking away as though our job is done?
I submit that a value proposition is a living, breathing, and ongoing thing. It changes over time, shifting in perspective based upon the needs, challenges, and issues your clients and customers have. And although the terms are nouns, never forget that the word “deliver” is a verb.
Delivering something worthwhile is not achieved in a board room with big flip charts and spreadsheets and ideation sessions. It’s not delivered with a slick brochure or well-written copy, or a stack of press hits in the Wall Street Journal. It’s not delivered in key messages or brand attributes, even. It’s delivered in the work that you do with and for your customers, each and every day. The hard stuff, where you roll up your sleeves and show what you’re made of. Solving real problems for real people.
Your value proposition doesn’t even belong to you. It belongs in the hands of the people who rely on you to provide that something of worth. What is that ‘something’ in their eyes? Ask them. Then consider carefully how you and the depth and breadth of your brand can provide it.
Today’s environment insists upon it. We have a hybrid world where offline and online tangle together, and your brand – your value proposition – must bridge the divide. Your clients and customers are not only making up their own minds, but social proof, social capital and trust economies are forcing many businesses to realize that their communities are making up their minds collectively. That the value proposition is only as steadfast as the values of those who put it to the test.
I am surrounded each day by an amazing number of brilliant, generous, action-oriented people that inspire me to always, always be trying to deliver something of substance. And my job will be best done if there’s little trace of my presence aside from an enduring, evolving brand.
Are you spending your time today putting your value proposition on paper and shoving it in a file or in a mission statement? Or are you out there, shepherding your flock, sailing your pirate ship, stewarding social good, sharpening your skates, connecting dots, taking the pulse of your community? (Hint: these people are. Go meet them.)
The comments belong to you.