You’ve probably heard the term “value proposition” thrown around at a few meetings before. While it might seem like a buzzword, it is one of the most important things for your business to define and take ownership of. Oftentimes in branding, we talk about the importance of knowing your “why”. With value proposition, we’re really focusing on the “what”. Your value proposition defines what it is that you have to offer your key stakeholders. Put simply, your value proposition is your niche. It’s what makes you stand out from the crowd.
What’s a stakeholder?
A stakeholder is anyone that holds a stake in the work you do. For designers, the key stakeholder is commonly thought of as the client. The client is certainly central to your work, but they are not the only stakeholder involved. Other common stakeholders for designers include your team, collaborators, the industry at-large, and the end user/audience for the work itself.
Here’s the tricky thing: More often than not, the value you THINK you are providing to your stakeholders is actually different than the value that THEY are seeing. As a result, when defining your value proposition, it is critical to keep an open mind and evaluate both the value you are personally projecting, and the value that is being perceived by those around you.
Recently, we published a series of toolkits called Give All that capture all of the methodologies we’ve leveraged with hundreds of clients over the years at verynice. One of those toolkits, Value Proposition, is great for working through this important process.
Here’s a quick activity from the toolkit to help you define your value proposition:
First, begin by digging into as many things as you can that shed light on the way in which you have been projecting your value. This might look like a collection of public-facing material (like social media posts, website content, etc.). If you don’t have any of that, think back to the last time you explained to someone what it is that you did. Read through all of this, and take some time to reflect.
- What message is being projected about the value your work provides?
- What keywords are you using the describe what makes you or your service/product unique?
Next, evaluate the way in which your value is being perceived by others. Take some time to speak to existing customers, and ask them what it is that they think is valuable about what you do.
- How do these interpretations of your value line up with the value you’ve been projecting?
- How can you refine your messaging in order to make that value more clear?
Based on what you’ve learned thus far, attempt to write a short description (no longer than 3-4 sentences) that defines your value proposition. This should be informed by both the projected and perceived value that you’ve just uncovered, but also a range of other factors, including thoughts around the following:
- Your key stakeholder’s greatest need, and the way in which your work fulfills that need.
- Your greatest competitor, and the key differences between your work/approach and there’s.
- Your own personal values, and what drives your perspective of the world.
I won’t sugar coat this, this is not an easy task. That said, if you see your value proposition as something that is in a constant state of further definition and evolution, it takes some of the weight off of the process as a whole. The best thing you can do is start. Know that it is natural (and actually great!) for this value to change! A few final tips, selected from the best practices section of our Value Proposition toolkit:
- When developing your value proposition, work with your existing audience to get an understanding for how you are being perceived, and see how that differs from the value and unique differentiation you’re projecting in your current marketing material. If you are starting something from scratch, and do not have an audience to get feedback from, you can also have conversations with previous coworkers or employers about your work in general.
- A common mistake in value proposition design is to spend too much time thinking about your competition, as well as all of the cool features and benefits of your organization. Don’t get tunnel vision! Instead, think about your users. What do they need? How are those needs currently being fulfilled by your competitors? How do you fulfill those needs in a better way? Take the time to understand how the need that you are meeting fits into the ecosystem of their other needs (which may be fulfilled by others!).
- The value proposition has to speak to your core competency. As a result, it will be impossible to appease every pain point of your users. Stay true to what you know you can deliver well, and rank the identified pain points informed by this reality.