When I worked at Salesforce, there was one document that I opened more than any other.
And no, it wasn’t my weekly sales update (although that came pretty close second).
It was our value proposition.
Since my last Tuesday thoughts, I’ve been out and about meeting people, generally very experienced tech leaders, trying to sell into the Retail and CG markets, and these are some of the sentences I’ve heard:
“We don’t need to do customer interviews, we have a 12-page document of what our investors think our value proposition is”
“If you asked each of our founders what we do they’d say something different”
“People tell us we should be better at articulating what we do. I worry that we sound the same as every other vendor”
Spoiler alert: You do.
I’ve also had calls with CEOs where I’ve been flabbergasted at how incredible their technology is, which is just not coming through on their website.
I’ve sat for 45 minutes listening to a pitch of a product, and suddenly said: “Wait. Your product does what?! And your clients are who?! That’s amazing!”
I’m a big fan of laying the foundations before you turn the taps on. You can waste SO much money on what is, frankly, noise, until you know what you’re actually saying.
Make sure that every single person out there talking about your business talks about it in (roughly) the same way. Articulate why you’re different.
I’m probably shooting myself in the foot here, but I like words that work.
So what does a good value proposition exercise look like?
It starts with pre-work. I need to interview your customers. No, not the SE that recently did a great job in a pitch meeting (although I’m sure they’re lovely too). Actual customers. I need to ask them, as a third party (they might not tell you in the same way), why they chose you, what they think your strengths and weaknesses are, and what competitors they considered and why.
I also need to analyse your web presence and your competitors. What content is resonating for them? What are the pain points in your target market? I’ll look at who you’re targeting, and why.
I see time and time again companies spreading themselves too thin, not making that Difficult Business Decision of how they’re going to specialise and differentiate. If it makes sense for you to target different personas, I’ll consider how they fit under your general mission and purpose as a company.
Stop telling me it ‘works for everyone’. That means it works for no one. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s better hearing it from me than not hearing it from your potential customers.
Then- the BEST FOUR HOURS of your business’ growth- the messaging workshop
During this workshop, we’ll need everyone who has a strong opinion and decision-making power on your message. There’s no point in the marketing team creating a beautiful document that goes in the drawer because the CEO and COO have their own ideas. Everyone. And ideally in person, with a whiteboard.
I become really annoying in these workshops. I essentially channel my inner toddler. Every other word out of my mouth is ‘why?’. I will push you to see things from your customer’s point of view. I’ll ask you for proof on every single thing you say. And I’ll share my research from your customers and competitors. It’s not pretty, but it’s essential. Don’t worry, I bring snacks and mediate differences of opinion.
THE RESULT- Your bible
The output of the workshop is a document that sets out your key messages for your brand as a whole. This includes:
This document is the basis of everything you do going forward. Every blog, every social media post, every sales pitch has to tie back in to what you’ve all collectively agreed makes you different. You can get those proof points elevated- bring out the customer case studies.
Woohoo!! Time to celebrate. The hard work is still to come, but at least we’re all going in the same direction. (Rowing? Floating?)
Shout Out Corner:
Who is getting this stuff right? Here’s a tip- the clearer, simpler and easier the end product looks, the more work has gone in to the messaging workshop and value proposition. It’s like running. Mo Farah makes it look easy. I don’t.
Look at that copy! Pain point. Emotional impact- lots of it. Proof point- 27,666 companies in the last week. And check out the one below- solution by persona. Can I find their content manager and tell them to clap.for.their.damn.selves?
Look at this one. Nice clear purpose- Make the Internet Beautiful. Backed up by credibility and proof- artist owned, ‘teams that like us’.
When you Google them, it comes up with ‘Online payment processing for internet businesses’. Can’t get clearer than that. They’ve also done a lovely seamless transition to features and benefits, and separated out their personas well.
There’s LOADS more, enough for another blog, but that’s it for this Tuesday! It’s been a busy one. Lots of great meetings in the last week, some great support, and even book recommendations.
In the spirit of working with nice people, one of my primary goals when I set up this company, I’m going to share other people’s incredible work. This week, if you want to learn more about B2B messaging, check out this blog by Daniel Nilsson.