The Growth Challenge
Growth is one of the greatest challenges for most businesses, and in many service industries the barriers to entry are low, making competition particularly strong. Whether growth is organic or through new business, a value proposition is required. Most business leaders are familiar with this concept, and understand the importance of communicating in a compelling way, so it is strange that so many facilities management companies sounds so similar, and claim the same generic benefits. Why does this happen?
Developing a Clear and Compelling Value Proposition
Developing a clear and compelling value proposition is the first phase of an effective market opportunity assessment. After all, how can you sell a product or service, if you can’t articulate its value? The process requires identifying customer benefits, linking these to mechanisms for delivering value and identifying the basis for differentiation. The process isn’t complex, but everything needs to be assessed from the point of view of the external market and customers.
Understanding your proposition requires a high degree of honesty and often some uncomfortable soul searching, but when completed effectively you should be able to answer three key questions:
- Why you do what you do, which must be aligned to the clients and the sector you are targeting.
- What you do – which brings to life the standards, the methodology and services you deliver.
- How you do it – this is the core people, processes and systems you use to deliver what you do.
Equally important within the process is identifying gaps in your proposition and this is not necessarily a negative exercise. Once established, you can decide whether to address the gaps through innovation, acquisition or product/service development, counteract them with other elements or alternatively, and to a degree a compelling point, you can offer development of your service with your client/prospect in a collaborative approach to create a client specific solution. Even if you do not address the gaps you need to know what they are, because your clients and competitors will highlight them and you need an answer.
Answering each of these questions will draw out the features, benefits and proof points needed to then build a value proposition.
What often happens, is the rigour in the process is quickly lost (if it ever existed!), and businesses develop value propositions on the basis of internal brainstorming of “what we are good at”. There is little attention to why the points are attractive to customers or make them different to their competitors. Once they have the agreed list of generic features, they feel happy that the task is complete, and sign this off for the communications team. Generic website and brochure copy results, all suppliers sound much the same, the business moves onto the next project or bid, and wonders why it isn’t growing as fast as it would like.
If the process can be kept on track, and specific customer benefits identified, then the value proposition statement can be written. It often takes a bit of work to craft this in a clear and compelling way, but once complete you have built the foundations for your communications. You will also have created focus on the aspects of the business that make the biggest difference, and the target audience that is likely to find your offer most attractive.
Overcoming the Blockers
This is all well and good, but who works in a perfect world? There are real blockers to getting the value proposition process working and here are some of the some of the most frequent, with some suggested antidotes.
Blocker: Ever changing client demands and priorities.
Antidote: Accept this as normal and make agility part of your proposition. Being clear about your development plans and having good engagement with the client will reduce the surprises and expectations made of you.
Blocker: Speed of proposition development – we cannot wait because the opportunity/need to grow is now.
Antidote: Review your target sectors and clients and go for a closer match. If you still want/need to bid then do so with open eyes and use other elements, for example your commercial offer or supply chain, to meet the gap.
Blocker: “Chicken and egg” – we need the growth to fund the development.
Antidote: Recognise and turn the negative into a benefit. Clients may welcome a new player and be willing to help the development, but honesty is needed and be prepared for a lower conversion rate.
Blocker: Resource availability.
Antidote: Prioritise! Your proposition is a corner stone for marketing, business development and operations teams but equally important it is the heart of your internal messaging and values. Get some help from external eyes and critical friends.
Blocker: We’ve done this already and customers say they like our proposition but we lose on price or our competitors have a better relationship.
Antidote: Get back in there and review it. Price and relationship are part of your proposition and if they are the factors you lost business on, use them to inform the next iteration of the proposition.
Developing your value proposition makes you focus on the aspects of your business that make the biggest difference. It helps you avoid wasting time and money, as you won’t pursue customers who are unlikely to buy from you, or promote products or services that are not attractive. Probably most importantly, it gives you clarity and the confidence to move forwards and supports the growth of your business.
So it takes a bit of work, but why wouldn’t you develop and test your value proposition before you go to market?
Birch Marketing works with businesses to help them develop their value proposition and communicate in a compelling way. Please get in touch to discuss how we can help you.
This article was co-authored with James Wood of Orchard Consulting and was originally published on ThisWeekinFM.