If your messaging is outdated, then your company’s relevancy in the marketplace might be, too. Don’t let a zombified value prop give your prospects the wrong impression.
Every 3,000 miles or so, you pull your car into an auto repair shop, fork over $20, and watch as someone swaps out your car’s old oil with new stuff. And you do this for a very obvious reason: If you didn’t change your oil, your car wouldn’t run as efficiently and, over time, it would very likely bite the dust because of the neglect.
In business, your sales and marketing engine functions the same way. The oil in this analogy, however, is your company’s set of value propositions. If you’re running with the same messaging you created even a year ago, it may be holding up about as well as a zombie in an old horror movie.
Let’s be real — the B2B technology market is in constant motion. New companies crop up every year, competition gets fiercer, and buyer needs evolve. If your business isn’t changing alongside that evolving landscape, then it’s probably falling behind. Or, as my colleague Tien Anh Nguyen, OpenView’s Director of Market Insights, puts it:
“Your customers are growing and adapting to new market conditions, and your competitors are developing new products to gain market share from you. So, why then would you not re-examine and update your value propositions to maintain market leadership?”
From that perspective, your value proposition should encapsulate why a prospect would choose your product offering over every other option that’s out there today. Not why that prospect would choose you in 2013. What is it about your product’s value in today’s market that makes it so unique or differentiated?
How to Determine Whether Your Value Proposition is Still Resonating
Unfortunately, many expansion-stage businesses don’t do this. Typically, that’s because they assume there are more pressing issues or action items that need their attention. But what could be more pressing or important than your company’s core messaging?
Truthfully, reviewing and updating your value proposition every year (if not more often than that) should be a business imperative. And the good news is the process for doing that isn’t the time suck you probably think it is.
To determine if your value proposition is clear, impactful, and relevant, you simply need to chat and build relationships with the following people and ask a handful of key questions:
- New customers in 2014 (preferably in Q3/Q4): Why did you buy from our company instead of our competitors? What about our product makes your job easier? What is the key differentiator of our product?
- Customers who’ve been on contract for years: Why have you stuck with our product? What about our offering has kept you on contract and stopped you from making a switch to a competitor?
- Prospects and customers you lost last quarter: Why did you go with our competitor? Did we have the features you wanted? If so, were they not clearly articulated?
- Industry influencers (i.e. reporters, bloggers, analysts, etc.): What have you heard about our product in the market? What do customers and competitors like about it? Why don’t they like? Are they even aware of us? (These influencers tend to be incredibly tapped into the market, which can help you understand what your company’s known for — the good, the bad, and the ugly.)
- Your lead qualification team: What objections are you facing? Which features do prospects ask about most? Which competitors are we losing to? (This team talks to hundreds of new prospects each week — if they’re asking the right questions, they’ll absolutely help you understand if your messages is resonating with prospects.)
At the end of the day, understanding your buyers’ individual pain points and the paths they take to purchasing your product is crucial to running a successful business. Achieving that level of understanding, however, requires regular feedback, systematic research, and buy-in from the management team.
I recognize that’s not the easiest thing for expansion-stage companies to do, particularly when they’ve got a dozen other initiatives on their plate that are equally high-priority (that’s precisely why we offer market research, customer analysis, and sales support services to our portfolio through OpenView Labs’ Research and Analytics team!).
The moral of the story, however, is this: The market is rapidly evolving every day. And your value proposition needs to evolve along with it.
Use your management team’s upcoming quarterly and annual planning meets to evaluate your value proposition and assess its relevancy. If it’s not hitting the mark anymore, spend some time determining what your real value is and communicate that throughout the organization. The investment will be well worth it.
Additional Resources to Get You Started
- The Value Proposition Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder
- You Don’t Create Your Value Proposition, You Discover It by Brian Carroll
- How to Approach Your Value Proposition by Barry Feldman
Image courtesy of jamieanne