What are you really selling?

It’s the one question every business owner needs to find the answer to, starting by asking themselves this question at least 3 times!

What are you really selling?

We provide a leading software solution to the manufacturing industry

That’s what you provide, that’s not what you sell. So what do you really sell?

We help manufacturing business operate more smoothly

But what does that do for me, the end user? What are you really selling?

We’re making sure products get out the door on time

Getting warmer… what value does this give me? What’s the emotion you produce? What are you really selling?

Confidence – confidence that you’ll be able to deliver what you’ve promised to your customers!

B – I – N – G – O !

Your business’s value proposition is by far the most important aspect to the success of your business, but also one of the hardest to define. It will generally take a long time to develop, argue, debate, review and refine. It’s the corner stone of many a conversation over many a glass of wine, and will be one that you will continue to question, challenge and improve.

It underpins your culture

There are so many reasons why it’s vital to get your value proposition right sooner rather than later. Most importantly, because it underpins your whole business, its culture and its operations. It is the first thing a prospective customer should see, and the last thing they feel. It is what a customer believes you produce, and will therefore determine your success or failure as a business.

It guides your business

Your value proposition guides every single staff member in how they operate, what they do day to day and the quality of product or service you deliver. It is something that flows throughout your business and is used as the foundation to make nearly every decision in your business.

It drives your marketing, sales and customer service

Your value proposition will help you guide your core messaging (sales propositions), creates the culture with how your sales staff perform (and how they sell) and it drives long term repeat business (lifeblood of most businesses).

One of the biggest mistakes…

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is that they define a value proposition in terms of features and benefits of their offering. This is all wrong! It’s what these features and benefits provide in terms of value to the end user that is important.

How to define the value you create for your customers

The best way to do this is to ask the question, “What value does that give me as the end user?” 3-4 times to get to the real value that you produce.
  • Makes a business more efficient with its operations

So what value does that give me as an end user?

  • It makes people work better (quicker, less mistakes etc)

So what value does that give me as an end user?

  • Takes my pain away in micro managing staff
  • Stops us making mistakes and looking bad to our customers

Now we’re getting somewhere!

This is the crux of the value that the end user receives. See how it’s not features and benefits – its all about the ultimate value your product/service brings to a specific person.

And it’s all about emotion!

People buy based on emotion, not on logic. So you need to communicate clearly and succinctly the emotion that buying from you produces!

So what is a value proposition, anyway?

A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you. It is a clear statement that communicates: Relevancy: How your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation Value: What specific value will you deliver Different: Why your customers should buy from you and not from the competition Emotive: Gives me a real reason and emotional connection

A smart man once said:

“Take the complex and make it simple Then take the simple and make it compelling”
And that is exactly what your value proposition does. It takes all the complexity in your business and distils it down into simple, easy to understand short statement that engages with your target audience.

What Job did you hire that milkshake for?

A great take on this topic is in the book “How will you measure your life” by Clayton Christensen (highly recommend reading it if you can). In his book, he discusses how so many products and businesses fail because they focus on what they want to sell to their customers, rather than what their customers really need. What’s missing is empathy: a deep understanding of what problems customers are trying to solve. More can also be found at

What do we mean by “hire a product/service” to get a job done”?

It’s a reaction to our current situation. We find that a ‘job’ has arisen that we need to do, so we then start exploring how we are going to get the job done. It’s this mechanism that “I have a job I need to get done” and this is going to help me do it.

Why is Ikea so successful?

Because its entire business model is very different from the standard furniture store. A normal furniture store is organised around customer segments or type of product. But Ikea is very different – Its offering is structured around a job that customers need to get done.

Ikea do the “Hire a product/service to get a job done” beautifully

Your kids have moved out of home and they need to kit out their new apartment. You’ve moved interstate and need all sorts of stuff for your new home. You’ve got a new caravan and you need all the cutlery and crockery, plastic food storage. etc You’re having your first baby, and need to build your nest! Ikea doesn’t focus on selling a particular type of furniture to any particular demographic, rather it focuses on the job that many consumers confront as they establish themselves in new surroundings or a new need arises. And it does this bloody well. Its fulfilling a job that has arisen in all our lives.

What jobs arise in your customers life?

When you understand what jobs arise in your customers’ life, you can then develop products/services that they can hire to complete this job perfectly.

Okay so now back to the milkshake!

Clayton Christensen provides another great example of a restaurant that wanted to sell more milkshakes. They invested so much time and money into producing a better, faster, tastier milkshake, that didn’t increase sales at all!

What possible job could a milkshake do.

So they spent hours upon hours researching what job a milkshake did for their current customers. And they found some really interesting things:
  • Over 50% were bought in the early morning
  • Nearly all were alone
  • That was all they bought
  • And almost all got take away to drink in the car

The nuggets of gold!

It turns out the customers that bought the milkshakes all needed the same job to be done – they weren’t ready for breakfast yet, they wanted something to tie them over for a few hours. They needed something to keep them stimulated in the peak hour commute (think about it, it takes a good 15-20 mins to drink a super thick milkshake) and they wanted something that was easy to ‘eat’ whilst driving (milkshakes are easy compared to muffins!) and every car has cup holders these days.

What are you being hired to do?

Back to this. Define what jobs your customers need to complete, and build your products/services to fulfil!

Bringing it to life

Your value proposition should be the first thing your potential customers see in your marketing materials and when they hit your website homepage, so it’s worthwhile investing some time in getting it right. To communicate your value proposition effectively, it must incorporate these four elements: Headline: This is the most important part of your value proposition and needs to be an attention grabber. What is the end-benefit you’re offering, in 1 short sentence. Can mention the product and/or the customer. Attention grabber. Sub-headline or a 2-3 sentence paragraph: A specific explanation of what you do/offer, for whom and why is it useful. 3 bullet points: List the key benefits or features. Visual: Images communicate much faster than words. Show the product, the hero shot or an image reinforcing your main message. Your value proposition should aim to make it really simple for customers to make decisions. By communicating how and why you are distinct from competitors, it reminds customers why they prefer your brand over others and why they may be willing to pay more for it.

It needs to come to life in your whole business!

This proposition needs to come to life and be fulfilled in every aspect of your business. When that phone rings, how are your customer service staff ensuring this value proposition is fulfilled. How are your operations/fulfilment team making this value proposition come to life. How are you building a life-long relationship with your customers that ensure your customers get this ‘value’ each and every time.

A great value proposition is:

  • Clear: It should be easy to understand so don’t use jargon, use the language of your customer
  • Outcomes: Communicates specific value and outcomes that your customers will get
  • Unique: describes how your product/service is unique and different to competitors
  • Quick: Can be read and understood in 3-5 seconds!

The best value proposition is clear: what is it, for whom and how is it useful? If those questions are answered, you’re on the right path.

Some great examples:

We’re going to be biased here, but we really like our own:

  • Due North: Where businesses come to grow

And a few others:

  • SoundCloud: Find the music you love. Discover new tracks. Connect directly with your favourite artists.
  • Mailchimp: Send better emails!
  • Dollar Shave Club: A great shave for a few bucks a month!
  • Vimeo: Make Life worth watching
  • Periscope: “Explore the world through someone else’s eyes”
  • Evernote: “Remember Everything”

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