The result of this thinking and examination was a platform – a way of looking at going to market as a process of developing powerful and substantiated promises – promises that addressed real business issues and the buying criteria of companies, big and small. At the heart of this process would be a better way to test these promises for resonance with the people who mattered most: customers.
There are three principles that taken together form the basis of a new way to define a company’s messaging and market-differentiation strategy.
For now, let’s call them “new”, “useful”, and “exciting”:
- “New” – a mainstay of marketing since the wheel
- “Useful” – a given… why else would anyone buy?
- “Exciting” – a promise so common, it no longer has any power
And yet… there might even be new dynamic – a different way of putting these seemingly obvious marketing concepts together. What if these fed and supported one another? What if – rather than acting as “pillars,” each supporting their own marketing or messaging weight – they were more like tripod legs, supporting each other – strong together, collapsing when apart?
Over the years, we have explored this simple thought – tested it, researched it, and developed it into the core principle for the Value Prop Method. If we ended here, then the content in this platform would be another essay on value proposition, branding, and positioning, but we have little interest in another academic or “heady” examination of these ideas. Instead, we wanted to develop something that real businesses could use to go to market, generate revenue, and be successful with.
We want to give voice to something new – a better way to bring “an idea who’s time has come” to the marketplace.
The notion of “new”, “exciting”, and “useful” as essential dimensions of a value proposition had to have operational implications. Nothing substantive would change if all that changed was a “tag line” – as important as that is. Great ideas would still fail to attract an audience, meaning more money and energy wasted…
It’s the Message – if It’s True
It’s not only money and energy wasted – but also an old way of doing things. What else needed to change? For over 50 years, companies involved in the complex or big-ticket sales have dichotomized “developing the message” and “delivering the message”. Even companies that derive the majority of their revenue from their direct sales channel rarely ask their sales teams, “What’s happening out there?” – relying instead on traditional market research and industry experts.
Is this a wrong practice? Marketing experts are not typically sales professionals, and the converse is usually true as well. What’s been “off” is this: why not take advantage of the intense customer-facing resource that is your direct sales force, for real-time market intelligence?
Marketing owned message delivery in all venues except direct sales. So, marketing could shape a message – a value proposition – and control how it manifested in advertising, marcom, and other public delivery… but stopped short of providing real and specific guidance for direct sales. Salespeople usually have to synthesize and deliver the messages found in marketing collateral or given by corporate and product marketing, to prospects themselves.
We believe this state of affairs can be – must be – radically altered.
How would your go-to-market program look if message development – that is, identifying what is new, useful and exiting about your product – were purposefully connected with your sales team’s message delivery? Why should message design end before entering the sales department? Likewise, why ignore the wealth of immediate and grounded marketplace insight – the thousands of hours of conversations between your salespeople and customers?
Three “Big” Ideas
Three big ideas or core concepts took shape as important questions:
- How could companies identify and test value propositions in a more effective ways?
- How could companies connect that value proposition to their direct sales channels in a more purposeful and powerful way?
- How could sales and marketing departments work better together so that their go-to-market initiatives realize their full potential?
These are the ideas that have been developed into this platform – a practical guide for go-to-market for business products and services. It can serve you as a platform for powerful conversations in your organization, and as a framework or methodology that accelerates and improves your go-to-market programs.
Value Prop exists because of the help and participation of nearly fifty business leaders and executives from a variety of industries. Each has shared their experiences and counsel – sanity checking assumptions and adding clarity to observations. Our clients have served as our true “editors”, because we put every idea and method in this body of knowledge into practice, with their support and encouragement. Together, we have looked at, compared principles to many real-world examples.
The Value Prop Method reflects the way things are and the way things can be.