Not long ago, I was working with a client to help them update, refine and focus their business strategy. As is inevitable these days, we came to the subject of their Customer Value Proposition (‘CVP’).
Five minutes into the conversation, it became clear that a number of the team members were struggling with the concept of a value proposition (let’s face it – many of us have done likewise and continue to do so). A couple of them had made attempts at defining CVPs in preparation for the meeting, but weren’t sure about the results. We needed to take a step back before moving ahead, and answer a few key questions, like:
- What is a Customer Value Proposition?
- What purpose does it serve?
- What does a really good and useful CVP “look like”?
- Is the Value Proposition the same for every Customer?
We took a fairly straightforward, academic approach to the subject and made a good deal of progress. Heads were nodding, lights were coming on and the conversation took on an increasingly meaningful tone and direction. We agreed that everyone would benefit from some ‘think time’ so we adjourned for the day with the stated intention to come back to the Customer Value Proposition in our next meeting – in fact, we scheduled a meeting specifically to deal with the subject in a few weeks time.
Success. Until, …
As everyone was getting ready to leave, I sat at the table reflecting on the conversation that had taken place over the preceding 20 or 30 minutes. Something came to mind and, rather than lose the opportunity, I made one of those “hey, I’ve got something on my mind” noises to get the attention of those in the room. And then I proceeded thusly:
“You know, it seems to me that addressing the question of a Customer Value Proposition is a lot like addressing the question ‘Why do people fall in love? And why don’t we fall in love with everyone?'”
You can imagine the looks I got – although, truthfully, if I don’t get at least one of those per day I think it means I’m not trying hard enough.
In the silence that followed, I pressed on. (‘In for a penny, in for a pound’, as they used to say.)
“Well, let’s think about it. The CVP has two basic elements: the Value Statement and the Positioning Statement. The Value Statement expresses how we resonate with the Customer – it articulates that which causes the Customer to fall in love with Us. The Positioning Statement defines our uniqueness relative to other “suitors” – it expresses why the Customer should love nobody other than Us.”
Just as people fall in and out of love, our Value Proposition is neither eternal nor universally compelling; as Customer desires and interests change, so must our CVP. And the primary focus of the business – its critical Mission – needs to be driven by the Customer Value Proposition: defining it, mapping it, extending it and relentlessly executing it, day in and day out.
Richard Gerofsky is a partner at FOCUS Management. He can be reached at 647.272.6561 or