I think value propositions are like tattoos you don’t remember getting: best kept hidden and discussed only in private. Unlike tattoos, I think value propositions are not only necessary but an essential bit of the marketing foundation.
If you’ve ever been handed the thankless job of coming up with or revising your company’s value proposition, you will know that they are not easy things to nail down. Indeed, about half the people whose sign-off you need don’t have the first idea what you’re talking about and are pretty sure it’s just more of that marketing fluff you waste their bonuses on.
The other half may or may not think it’s useful but many of them wouldn’t know a value proposition if it proposed to them with a ring and everything. It’s a lonely job.
Leaving the long and frightening journey to a workable value proposition alone for now, I want to explore the baffling end game for many companies. And that is the urge to go out and share their shiny new value propositions with the whole damn world.
In my experience most of what they are sharing is not a value proposition to begin with and, once shared, it becomes, at best, marketing fluff. If you do have a real value proposition, remember to use your inside voice and keep it to yourself. Putting it on the internet is really just a temple to your corporate hubris.
If you don’t have a real value proposition, save us all the trouble and don’t post anything called a value proposition.
In case you think only start-ups are doing this, here are some B2B marketers who should know better: like Frost & Sullivan
“We Accelerate Growth”
Our partnership is based around the objective of growth. In order to help you grow, it is paramount that you connect and interact with our global network of experts at all levels. Involvement is the key. All relevant decision-makers from your company must become involved and interact with the entire Frost & Sullivan global team.
So is their value proposition that they accelerate growth? That they don’t know how to use quotation marks or that the only way for a company to grow is to connect with Frost’s experts and do exactly as they say?
The City of Coquitlam BC has a geographic approach to its value proposition:
Our Value Proposition
The City of Coquitlam is a diverse, mountainside community which offers businesses excellent access to a large and growing market.
Credit Suisse takes a PowerPoint slide and makes it into a value proposition by putting “Value Proposition” at the top of the page. Thus making the description of its asset management practice a value prop.
This may be my favourite value proposition page: It’s from Holland and Davis and it has both a matrix and a warning:
Caveat: Reading our value propositions must make it sound like “all is sweetness and light.” But sometimes that is not the real world. On a typical engagement, we will likely touch more than a dozen client personnel … and the vast majority will surely say that our services were an honest help. But it is not uncommon for a minority of clients to think that “those consultants have ruined my life forever. If it were not for them …” We certainly aren’t perfect; we can’t make everybody happy. But our 37 years of continuous growth has to say something.
It says something all right, it says run away very, very fast.
My advice is to check your site map for a value proposition page and delete it right now.