Great Value Propositions begin with Market Research
If you’ve worked in marketing long enough, you’ve probably had the pleasure of creating value propositions backward. What does it mean, to create value propositions backward? When you start with a product, look at the specifications, reference the competition, and start trying to write a value proposition.
Why is this process backward? Because the value proposition was created after the product was developed instead of before. Once we have a product already, it’s a bit late to be asking the question, “How will our product compete in the market?” Instead, it would have been a more failsafe process to begin the value proposition with market research. In particular, to begin with voice of the customer work.
Voice of the customer research forces the team to ask critical questions. And again, questions that are better asked before development, not after. Prior even to voice of the customer work, we should ask:
- What job-to-be-done are we trying to help a customer to get done better?
- Who are the customers we want to create value for?
Later, the voice of the customer work itself will inform us about the customers’ unmet needs. (Or, if you’re using an Outcome-Driven Innovation process, about their unmet desired outcomes). These unmet needs, in turn, will become the focus of our idea generation. That is, we’ll search for innovative ideas (new product and feature ideas) that will better address those unmet needs.
With the benefit of market research results, product managers will find jobs-to-be-done templates to work well for crafting the actual value proposition. For example:
“When executing a Job-to-be-Done, this Product Attribute(s) helps these Job Executors to address this Outcome(s) as compared to this Reference.”1
Once created, the value proposition provides a guide. It not only provides clear objectives for idea generation and for development, but the value proposition will also serve as criteria for post-development concept testing. But that’s just the start. Marketing Communications will use the value proposition as the source of their messages. MarCom may use its creative abilities for “how” something is to be communicated, but they must be accountable for the value proposition as to “what” they should communicate. And it doesn’t end there. Sales will use the value proposition to properly speak about the new product’s features in a meaningful way to the customer. Finally, leadership and executives benefit from great value propositions. As they have many responsibilities, the value proposition helps them quickly assess new products regarding their benefit to customers.
With all the stakeholders of the value proposition, the source of this document is too often forgotten. This brings us back to the main point: The value proposition must start with market research, with proper voice of the customer work. Otherwise, the entire organization will rally around needs that customers might not even care about. And as PDMA and others have routinely pointed out, this is the most common cause of new product failures.
- Scott Burleson, The Statue in the Stone: Decoding Customer Motivation Using the 48 Laws of Jobs-to-be-Done Philosophy, (Palustris Press, 2020).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
He has a diverse professional background within manufacturing engineering, product management, voice-of-the-customer training and SaaS development. Notable career stops include product manager for John Deere’s compact tractors, innovation leader for Actuant corporation, and Director of the Strategyn Institute. At Strategyn, he worked alongside the world's best jobs-to-be-done practitioners. Strategyn, founded by pioneer Tony Ulwick, is ground zero for Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI).
Today, as Senior Vice President for The AIM Institute, Burleson leads product development for Blueprinter® software, teaches workshops on innovation using the New Product Blueprinting process, and advises corporate leaders and practitioners on growth via JTBD principles.
He has a MS in Management and a BS in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University.