I write about value propositions and messaging…a lot. You absolutely need a solid story in place before you start producing marketing deliverables and executing customer acquisition campaigns. (See “Spend first, think later: Bad idea”)
Ideally, in fact, you should have a value proposition in place before you even start building a product. You should clearly understand who the product is for, what problem it solves, and why someone should buy it from you.
But once you have articulated the value proposition and messages doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s not just a lovely document that you post on the wall or a few lines that you stick onto the bottom of a press announcement.
The value proposition and messages need to be enforced. You need a value proposition policeman to ensure that everyone in the organization understands and adheres to the value proposition. They should have a voice when decisions are made on what to build and how to promote it. And they should be able to hold up a big “STOP” sign if necessary.
Why policing the message matters
There are a few reasons to adhere closely to the defined value proposition and messages:
It ensures consistency and reinforces a single message. Every time a prospective customer hears about your product and company, they hear the same thing. It gives you a much better chance to be remembered. This is especially important for people evaluating software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, who are typically very busy with lots of priorities. It’s difficult to get a bit of mindshare.
A consistent value proposition provides guidance to the development team. It helps them make decisions on which features to develop, what kind of user experience is required, what to build and what not to build.
Following a consistent value proposition and messages makes it easier to produce marketing materials. Every time you create a blog post, produce a video, write an eBook, or craft a webpage, there’s no need to start from scratch. You already know the key messages you need to deliver.
Who should be the police?
In some organizations, the Marketing people are the police. They ensure that the same messages are delivered in every piece of marketing material and in every marketing campaign.
In other organizations, the product manager plays the police role. They ensure that whatever gets built and whatever is said about the product sticks to the value proposition.
It’s most effective when the senior people in the organization do the policing. They recognize what’s in sync with the defined value proposition and what’s not, and they head off activity that’s out of step. They ensure that the value proposition and messages aren’t just a bunch of words, but something that everyone commits to in everything they do.
In the most successful companies I’ve worked with, the value proposition is baked into the DNA.
It is possible to make changes
All of this talk about staying true to the stated value proposition and messages does not mean that it’s fixed in stone. They should be tested to see if they still fit.
Have there been changes in the market?
Will we find better opportunities if we take a different tack?
Do we have the resources required to succeed on this specific path?
Is there a better way to express our value?
Companies should constantly assess whether their value proposition needs to be adjusted. Sometimes that means a few tweaks; sometimes it means a full overhaul. And companies should have the courage to do that if it’s required.
But that’s different than constantly fiddling with different messages, tweaking it from one deliverable to the next. The result of that ‘making it up as you go along” is that nobody really knows what it is you’re selling, who should buy it, and why.