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Rethinking Value

by David Brock on March 18th, 2011

I’ve written a lot about value propositions, but I think we really need to rethink the concept of value.  Not that value propositions are bad, but just the nature of the word “proposition” is limiting in terms of what’s important to customers. 

Too often, the concept of a value proposition is focused on an event or static moment.  It may be that compelling statement we make to a prospect to get that first meeting.  It may be those set of bullets on everyones’ web sites–usually headed by:  Our Value Proposition–those generic phrases, that each competitor repeats resulting in no differentiation.  It may be the result of a great discovery process and a final presentation where you present your unique value–perhaps quantified in some sort of business justification, perhaps more addressing softer yet also important issues, perhaps personalized to the needs of everyone involved in the decision making process. 

Don’t get me wrong, value propositions, particularly those that are based on a deep understanding of what each customer values and a presentation that responds to those are still critical.  But since they still seem to be focused on value at a point in time, I think they are limit us and our customers’ perceptions of us.

In the new world of buying, we focus on rich customer experiences and engagement, all built and reinforced over time–time in nurturing prospects, time in building the relationship over the life cycle of the customer.  Somehow the notion of value propositions focused on an event or moment in time seem insufficient in the new customer experience management model.

We need to think of creating, building, delivering, and sustaining value through the entire customer experience–whether they are a prospect, a customer, a partner, or combinations of those.  We need to think of value as dynamic–shaped as the relationships and needs in those relationships change.  We need to think of value as personalized and personalizable over the duration of the relationship.  We need to think of value creation, communication, delivery as a set of interrelated processes, not disconnected static events.  We need to think of value as the sum of collective experiences in which we engage the customer, value which builds as the relationship builds and matures.

We need to think of value we create in the processes themselve—for example, the value we create in facilitating the customer buying process.  We need to think that value acclerates in a richly collaborative relationship.  We need to recognize that value is a two way street–in deeply collaborative relationships value is shared between our customers and us as suppliers.

Somehow when we look at the profound changes in customer buying processes, the focus on customer engagement and customer experience, our current views of value are too limiting.  Just as managing the customer experience requires a whole new way of thinking about and interacting with the customer, creating, communicating and delivering value must be based on the totality of this customer experience, not events.

Am I off base?

I’d also love your input on a new model of value that aligns with the emerging customer experience models.  I like integrating value creation, communication, deliver, and value in the process, but am struggling with a model for representing it.  What ideas do you have?

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8 Comments
  1. The term “value proposition” conjured an image of a lady of the evening the first time I heard it. From Merriam-Webster’s dictionary “a request for sexual intercourse.” Proposition paints a picture of a one time event that IMHO that does add to value.

    “Accelerated value” is a better term; continued and improved quality that builds loyalty and long-term mutually beneficial relationships.

  2. Correction: “Proposition paints a picture of a one time event that IMHO that does not add to value.

  3. Hello David,

    I couldn’t agree more here. With regard to the model I made an attempt myself to capture a measurement framework which looks like it fits in with what you are thinking about.

    You can check it out on slideshare.

    Curious as to what you think.

    Wim Rampen
    @wimrampen

    • Wim: Thanks for joining the discussion and for the interesting insight. You model captures some elements of what I am thinking of. I’ll have to ponder it a little more. Do you have any supporting stuff I could look at. The ideas are intriguing. Thanks for contributing, I hope we can continue to build this discussion.

  4. Hi Dave,
    Great post. Some related thoughts…

    Value in this context should always been seen through the eyes of the customer, in terms of how what you’re selling can help to improve her business.

    Since that business and its needs and opportunities are not static, what is deemed to be of value must certainly change over time. Buggy whips once had a real and broadly attractive value proposition; today, not so much.

    I believe that perhaps the most compelling value is offered when the seller is able to deliver something that the customer hasn’t even thought possible — by showing how your unique insights and innovative capacity can solve a problem or create an opportunity that isn’t yet seen. The best sellers are both perceptive (they see things that others miss) and prescient (they understand how the future may unfold, based on keen understanding of both their customers’ businesses (needs, wants, desires) and their own product trajectories). We didn’t know that we needed an IPad until Steve showed it to us.

    So, it’s not only that the value proposition will change over time (it certainly will), it’s that the real opportunity is to invent the value proposition of tomorrow, and have your capacity to do so consistently better than your competition to be the reason to secure today’s business.

    • Rich, it’s always wonderful to hear from you and get your insights! Thanks for joining the discussion. I think you are capturing some things that are overlooked or underestimated in creating and delivering value. The ability to help customer see and achieve a new future is critical. Instead, we tend to focus on today’s issue. A few posts ago, I wrote that solving today’s problems doesn’t get you to tomorrow. I was trying to convey your notion.

      I would add the process of guiding the customer through this discovery creates compelling value and differentiation as well.

      Thanks for the great insight, hope all is well, will call soon.

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