One of my favorite definitions of value proposition comes from Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies. She says that a value proposition is, "a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services."
Value propositions are a core element of your marketing strategy. They describe how you create value for customers and, therefore, they are the ultimate source for your marketing content. In fact, you can't create compelling marketing content until you really understand how you create value for customers.
Despite their undeniable importance, most companies don't do a good job of formulating and communicating compelling value propositions. A recent survey of decision makers in B2B companies conducted by the Marketing Leadership Council of the Corporate Executive Board found that 86 percent of the "unique benefits" touted by sellers were not seen by potential buyers as having enough impact to create a preference for a particular seller.
In their 2007 book, Value Merchants, James C. Anderson, Nirmalya Kumar, and James A. Narus identified three basic types of B2B value propositions.
All Benefits - Essentially, a list of all the benefits that managers believe their solutions might deliver to target customers. This type of value proposition requires the least knowledge about specific customers or competitors, but it has one major drawback. This approach can lead managers to claim advantages for solution features that actually provide little real benefits to target customers.
Favorable Points of Difference - When managers use this type of value proposition, they attempt to differentiate their solution by identifying favorable points of differrence between their solution and the customer's next-best alternative. While better than an All Benefits vallue proposition, this type of value proposition still has a major drawback. It can lead managers to assume that all favorable points of difference will be valuable to a prospect, while the reality may be that many points of difference contribute little value to a particular prospect.
Resonating Focus - The third type of value proposition is called Resonating Focus. Anderson, et. al. say that in a world where potential buyers are extremely busy, sellers must use value propositions that are both compelling and simple. The basic idea behind a Resonating Focus value proposition is to identify the one or two points of difference (between your solution and your competitor's) that deliver the greatest value to the target customers.
Resonating Focus value propositions dovetail nicely with content marketing. To begin with, companies that use Resonating Focus value propositions develop customized value propositions for various customer segments. This is necessary because the elements of value that matter most are likely to vary based on the type of customer involved.
It's also possible to extend the Resonating Focus value proposition concept from customers (organizations) to individual buyers or buyer personas. And when you develop Resonating Focus value propositions for each of your buyer personas, you will have taken a large step toward identifying the marketing content you need.