Business is about providing value for customers. That’s kind of self-evident, but you’d be surprised how many businesses and how many marketing managers can’t really state what their business does that provides value for customers. Not to mention who their target customers, or “buyer personas” are; nor what’s unique about what they offer. A business value proposition is thus a statement of what the business sells (product or service), who wants it (target buyer personas), and what’s unique about it.
BUSINESS VALUE PROPOSITION
Said simply, your business value should:
- Define what you sell. What exactly do you sell? State it in a paragraph. State it “as if” you were talking to your Mom, Dad, or best friend. State it in simple English without any marketing foo-foo. Do you sell a product (like a car), or a service (like a dry cleaning service)? Is it expensive or cheap? Is it a need (something like food, shelter, or clothing) or a want (something like a vacation, a luxury yacht, or a graduation photography service)? If I asked you, “What exactly do you guys sell? Tell me in 60 seconds,” what would your answer be?
- Define who wants it. Your BVP should (implicitly) identify who wants what you sell. “Buyer personas” are stereotypes of who wants what you sell. For example, hungry teenage men want yummy burritos (Chipotle), affluent nature-lovers want gear from REI, and businesses that want to outsource their employee uniforms want a service like Aramark that handles uniforms from purchase to cleaning to replacement. Who wants what you sell? (Even if they don’t know it yet).
- Explains what’s unique about it. Here, your BVP crosses into branding. What’s your brand (that warm, fuzzy feeling you want consumer to have about you)? In this way, Chipotle’s brand is a funky mix of edgy urban culture with a focus on healthy ingredients (vs. Taco Bell); REI’s brand is a cooperative, pro-environment structure that helps consumers stay healthy and enjoy nature, while preserving it (as opposed to hunting and fishing vs. Cabela’s), and Aramark’s brand is a quality service that helps busy business owners outsource a key part of their business (employee uniforms) while being confident that all will go well. What’s unique about your product or service?
If you work for a nonprofit, that’s great. Nonprofits also have BVPs, although they often “triangulate” among donors (people who give money), volunteers (people who give time), and stakeholders (people who receive the goods or services that the nonprofit provides). Thus, the American Red Cross coordinates among donors, volunteers, and stakeholders – for example – to provide blood to the healthcare system. Folks who want to make America a better place give money, time, or blood; some volunteer their time; and patients receive necessary blood services in the hospital. The Red Cross also provides disaster relief and emergency preparedness training.
Once you understand what a BVP is, take a moment and leverage the Internet to explore your “companies to emulate” and/or “competitors.” Write a BVP for each of them by “reverse engineering” what you see on their website and social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.,) and don’t forget to explore their videos as on Instagram Reels, Tiktok, and/or YouTube. Here are are our example companies-to-emulate:
- REI: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok
- Chipotle: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok
- Geico: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok
- Aramark Uniform: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | TikTok
- Cloudera: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | TikTok
- Boston Dynamics: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | TikTok
- American Red Cross: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok
- ASPCA: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok
- Minnesota Zoo: Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok
Take a moment and visit their websites and social media feeds. “Reverse engineer” what they sell, who wants it, and what’s unique about what they offer vs. the competition. Other interesting questions are:
- Are the fulfilling a need or a want? Needs are things you have to have (e.g., food). Wants are things you desire (e.g., Disney vacations). Some products or services are a mix, as in a Tesla which is both a mode-of-transportation (“need”) and a cool-looking, save-the-environment vehicle (“want”).
- Is the appeal of the brand largely utilitarian (“need-based”) or emotion (“want-based)? And, for some brands, such as insurance, sometimes the “emotion” is fear rather than desire. You need Geico insurance because you might have a horrendous and expensive accident (“fear”).
- What is the “positioning” of the brand vs. competitors? Business doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You go to Chipotle (and not Taco Ball or McDonalds). You choose Geico (and not State Farm or USAA). What is the competitive landscape, and how is the brand “positioned” vs. competitors?
BUILD YOUR MARKETING PLAN
Once you understand the basics of what a BVP is and have evaluated companies-t0-emulate, it’s time to write your own BVP. Use the Marketing Workbook to access the worksheet, leveraging the “Question and Answer” methodology to outline your own Business Value Proposition.