Many start-ups right now are becoming all too familiar with that ‘pivot’ word.
And with budget cuts galore and resource also feeling the strain, one of the first places you might look is your value proposition.
In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to take an existing product or service, and effectively rebrand it for a different set of circumstances – and if ever there were a different set of circumstances to adjust to, it’s now!
But before tackling your value prop, you need to know why you’re doing it in the first place, and therefore what a value proposition actually is.
Arguably the most important element of your overall marketing messaging, a value proposition states ‘why’ someone should do business with your company or brand, and therefore what value your product or service delivers in return.
So far, so straightforward.
But why bother with a value prop and, in particular, why bother with a pivot on it?
✔ It helps you form a clearer picture of who your customer is and what problems, pain points or challenges that customer is facing right now.
✔ It therefore helps you communicate more clearly with your customer. In the current climate, it also establishes how you should communicate and what sensitivities you should take into account.
✔ It forms the foundation of any marketing adjustments you need to make, most crucially to your website and email comms.
✔ Ordinarily, this sort of strategy will help you get more sales. In the current climate, it will also help you build a brand reputation that will resonate with your customers in the long term.
But where do you start?
The good news is that there’s a simple approach to creating and adjusting value propositions. It’s an approach that’s:
✅ Can be done internally with just a few people
1) Your Customer
At some stage in your start-up journey so far, you’ll have no doubt done a lot of work to achieve ‘Product/Market Fit’ (PMF).
And you’ll have covered off things like:
- The feedback your customers gave you as you got to PMF
- The type of customer that’s most likely to be using your product or service
- The problems that your customers had that you were able to solve
This last one is key – and it’s the one you now need to revisit to check how those problems have changed and how your product or service can still solve for them… just maybe not in the way you originally thought.
Quick tip: have another look at the feedback you gathered from your customers the first time round. Go through this to identify nuggets of information that might help you now with your pivot. Perhaps things you discarded before are now more relevant, or features you built into your product can be repositioned to address the new challenges your customers are facing.
And of course, don’t forget, you can still go out and speak with your customers to find out what their new issues are. Pitched the right way, your customers will probably be grateful for the chat and any advice you can give them, and you’ll get some new insights to work on.
A good way to structure your thoughts as you go through this process is to build a Persona document. Now, hopefully you’ll have used one of these before but if not, then there’s a guided version to help you get started here.
Step 2 – Your Internal Positioning
This is where you can use more of your internal viewpoints to gather ideas and drive innovation.
Don’t think you have to go it alone and come up with a new value prop on your own. You’ve probably got a team around you to help and who may have ideas of their own. At the very least, bringing those ideas together will bubble up things that hadn’t been considered before.
To help structure this process, you can follow the stages laid out in this workbook.
They more or less follow these key steps:
- First of all, nominate a core team to work on this exercise. The optimal is probably 4 or 5, each representing a different department or area of your business.
- Then, you have each member of your team complete a mini questionnaire (these questions can be found on Tab 2 of the workbook). Let them do this in their own time (but obviously with a deadline!) and once they’re happy with their answers, have them transfer them all to a central Google doc or similar.
- Step 3, give everyone some time to review all the answers, perhaps have a meeting to discuss the most common themes. And then hold a dedicated meeting to work on Your Positioning Statement as a group.
Now this last meeting you may want to run over a couple of sessions – mainly so that people can go off and think about what’s been discussed and come back with any fresh ideas.
Your main goal is to get to a statement that everyone more or less agrees with. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it should feel real and authentic, especially in the current climate! 🤝
Step 3 – Alignment
This is where it all starts to take shape! Get ready for the magic to happen. ✨
At this stage, the goal is to match what you’ve found out at Step 1 with your customer, with what you’ve discovered at Step 2 with your internal team. Now this isn’t always easy and I’d recommend you get a good night’s sleep before doing it so your neurons are firing on all cylinders!
But an easy way to start is to write down on one color of post-it notes (virtual ones of course! You can use tools like Miro, Trello or immerj for this), all the key features and benefits that came out of Step 2. Then do the same on another color for all the problems or challenges that came out of Step 1. Then simply try to match them. By doing this, you’ll start to see how your product or service addresses the new issues that your customers are facing. And any of the gaps that might dictate a slight tweak in the product itself.
The key thing here is to dissociate yourself from what you know about your product today. Open your mind to how it could actually be used in different ways. That way, you’ll start to see how your value proposition needs to change in order to help customers now.
So now what, you may ask?
Well, let’s not forget that we’re in start-up territory here. So of course, your first step now is to get it out there and start testing!
Try it out with your customers and other stakeholders. See if it resonates and how much you need to dial up or down the tone.
And just remember, it’s not set in stone. As the current climate evolves, so too will your value prop.
But at least with this easy exercise, you’ll be able to pivot more quickly when the next ‘new normal’ rears its head.