The value proposition is typically discovered during the process of defining your product or service. It is imperative that you be able to pinpoint exactly what value your product or service provides the marketplace. What problem do you solve? How do you help people do their jobs? You know, the really important stuff your product or service does and helps with!
Defining your value proposition, and thus your product/service is a challenge faced daily by business owners, start-ups, and entrepreneurs. This very issue is one that memorably challenged our friends Richard, Jared, Erlich, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh in season one of HBO’s hit show “Silicon Valley.”
At the end of season one of “Silicon Valley” Richard and his incubator roommate pals have entered their app product Pied Piper into a battlefield competition hosted by TechCrunch to face off with other apps, to ultimately crown a “best app” winner. In the battlefield the apps are compared against one another and given a rating called a compression quality score to determine which app is better, and to aid the battlefield judges in determining a winner to move on to the next round of the competition.
Today let’s explore the process of defining your product or service in more depth, with the help of Richard and the gang.
In “Silicon Valley” Pied Piper (through a series of ridiculous events, of course) ends up automatically making it to the final round of the battlefield. One problem: the app isn’t quite finished and it is set to face an app in the finals that has the same compression quality score, and better features. In fact at this point Pied Piper has become so convoluted and crowded with nonsense features the team isn’t exactly sure WHAT the app is supposed to do for users. The team has a major “come to Jesus” meeting the night before the final battlefield in order to define their product and create a plan for improving their app in time to win.
Ideally you won’t wait until the night before a major pitch or deadline to define your product. In fact, why not do it right now? Get your team together (if you’re a team of one, you’re ready to go!) Run through a simple exercise or answer questions to shape and define your product or service. Your main goal is to so clearly define your product or service, that continuing to pursue a successful targeting strategy falls naturally into place. So when you think you’ve answered a question as thoroughly as possible – keep digging and get at least 2 more sentences or points out. This will be completely exhausting – but completely worth it!
Have a staff or co-founder? Assemble anyone knowledgeable about your business to undertake this exercise with you. Have an open mind and listen as you brainstorm and answer questions together to more clearly define your product or service. I promise, this will be worth the time and effort!
In Silicon Valley Richard breaks off from the “group planning” and product definition session when it goes off the rails and the team creates a desperate plan that could never work. He works all night before the final battlefield to define the true value proposition for Pied Piper. As he considers what problem the app solves it takes him back to the most basic, fundamental version of Pied Piper and he deletes all of the extraneous features until he is left with one main offering – the one that actually solves a problem for a defined audience of people. Spoiler Alert: Pied Piper’s compression quality score goes through the roof because of Richard’s last minute defining and tweaks, and they win the final battlefield.
Get out a fresh piece of paper. Got it? Now write down in one sentence what your product or service is and does. Got that? Let’s dive deeper. Write out a list of each main feature of your product or service. Next to each feature list the benefits it provides, and if you can, the benefits of those benefits. Once you have your benefits listed, make a list of people who have a need that your benefit fills.
THIS is your true value proposition!
Turn that list of benefits into a statement you can share in your messaging. When you can clearly state HOW your product helps your customers you have stumbled upon your goldmine. And look – you also just created a whole list of potential customers!
When the Pied Piper team realized the level of competition they would face from a completed app in the battlefield final it scared them into action to define their product as specifically as possible. The act of comparing their product to the other app being showcased in the final made a huge difference in how they viewed their offering, and the potential it truly had to offer features that would be useful to the end user.
How does your product or service fit in the current marketplace? Now pull out your competitive intelligence and compare yourself to the competition. Discover as much about their product, service, and value proposition as possible, so you can show how yours is different, and better.
Through the process of examining the Pied Piper product and redefining its purpose and value, Richard also set the course for the future of the app by discovering the true mission of the product. He may have stumbled upon his mission accidentally, but I would encourage you to do it intentionally – and revisit it often.
Create the mission, vision statement, and values statements for your business. You’ve already done that before? Great! Get it out and revisit with this drilled down product/service definition fresh in your mind, taking care to put emphasis on the HOW – how you solve a problem. If something has changed in the Mission, Vision, and values you previously created, make updates – everything (except your vision, most likely) will continue to evolve over time.
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