What's Your Value Proposition?
When it comes to differentiating your small business from other competitors, t's all about value. Some might call it your value proposition. Value is what is intrinsic to your customer relationship. It's what you promise, what you'll deliver and what the consumer will receive, by doing business with you. What do they get with your business that they can't get any place else?
You've got to be a little smug here. This isn't the time for thinking about conformity, mediocrity, getting along, fitting in; you're not like everyone else! If you are, your value proposition is ambiguous and unclear - all you're competing on is price, and that's a one-way trip to the bottom of the opportunity barrel. So you've got to think differently. There's nothing wrong with accentuating and articulating the differences you provide over your competitors. The more you clearly understand that, the more you can leverage it. Know thyself, right?
Thinking Differently in a World of Change
Don't be shy. Be bold! Be critical! As a business owner, you must constantly think about what value you bring over somebody else, and how you're leveraging your core competencies, values, and differentiation strategies to extend something really different to the consumer. Your competitors are always changing; you've got to be on your toes and changing, too. Nothing is stagnant. Products change. Consumer expectations change. Competitors change. Business models change. Delivery models change. And they're changing more rapidly than ever.
The other day, I was visiting a supermarket with a small satellite bank branch within it. I was standing in line and met with a teller who used to work at a full branch up the road until it closed. I explained that I endured the line today only because I'd reached my electronic deposit limitations on my cell phone; I had to deposit the checks physically because I'd exceeded a daily electronic limit. She lamented, "Yeah, soon, we won't have a job," recognizing - rightly - that change has rapidly altered the value proposition for her company:
- Even the satellite bank branch in the supermarket was inconvenient to the consumer as compared to doing electronic banking across their mobile device;
- Inconvenience translates into customer frustration, changing the value proposition for the bank - they don't want their brand to be known for lines and frustration;
- Eventually it will become too expensive to staff, lease space, and compete in the physical world as compared to offering electronic banking;
- Consumers increasingly deal with numbers on a screen - not physical checks or currency. Technology has transformed the banking experience and thus the value proposition offered by the bank and its competitors. Among other things, that means the future for a bank teller - let alone physical bank branches - is probably quite bleak.
Applying the Lens of Technology Strategy
So how does your small business create value?
- Experience. How does the experience differ from your competitors. How is technology enabling or disabling that experience?
- Access to Expertise. How can technology quickly connect the right expert from your organization to the customer every time?
- Quality of Products and Services. How can the use of technology assure the customer of a consistent, painless, quality product/service?
- Attention to Detail. Can technology be used in your organization to cross every "T" and dot every "I"? How can it be used to avoid mistakes?
- Customer Appreciation. Technology can be employed to extend gratitude towards the customer and thank them for their continued patronage?
- Personal Connection. Can technology help extend personal, intimate value to your customers? Even in the absence of a person make the experience more personable, customized, targeted?
- Time in Response / Time to Deliver. Is there a way that technology can improve the amount of time it takes your company to respond to clients, or, deliver your products or services? Can can immediacy become as much a part of your value proposition as quality service?
How does your small business capture value?
- Feedback. Can technology be used to capture the customer experience in the forms of electronic surveys? Can the customer experience be always measured - like a heartbeat - and managed?
- Participation in Social Media. How is your company listening to what your customers want, and, asking them for more input on what you're doing well, or, need to improve on? How is your firm sharing knowledge, expertise, and quality experiences with others?
- Experience Capture. How are internal systems engineered to routinely capture customer experiences so they can be measured?
- Systems Analysis and Corrective Action. How does your business incorporate what it's learned from listening (social media), from feedback (surveys), and empirical data captured by its business processes to change their value proposition? To alter their business practices to meet consumer expectation?
How does your small business deliver value?
- Ease of Use. Does technology make it easy to do business with your company? Is it easier to do business with you or your competitors?
- Extended Value. Does every transaction yield more information? Zoomcare is a great example. Your electronic medical profile is available at all Zoomcare locations, and when you want it, you can have a copy of your electronic medical record (even pictures and x-rays) burned to a CD ROM right there in just a few minutes. Every time you go to Zoomcare, you're getting extra and extended value out of the engagement.
- Speed and Rapidity. How quickly can you get your work done? How quickly can you meet the customer need? How quickly can you meet or exceed expectations?
- Personalization. Is every experience tailored to meet or exceed the customer's preferences?
Now's the time to start thinking about the value your firm provides.