Executive summary

Corporate Positioning

Early attempts at defining the value proposition were more an attempt at outlining features and a limited review of benefits when selling a product or service to the consumer. By way of example, the first automobiles, were promoted as a revolutionary and more convenient, modern mode of transportation versus the horse and buggy, but failed to address a review of reliability, performance or economic payback. Efficiency and usability, key value proposition drivers, were also overlooked.

These things improved over time as consumers demanded a better understanding of usability, reliability and functionality. They also wanted a better understanding of price and economic factors when considering a purchase and not just the traditional basics such as ‘bigger, faster and better’. However, the limitations of defining a clear value proposition really originated from lack of knowledge and resources to support a cohesive marketing effort, which in most cases was restricted to crude advertising efforts, often featuring gadgets, remedies and services with largely unsubstantiated claims. There was no integration of the value proposition with a sounds sales and marketing strategy, initiated by a thorough review of consumer preference and their associated pain points, as we know it today.

Without this kind of integrated process, it’s no wonder consumer confidence waned as many products and this lack of process failed to clearly articulate a much more complete picture versus a few simple claims. This is not to say all products were created equal as many fell short of expectations based on simple functionality. Gradually, manufacturers began to better understand the consumer mindset and started to reach out to assess and review consumer needs and desires. This was the beginning of consumer confidence and brand loyalty, important value proposition factors when creating sustainability for a product or service.

In tandem with consumer engagement were operational changes within companies to provide resources towards that needed integration between departments and the understanding that what happened in one area would impact other areas other of the business as well. No longer did development and production work loosely with sales and marketing. A better understanding of decision-making and process between departments helped to recognize the impact and the relative effects of a well-defined strategy, when it came to positioning a product with clearly defined aspects of the value proposition. Departmental challenges included cost containment, inventory management and solid planning direction with respect to product needs, particularly when product deficiencies lead to revisions and updates based on consumer feedback.

In essence, companies became both better equipped and more efficient at including the consumer in the entire process of product creation and this in turn lead to much better and more cohesive attempts at defining the value proposition, as a strategic way of introducing and maintaining products in competitive markets. It was that ‘lights on’ moment when manufacturers realized that a well-defined product strategy, that included clearly conveyed aspects of the value proposition, would lead to increased revenues and profitability and longevity within the market. This is not to say that products did not have their challenges, but understanding the challenges and most importantly, revisiting and updating the value proposition, were the things that lead to continued success.

Defining a clear value proposition in hand with a sustainable sales and marketing strategy are now fundamental components of any company’s corporate strategy and more important than in the past, as companies try to differentiate their products within a highly competitive market place. The value proposition has evolved and must consider product mix, company resources, market conditions, management preference, on-going research and development and available talent to drive the proposed solution for competitive and corporate success. Once defined, the value proposition is linked to a comprehensive, process-driven sales and marketing strategy, successfully positioned to target market stakeholders for optimal growth and market capture.

It’s reasonable to state that corporate positioning and product positioning, through use of a sound value proposition, are somewhat synonymous terms. A company’s position at market is only as good as its well-defined product strategies, again, through the use of a sound value proposition. This is true of a single product company or one with multiple products in a number of market segments. There can be multiple propositions deployed, depending upon the nature of the products. The bottom line is, to be successful corporately, companies must successfully position their product(s) within the marketplace.

The intent of my proposed training program is to provide critical alignment between these two areas and clearly outline the necessary tactics to provide sustainable revenue and market leading practice. Too often companies fail to understand how they will position and operate within given market segments, which often leads to misuse of resources and extended timelines, as well as underachievement of corporate revenue targets. With my experience and training, companies will be able to avoid these pitfalls and create a market leading plan positioned for long-term growth and success.

The healthcare industry and more specifically, the medical device industry within it, provides a useful example of how companies must define, differentiate and position their products in today’s market. The value proposition includes such things as an outline of risk reduction, efficacy, compatibility with other products and services and certainly, proven/safe performance. When considering the players involved, which includes the manufacturer, the patient and the provider, a ‘win-win-win’ situation must be created for all parties when outlining the value proposition. The manufacturer must gain through increased revenues and market penetration, the patient must gain through improved health outcomes and the provider must gain through reduced access to additional or repeat products and services. This is the ultimate scenario companies strive to achieve.

The use of economic outcomes is also important, not just in the healthcare industry but in many others. When defining economic benefits, companies need to consider, cost reductions when introducing a product versus current practice, the availability to reduce headcount through improved functionality, less reliance on other external providers to streamline process and ultimately the rate of return or payback period through use of the product.

If the upfront work has been done when designing a new product and careful attention has been paid to the consumer pain points that must be addressed, then defining the value proposition becomes a natural extension of the overall process and helps to integrate departments and personnel along the way.

In the coming years, it will become much more critical for companies to clearly understand the capabilities of their products and define a value proposition that is customer-centric and created with critical assessment of this target audience through on-going feedback. Not only are products becoming more complex and attempting to provide a broader range of benefits, the marketplace is also becoming much more demanding in their expectations of key elements of the value proposition, including functionality, compatibility/integration, cost reduction/savings and economic return.

The path to an effective strategy is through employee engagement within key departments and the integration of process to drive key data and analytics when developing and introducing a product to market. Employees must feel empowered to network with each other to stimulate creative thinking and then have a system to capture this information for strategic assessment. It’s no longer the singular role of marketing to assume the entire responsibility for defining an effective strategy for creation of the value proposition. And when we consider the importance of doing this effectively, it makes broader departmental/employee engagement essential.

If we return again to the healthcare industry, delivery models, reimbursement for service and treatment options are all evolving/changing. Each one has its own set of unique challenges as well as a unique definition of value that can be provided to the overall system of health delivery. More importantly, they must work together through effective streamlined integration and management. Imagine treatment options that provide ill-defined or limited health benefits with the expectation that reimbursement by third parties will be obtained, based on this, as well as limited delivery options for the patient. Certainly an unattractive and complex scenario and one that points out that ‘win-win-win’ scenario necessary for these parties and one that will only be achieved through clearly articulated benefits (health, economic, etc.) that in turn convey the contributing value to the overall system.

As we move to the future, I believe three distinct trends will continue to evolve and emerge when considering the value proposition among relevant stakeholders.

First, companies will take a much more focused and holistic approach when defining value, independent of existing products or new products to come. On-going, sustainable activity between departments will be become the norm for creation of value and dissemination of a strategy to the target market.

Second, consumer/buyers will increase their expectations of value and this will move well beyond simple performance benefit claims to much more emphasis on economic value, given more stringent and defined buying patterns. Markets are becoming much more complex and increasingly competitive, which puts buyers in a strong position to dictate a strong and effective value proposition.

Finally, social media will play a leading interactive role between manufacturers and consumers in all segments and will move beyond simple product postings and associated activities to heavy reliance on peer review and assessment. This is the most expeditious and broadly used method for consumer interaction and a very useful way to cut through competitive ‘noise’ and gain the edge when reviewing products for fit and suitability. Look for more of this activity and use through all forms of social media.