Be cynical about your value proposition

Here are a few value propositions that customers are rarely willing to pay for:

  • We save your employees time so they can work on other things
  • Our app can help modify human behavior to be more productive/live a healthier lifestyle
  • We offer a better solution than ABC Giant Company because the users will own their data
  • Our product combines everything together so users can do all of these 6 things instead of just 4
  • Our product will help our customers have a better relationship with their customers

If you have your rose tinted glasses on and only want to focus on how your product could make the world better, then sure I understand your point. But while you're busy living in fantasy land far far away, your customers are still living in reality and are only interested in things they would actually pay money for.

Each one of these value props (and there are plenty more like them) should theoretically be valuable to your customers but misses the mark. Here are the problems:

The value is indirect; the theory is the product causes something to happen which causes another thing to happen that actually creates the stated value. "We make your customers happier and that should mean increased revenue." "We help make people healthier and that should reduce their health insurance claims." "We help save employees time so they can do more revenue generating activities." These are big assumptions and the further your product is from the value creation the less value it tends to deliver.More features, more touch points, etc. does not mean your product is actually better at delivering value. Customers have schedules packed with meetings, they're dealing with employee issues, they need to pick their kids up from school. There are very few products people use 5 times per day. If your product requires that, chances are people will feel it's high maintenance after 5 days and churn.These aren't necessarily addressing burning customer needs. What are your customers actually in the business of doing? Dig deeper because the answer to that questions is rarely at the surface. Doctors are in the business of seeing as many patients as possible. Professional service providers are in the business of maximizing the number of billable hours. Sales people are in the process of exceeding their quotas and maximizing their commission. Restaurant owners are in the business of turning tables. Does your value proposition address these things directly?

This is why customer discovery is so important for entrepreneurs not to skip over. Unless you can objectively understand how your customers see the world, you'll never be able to offer a value prop they'll actually be willing to pay money for.

James Shomar
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