As consumers, we can’t miss the constant series of “before and after” adverts promoted by diet product companies. You know the ones I mean. Big and unhappy before, slim and smiling after. The long-term and continuing use of this approach can be explained by only a couple of reasons: (a) either these companies can’t think of any more creative ways of marketing their products, or (b) the ads actually work.
I was talking with a friend the other day, and she said “I have you figured out. You’re all about creating value.” To which I replied “Of course, without value there’s no reason for your business to exist. Without a clear and real value proposition built on your competencies, your business is just a lookalike, and there’s no reason anyone should buy from you.”
In the past year, I have done four client engagements which focused on revising, enhancing, or replacing corporate value propositions. One day, magic struck in the form of a visual idea and I converted both a client’s current value proposition and a working model of a revised value position into word clouds. This created a “before and after” which was very compelling when viewed graphically. Here’s one example from a specialty pharmacy business. The word cloud was constructed by pasting all of their website copy into www.wordle.net.
This is the “Before.” Note the clear and dominant focus on products. Word clouds of major competitors also showed a focus on products. Every business looked alike. And the message to customers (patients) wasn’t very friendly or compelling, either.
This is the “After” word cloud which we created after we identified this company’s distinctive competencies and constructed a new value proposition. Please note the 180° shift toward a focus on patients. Going forward, this business now commands a unique market position as being able to deliver a better patient experience which is grounded in their business competencies.
Word clouds do something pure text cannot do: they summarize and create powerful pictures which visual learners find easy to digest (and many executives prefer pictures, not narratives). In addition, they support comparison and can validate that what you say about your business maps to what your customers say about your business when they are surveyed. They allow you to compare your value proposition to that of your competitors, helping ensure that your message is rich and unique.
Here’s another example of a gap between what a data company said about them self and their market position, using their words from the “About Us” page on its website, and the words their customers said using unaided recall in a brand survey.
“What We Say About Our Value”
What their customers said about them in a brand survey was quite different. They understood the company’s technical value, but actually expressed a higher form of value in knowledge, service and quality.
The comparison facilitated by the two word clouds led us to rework the value proposition into a new version, which combined the best of each (expertise in the form of data, offerings, and service/support). We did this by creating iterations of the value proposition, building word clouds for each iteration and testing whether the key words we wanted to feature were coming through with clarity and prominence.
Which of these three value propositions would you prefer to communicate to your distribution partners and customers? The new version was constructed by building out a hierarchy starting with the value proposition, then breaking out value statements, and finally adding examples and proof points. When you have this hierarchy outlined, you now also have your marketing messaging outlined, and you can start strengthening and differentiating your brand. This approach also helps small and mid-sized companies without dedicated funding for brand building to standardize and reinforce their message, which is fundamental to getting your brand established.
You know, maybe those diet product advertisers are on to something after all. Is it time to put your value proposition on a “word diet?”
This article is part of a series where I share practical experience learned over 25 years as a Marketing executive. I’m happy to engage with you if you have another view, or want to expand on these ideas—especially if you have a need, or know a company that does.
Mark Coronna is a Midwest-based CMO with Chief Outsiders, specializing in Growth Acceleration, Marketing Strategy & Alignment, Digital Transformation, and Integrated Marketing. Contact Mark at 612.554.0081 or MCoronna@ChiefOutsiders.com.