Find the Value Proposition

Tom Asacker Are you familiar with “Where’s Waldo?” – the oversized picture book filled with a maze of little cartoon characters milling around on each page? The goal of this concentration game is to spot, amid each hectic scene, a funny-looking character named Waldo. And, although Waldo is always out in the open and rather distinctive, finding him takes some determined looking. My feeling for “Where’s Waldo?” is pretty much the same for most company value propositions – who cares? It’s a waste of time and effort.

Consider your own product and service selections. Can you remember the distinctive value proposition of your most recent television purchase? No? Then perhaps you can recall the UVP of your last automobile of computer selection. Hmmm. Surely you can rattle off the unique promise of value of one of your professional service providers; e.g. your lawyer, accountant, financial advisor or medical professional.

Look…of course it’s important to focus on and try to differentiate one’s offering based on cost, quality, speed, service or innovation. But, unfortunately, that’s not how customers choose today. If they did, the best or cheapest would dominate their markets. So you may be somewhat distinct, like Waldo. But unless you stand out head and shoulders above the teeming masses of competitive alternatives, you should stop wasting your time endlessly scrutinizing and promoting your UVP, USP or whatever you want to call it.

I’m pretty sure that I understand why my beliefs on this subject will generate at least as much heated debate as my previous article – “The Feelings Economy.” It’s because most business people are still mired in an outmoded paradigm of how people make decisions. I call it the Sense-Think-Feel-Do paradigm. It works like this: I’m exposed to your business through one of my five senses – typically sight or sound. I then think about and rationally consider your value proposition, hopefully fell optimistic about it relative to my other options, and then do something (e.g. call of visit your business).

Unfortunately, for all of you with an awe-inspiring value proposition, that’s simply not how it works in our chaotic and overstimulated world. Instead, people take a more intuitive, gut level course of action. I call it the Sense-Feel-Think-Do model of decision-making. They experience a business through one or more of their five senses. The sensory experience makes them feel a certain way. They then rationalize (think about) those feelings – in many cases in their subconscious mind – and instinctively make some kind of decision. Their feelings create a sketchy mental picture of a business and its offering, and their thoughts hastily complete that picture.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? Simple. Spend your time scrutinizing and improving the sensory cues encountered by your audience. From your web site and your advertisements, to your receptionist’s manner and your facility décor, everything morphs the mental picture potential clients create of your business offering. Every look, sound, touch, word and smell – okay Emeril…and taste…BANG! – either enhances or distorts your audience’s feelings, definitions, attitudes and ideas ( the essence of your brand).

So, if you’re truly interested in influencing people’s behavior – if you want them to let go of their old beliefs and habits – forget trying to convince them with an overt and obvious UVP. After all, motivation is a feeling word, not a thinking word. Instead, put your brain in your heart and seduce them with the magic of your sensory cues. Whether you want to refer to it as the emotional economy, the experiential economy or the feelings economy, today’s market behavior is like a moving sidewalk. Whether you go with it or spend your time and resources running against it, you’re still going to be taken along.

© 2003 Tom Asacker

Category: Customer Care
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