Unlike advertising campaigns or systems improvements, which happen all the time in a business, customer value proposition development happens a lot less frequently. There are fewer products and services to promote and therefore fewer propositions to create or evolve. Which means those clients involved in this important process are working across – at best – a few proposition developments each year.
At Lexden our team has developed over 50 propositions in different sectors, across more than 10 countries, to all segments of society. That’s not us wanting to crow, but what it does mean is that we have probably spent between 500 and 1,000 days searching for or commissioning and interrogating customer insight to unearth the compelling proposition territory to build from. We find this frequency and variety allows us to reach out, identify and blend a wider pallet of attributes and techniques than the biggest proposition departments have access too. The reason being If you are only in the space once in a while how do you know your proposition is truly different? The more you do it the less you are prepared to compromise. But if you don’t do it often enough you won’t realise you are compromising in the first place.
Drayton Bird used to talk about there being 121 things to get wrong when running a mailing campaign. Proposition development is the same. Until you’ve attacked it from all angles you won’t know what you’ve missed until it’s too late.
And it couldn’t be more apparent than during the insight interpretation phase. I was recently involved in a large CX project where one of the big management consultancy companies said, “You’ll get most of the answers from 60% of the insight”. God help the client who appoints them on proposition development – our experience is that it’s that last 10% when it comes good.
When the insight is 100% reviewed, the thorough synthesis allows you to find territories which need to represent a combination of the consumer’s rational needs fulfilled, an improvement made to the customer life (typically connected to an emotional driver) and competitive advantage through leveraged brand assets. And the balance varies between products and markets. We’ve learnt that.
There are no short cuts to the answers. But there are smart ways to interrogate the insight to arrive at territories earlier to build the propositions from. It’s also important to put a credibility rating on insight.
We once found that a client’s competitors public domain research was more reliable than their own. Not an easy pill to swallow, but one we got past in order to use this external richer insight to develop a super car credit card proposition. To do this you need a clear head. A clear head means keeping the customer as a number one priority.
The more you work across industry sectors the easier it is to accept that a client’s proposition will occupy such a small proposition of that customer’s life – either at purchase or usage stage. Having this awareness inspires us to work harder for even more compelling propositions.
Finding and interpreting the insight for us is like finding the right spring board and getting a perfect take off. Hit it right and the rest falls in to place. Get a poor trajectory and everything thereafter will be a lesser version of what could have been. If your responsibility is comms, your head is full of, ‘how do we communicate this to the chosen audience?’ Which is why Brand and Comms agencies’ CVP models can seem very one-dimensional in their approach as they railroad other elements in order to get to the comms.
Having worked for agencies in the past, I understand the drivers behind their thinking. A former comms agency MD I worked for, where I was building a customer consultancy service, believed that proposition development was a waste of time. He felt it kept the agency from feeding the creative teams back at the agency with briefs to generate revenues. His view was that the planners should do a lesser job for the client so we could jump to the ad campaign – and let the ad sell the idea.
Needless to say I didn’t agree. I also didn’t buckle to this warped model and left to set up Lexden as a independent Customer Strategy Agency to avoid such compromises of integrity.
So the key to a successful proposition is to ensure the interrogation and interpretation of the customer insight is thorough and is conducted by those who understand and look to fulfill the consumer motivations, how to trigger these through marketing assets and complete this exercise on a regular basis – meaning they know the difference between the good, the bad and the ugly,
In isolation, this is useful. When applied as one of the Lexden’s five magical proposition development ingredients, it’s powerful stuff:
1. Clients ‘inspired by customers‘
2. Liberating ideation techniques
3. Expert insight synthesis and interpretation analysis
4. Sharp commercial and viability alertness
5. Energising approach with a ‘go-to-market’ attitude
Points 4 and 5 to follow.
Posted by Christopher Brooks
Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency | We put customers at the start and the heart of marketing strategy.
We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.
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