Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Start-ups and Unique Value Propositions


I haven't written a blog post in a while because I have been consumed with a new role (in addition to my brand strategy consulting). I am a part-time new venture coach for RIT's Venture Creations Incubator. In this role, I am coaching and consulting with nine start-up companies, mostly in technology spaces.

There has a been a lot written about start-up challenges ranging from insufficient capital and not having the right team in place to inadequate business plans and a lack of focus. But I have discovered an equally big problem, the absence of a unique value proposition. In fact some companies have created products in search of markets. That is, they have products they want to sell, but they have not identified the right markets for those products and in many cases don't even know what problems those products might help solve. 

While unique value propositions start with target market identification and understanding key customer benefits, they also need to address the "unique" part of the proposition. Are they addressing those customer needs in unique and relevant ways? 

Related to this, I find that many companies understand product functions and features, but not experiential, emotional and self-expressive customer benefits. And they seldom think about or communicate the values that they share with their customers. That is, they focus on the functional aspects of their product offering, not the emotional aspects of their brand. In fact, they seldom think about the customer in terms of their anxieties and fears including the perceived risks associated with switching from a known product or vendor to an unknown one. 

And, if the product is entirely new with no known predecessor, the start-up may have an even greater problem of explaining what the product is and how it works. This argues for a carefully thought-through elevator speech.

All of this requires customer targeting and customer insight, the latter being gained through marketing research including qualitative research and eventually beta testing and usability / user interface testing. 

Which ultimately gets back to branding.

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