Value Proposition Design – “Just Do Me Up One Of These”

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Value Proposition Design Flying lens

Part 1 of 2

This is the first in a series of posts around value proposition design. The series will cover what it is, what its benefits are, how it fits into a larger digital strategy. Along the way I share some stories about why we've come to use it regularly. For Part2 Click Here.

Flying At 10,000 Feet Vs. Being In The Weeds

Have you ever had a client who you think has “no attention to detail?”

Do their eyes glaze over as soon as you start talking about the particulars of your proposed web design, investment in UX, SEO, Analytics, PR? Sound familiar to the web designers, SEO folks, content marketers, UX practitioners?

We as designers and service providers tend to spend much of your time in the weeds – operating at a detail level that our clients or bosses may have no interest in or patience for.

And our clients, as business owners, are often operating at 10,000 feet. Some may feel inadequate about their own domain expertise when it comes to technical details. And some “get it”, but don’t want, or need, to be involved in understanding the implementation.

It is rare that you get a client or boss who wants to understand and learn the ins and outs of our craft, whatever it may be.

Value Proposition Design Lens

The “Just Do Me Up One Of These” Syndrome

I spent last year developing a cloud-based SaaS product for “content discovery and curation”, basically a “mobile first” start-up called PolyContent with an iOS and Android app as the minimal viable product (MVP).

We were in Australia talking to a client about it, trying to impress him with our app’s social features and by illustrating the many (detailed) ways it could help their organization…

Now there came a moment where the client’s eyes lit up, he “got it” right away. And, as soon as he understood our concept at a 10,000-foot level, he waved a hand dismissively  and said:

“Yeah Yeah Yeah, just do me up one of these!”

He got it, was agreeable right away, did not want to know the details. Now you might think this is good news, sale completed and all…

But really, I missed an opportunity to more strategically integrate our solution. The follow-up potential within his organization was not explored much after that. While we were happy to close a sale, the marketing efforts to support the project, the many ways in which it could truly help his organization were never discussed at the C-suite level.

Another example was a famous author with an idea for a start-up. We often have people come to us with app ideas or new business concepts, and I had been recommended as a strategic technology partner to bring his vision to life. I had gone in with an expectation that we would be 50/50 thinking partners for each other on both a strategic and detailed level, as I fancy myself as “more than just” a technologist.

It turns out this person is a brilliant thinker at a 10,000-foot level but has absolutely NO interest in technology implementation details around how anything is built.

After initial frustration on both our parts, we had to find a way to work together, to communicate around his project.

Wake Up Call: Clients Are Not The Problem

So the problem wasn’t really that my clients “had no attention to detail”, the problem was that I, as service provider, was communicating with them on the wrong level.

I should have been learning more about THEIR business goals, the value proposition THEIR products and services represent to THEIR customers.

Of course, I always discuss strategic goals of a project ahead of time, but I found that often this conversation is short and to the point. I felt needed a more structured way.

So that’s what I set out to focus on last year, applying our Lean Startup experiences from running and supporting various start-ups.

The discovery for me was that typical “Lean Start Up” methods like Lean Canvas, Business Model Canvas, and most recently Value Proposition Design operates at a higher strategic business level than the User Experience (UX) design processes I was already familiar with.

Particularly the Value Proposition Design process provides clarity around the true Value Proposition of a business, product or service. It is intended to rapidly iterate through product ideas, generate prototypes and MVPs, and to craft formalized investor pitches that can stand “Shark Tank” like scrutiny.

And, as it turns out, this approach is a fantastic starting point for most aspects of implementing a holistic digital strategy.

A “Design Thinking Methodology”

My initial goal was a selfish one, to better connect detail-oriented aspects of projects to a client’s 10,000 feet level thinking.

But what came a surprise for me was that clients themselves often have no clear value proposition driven content before undertaking a design or marketing projects.

This can be especially true for smaller businesses, solopreneurs, and start-ups.

Value Proposition Design Fit with Digital Strategy

Do not overlook Value Proposition Design in your overall Digital Strategy

How can clients discuss strategic aspects of a website re-design or a marketing effort without clear “language” to communicate around their business goals, around who the intended customers are, around the value propositions behind products and services involved?

VPD establishes a design thinking methodology that works particularly well for web design, re-design, SEO, marketing and content strategy projects.

How The Value Proposition Design Workshop Process Helps

As we hold VPD workshops, clients not only love it as a process, but see the many ways in which the deliverables and outcomes are inter-connected with their marketing efforts. This is why we like to start most projects with a “Value Proposition Design” workshop, a win win approach for both our clients and ourselves.

Benefits for clients

  • clarifies who their customers and customer segments really are
  • clarifies how their products and services help their customers “get jobs done”
  • informs web design, SEO, information architecture, content strategy
  • informs marketing efforts and other social media strategy
  • informs analytics and how to measure results
  • elevator pitches for your business (on steroids)

Benefits for service providers

  • a common reference that links between detail and 10,000 foot thinking
  • is critical input for UX efforts such as persona development or customer journey mapping
  • meets clients where they are and supports big picture thinking
  • establishes a more strategic relationship

As a result our clients have started to consider us as more than just a vendor, and as more of a thinking partner involved in multiple aspects of their business. And when the time comes to choose a vendor to provide the actual project execution, we are a more obvious choice.

In the next post of this series, I will talk about the details of where VPD came from, how VPD workshops functions, and how it can achieve results and be systematically applied in our web design, SEO, and marketing projects.

Value Proposition Design Resources

In the meantime I can leave you with a resource to find out more on your own:

Value Proposition Design Book

About Alexander Osterwalder, Author of “Value Proposition Design”

The authors of “Value Proposition Design” are obsessed with bringing practical tools and processes to the fields of strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship. They all share a common passion for making business concepts simple, beautiful, and applicable so that they become useful and indispensable in the lives of business professionals and organizations.

Last Updated on April 1, 2021