Your Value Proposition Is BS

Story time. One of the first agency assignments I had was to help an organization finalize their value proposition. It began with a call from the client who said their agency had resigned the account, and they needed some help with their value proposition.

She went on to say they had gone 400 rounds and still didn’t have a final version. Laughing at the comment, I then asked, “Really, how many versions have you actually created?” She replied “Four hundred.”  

Fortunately, we were able to get them to a final version. It lasted about eight months. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, and all they received were words on a powerpoint slide that was constantly being called into question.

The truth is, value propositions are meaningless words for external audiences. They may be good for helping salespeople articulate the value of the organization’s products and services — but at the end of the day, it really comes down to delivering on that value. A more accurate term would be to call it a “value promise.”  



Humans have existed on earth for thousands of years, but only in the last hundred years have our lives dramatically changed. Our bodies haven’t had the chance to evolve to keep pace with the rapidly changing world around.

As much as our brain would like to believe that we are rational actors, the truth is, we’re not. Especially deceiving is how we think we behave in a business setting.  

Research has shown that our brains perceive brands similarly to the way we perceive human faces. Our business relationships are similar to personal relationships, and as a result, how we assess their “value” very much comes down to basic human emotion of a “gut feel.”

Dashboards, RO!s and reports seem like great ways to prove the value of a service or product — but no matter how you might try to rationalize it, they can leave customers unconvinced because they lack a personal connection. That’s just how we’re wired.

So instead of spending your time (and money) developing ways to talk and demonstrate your value, invest in how customers experience it. Think about how easy (or not) is it to use your tool or service, the responsiveness of your account managers, help desk and service department. Can customers understand their invoice or bill — and the full extent of the services for which they are being charged?

For all of the advancements in technology that has changed our lives, our brains are not that different from our caveman days. They are built for survival. Our perceptions kept us a step ahead and “gut feeling” kept us alive. Those essential human attributes guide us in business today. That’s why customers don’t buy value — they feel it.

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