One of the hardest things I had to do early in my marketing career was develop a compelling and unique value proposition for the group benefits plans offered by the insurance company where I worked.
In a price-sensitive, highly competitive market, we repeatedly asked ourselves how we could demonstrate and differentiate our solutions and services.
Our business strategy team agreed that when compared to our competitors’ capabilities, we offered superior customized solutions, outstanding customer service and integrated solutions.
My marketing colleagues and I decided that none of these capabilities could be used in our value proposition. Not only were these capabilities becoming buzz words, but we realised also, that since benefits plans are tailored to the specific needs of our plan sponsor clients, customization was the expected norm as was outstanding customer service. Furthermore, with clients using the services of multiple providers, it was also expected that our benefits administration systems should be interoperable and capable of being integrated with other systems.
We understood that to be meaningful, our value proposition had to speak to a critical customer need and had to be perceived as a bonus beyond the price paid for our solutions and services.
Multiple stakeholders. Multiple motivations and priorities.
Staying away from buzzwords was hard enough. What was even harder was crafting a compelling value proposition that worked for several stakeholders – the benefits plan advisor who negotiated the best plan with the insurance company on behalf of the employer/plan sponsor client, the plan sponsor’s finance and human resources leadership teams, people managers and employees.
All of these stakeholders had different motivations and priorities. Not all of them were decision-makers. Some were influencers and others were the end-users. All of them were going to be influenced by the value proposition at some point during the marketing, pre- and post-sales cycle.
Five steps to create a multi-stakeholder value proposition
Our marketing team did eventually define a compelling, overarching value proposition that worked really well for all stakeholders. Here is a five-step process, which I believe can guide the development of a value proposition for multiple stakeholders –
- Identify stakeholders and their role in the purchase process
- Define the pain points/key issue, usually related to their mandate
- Identify the solution benefits each stakeholder requires
- Determine how value is created for each stakeholder
- Identify a common theme on how value is created for all stakeholders, develop a value proposition statement that reflects the theme and stands out from the competition.
The BIG picture – finding the common theme
Identifying how value is created for each stakeholder should always lead to a value proposition that is based on an overarching theme that resonates with all stakeholders and that can be expressed from several angles. For example, “wellness” as the overarching theme can be expressed in terms of financial and physical wellness. Financial wellness resonates with the CFO and benefits advisor, and physical wellness appeals to the CHRO and employees.
Focus on what’s important – finding the tipping point for each stakeholder
To bring the value proposition to life, it is important to identify the tipping point for each stakeholder audience, and then clearly state the way value is created without diluting the overarching value proposition. For example, the CFO decision maker will almost certainly select the benefits plan that is affordable and contributes to financial success. Therefore, in the marketing pitch to the CFO, the benefits and outcomes of the “wellness” value proposition should be explained in financial terms, demonstrating how investing in employee wellness will produce a positive ROI that translates to fewer or lower claims experience and higher workforce productivity.
A final word
In addition to using the 5-step approach outlined above, it’s important to bear in mind the following tips, when determining how to bring the value proposition to life –
- Understand the current and long-term bias of the organization – e.g. cost avoidance, risk management etc.
- Have the prospective client define what success looks like
- Build momentum through communication tactics targeting the decision-makers prior to the final sales pitch
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.