Is There Value in Your Value Proposition?10 years ago
Some PR agencies get bogged down in value propositions for their own businesses that have little relevance to client needs. Ann Whyte pinpoints where many go wrong.
I spent the last 11 years as head of corporate communications for a technology start-up. During my time on the buy side of PR services I met with, interviewed and, hired a handful of PR agencies to help create presence in the market space for the company or its products.
Just recently I went freelance and found myself on the other side of the desk selling PR services. This got me reflecting on why in a competitive pitch situation, all other things being equal, one agency wins the account while another or others are rejected. What do winning agencies offer that is of more value to the customer than similar offers presented by their competitors?
Most agencies have a value proposition. It is usually written up as a statement and posted on the web, or printed in the company brochure and on introductory slideware. It is often cited in presentations to prospective clients perhaps along with the company mission statement and if they exist, the company values. The introductory spiel that includes the "who we are" and "what we do" at the start of a pitch to prospective clients usually includes the value proposition with the intention being to add differentiation, to show how an agency is different and better than other PR agencies in the marketplace.
However, having listened to many company introductions I have to ask myself the question: Where is the value for the client in a statement or claim that you make about yourself? Is there really any value in making a statement that claims to differentiate your services from others when the differentiation is usually no more than a claim to be bigger, better, cheaper, or wiser than the competition?
As a statement, the value proposition is nice to have, but adds little value to your pitch unless you can demonstrate that your company and the service you offer is worthy of the client’s time and money. The best agencies know how to demonstrate why hiring them is good for the client, they demonstrate how they will add value and how they will address the client’s needs. The others get bogged down in showing why hiring them would be good for them, the agency.
Once the company presentation is out of the way, many agencies make the mistake of launching straight into an explanation of the mechanics of the service they will provide. They run through an inventory of tactics to demonstrate how they will work on behalf of the client.
While it is important to explain what you plan to do and how you plan to do it, from a client perspective it is arguably the most boring part of any pitch unless you have explained how it is related to the client’s goals. It is also where you risk commoditizing your agency and its service.
Even the most naive client is most likely familiar with some PR tactics, from the newer Web 2.0 tactics of podcasts, blogs, wikis, RSS, user generated content, social sites and much more to the traditional PR tactics of press releases, media and analyst relations, conferences and trade show management, hosted and custom events, product or company launches, speaker bureau and awards, message development and so on.
When the pitch over-focuses on the tactics rather than on demonstrating the expected value your service will achieve for the client you will sound exactly the same as the competitors and you are offering the prospective client a reason to walk away from the conversation and choose another provider or to bargain on the cost of the service. In today’s challenging economic climate where budget cuts are leading to the commoditizing of most services, including PR, it is important to remember that the key to winning in the buying process is how you pitch your value proposition to the client. Focus on answering the question: What does the client want and what does your agency provide that is of more value in helping your client achieve that goal than anything the competitors have to offer them?
Ultimately clients buy PR services to create presence, to be heard. Each campaign is different. It is your business to get to know the prospective client’s needs and goals. Ask. Listen. Research. Validate.
If you don’t know what the client expects as an outcome you will not resonate during the pitch, you will end up talking about you and not about them. Tailor your value proposition to address the client’s needs and demonstrate why you are the best option. Remember, the value in your value proposition is about how demonstrate that what you do will address the client’s real needs. The value proposition is not just about you.
Is founder of Nventif, a results-driven public relations and content production agency. Former Director of Corporate Communication for semiconductor company start-up, DS2, now part of Marvell Technology Group Ltdmail the author
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