Purpose, not Justification: "Benefits" are not the Only Obstacle to a Big-Picture Value Proposition.

Posted by Owen Matson, Ph.D. on March 21
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Sales and Marketing wisdom has long underscored the importance of presenting value propositions, that see beyond benefits and features.  

According to Investopedia, a value proposition is

a business or marketing statement that a company uses to summarize why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This statement convinces a potential consumer that one particular product or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings. 

On the other hand, a product feature is a "distinguishing characteristic of a an item, (such as performance specs, portability, or functionality).  A product benefit is an advantage, help or aid from something.  The distinction sounds good in theory.  In practice, these boundaries can blur.  

When explaining the big-picture of a value proposition, it can help to think about the concept of an "explanation" itself.  Not all explanations are the same.  Let me explain.

Short-term vs. Long-term Explanations

For instance, some explanations focus on immediate actions and short-term results.  For example, most of us are familiar with the parental tendency to answer their children's “why questions” with responses like “because I said so."  This version of the scenario may sound familiar: 

Child: Why do I have to do my homework?

Parent: Because I said so!

The answer “because I said so” certainly serves as an immediate, circumstantial response. However, "because I said so" does not provide the kind of big-picture, purpose-oriented explanation in a true value proposition.  

A value proposition increases if it leads to meaningful, purpose-driven answers. 

A purpose-driven answer to the question, “why do I have to do my homework” would speak to big-picture goals that extend beyond a given situation.  As an answer, “because I said so” suggests that the answer to “why” comes down to arbitrary adherence to authority in order to avoid conflict.  It is intended to shut down further discussion.  The answer provides directives regarding how to act, but does not ground that “how” in values that one would want to apply across multiple situations. A purpose-driven explanation would look more like this:

Child: Why do I have to do my homework?

Parent: Because homework teaches you how to plan and use your time.

Now, the child may not exactly like this answer much more than the "I said so" response. However, as a response to “why,” the explanation speaks to long-term values and goals: The ability to plan and use time effectively represents a skill set that has long-term value. 

Purposeful Explanations vs. Justifications

Another way to think of the difference is to consider the distinction between purposeful explanations and justifications.  A purposeful explanation provides a value-based understanding of why something happened or why we should do one thing rather than another. A justification, on the other hand, is a description about why we are right, or probably right, to adopt one theory rather than another or one proposal for action rather than another. For example, consider the following question:

“Why buy these Nike’s?"

Justification: Because they’re a good deal.

Purposeful Explanation: Because they enable me to pursue a healthier lifestyle and thus enhance my ability to live better.

Justifications often serve to defend positions against criticism rather than root a choice or policy in some bigger cause. 

Articulating and explaning the big-picture value of a product  is the heart of sales and marketing.

For more about how MarketScale can help communicate the purpose and unique value of your brand, visit our blog.  Or better, get in touch!  We love helping B2B marketers realize their goals.

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