Peter Drucker taught, “It is the prospect of providing a customer with value that gives the corporation purpose, and it is the satisfaction of the customer’s requirements that gives it results.”
To create real results and drive impact, therefore, a focus on customer value must permeate throughout an organization. In fact, to be successful, it must be part of the very fabric of its culture.
Despite knowing this, many companies find themselves focused on their own attributes – of the product or service they’re offering. But a company’s value proposition is ultimately determined by customer perception – what problem does the company solve for?
Customers want to know the benefits of utilizing a company’s products or services and how a company is going to solve their problem(s). They don’t, on the other hand, want a laundry list of features. Features, Benefits, and Value Proposition – What Are the Differences and Why Do They Matter?
Customer value is the rudder of a company – it influences direction and priorities. Or, it should anyway.
The differences in a company’s features, benefits, and value proposition go far beyond marketing and creative messaging. Done correctly, they actively contribute directly to defining who a company is, what problems they solve, and who they solve them for.
Here are the differences:
Features: A quality, attribute, or fact about your product, service, or company.
Benefits: How features help consumers and prospective consumers.
Value proposition: A brand promise of value to be delivered, a shared belief of both company and consumer about the value to be delivered.
Here’s why it matters: When it comes to value, companies constantly get caught up in the features of their products or services. Conversely, they sometimes wrongfully assume they’ve sufficiently shared what value they’ll deliver and focus heavily on their benefits. Placing the incorrect amount of focus in any one area can be costly, and even suicidal for the company. When left to interpretation, features, benefits, and value can differ widely person-to-person. Control the narrative by defining these key differentiators.Outside-In vs. Inside-Out: Which Are You?
- Value is the focus of “Outside-In” companies, or those that are focused on solving customer problems.
- “Superior customer value” is the true north of an outside-in strategy.
- In their book Strategy from the Outside In, George Day and Christine Moorman describe it like this: “It is a centering concept that keeps the whole organization focused on what matters.”
- Being features focused, on the other hand, is a quality of an “Inside-Out” company, where things tend to be a little more self-centered.
- The consumer, in these instances, are an afterthought to the features of a product or a service being offered.
To give an example, many science and technology companies tend to be more Inside-Out focused organizationally. Scientists and technologists apply their ingenuity to create an innovative approach, or to develop a new and exciting piece of technology. Their advancements can be truly awe-inspiring, some even extend beyond present-day applications and need a fair amount of narrative and explanation to fully comprehend. Tremendous amounts of thought, time, and money are invested to bring ideas to life, and after these marvels are conceived, the tendency is to showcase the intricacies of these new products and solutions – and to focus on their features. Innovators and even early adopters are excited to apply the newest piece of technology or to try a different solution, but as they gear up for full market launch they realize their development and project reasoning have been features-focused. Did they listen to and understand the consumer problem? Do they know how their product directly addresses that problem? And, do they know how their solution to the problem is unique, and how it differentiates them from competitors? How have they answered the “so what” question? Oftentimes, the answer to the “so what” question in these scenarios is muddied and not clearly defined for the intended audience. If you’ve ever heard of products failing to launch or companies tanking after overly investing in one features-focused solution or product, value, and a lack of attention to it, is usually a root cause.
By contrast, Outside-In companies start with the market to design their strategy and approach. They use deep insights to inform decision-making and every part of the organization is focused on “achieving, sustaining, and profiting from customer value.” (Day and Moorman) They beta test and design programs to solicit consumer opinions, and they’re constantly refining their technical and operational approaches as well as messaging based on that feedback. When they’re ready to go to market, they can clearly articulate value to the consumer by clearly telling them what’s in it for them.
Are you an “Outside-In” or “Inside-Out” organization? Are you seeing past your own reflection, or are you only interested in looking in the mirror?
I help organizations – of all sizes and industries – determine the gap between market perception and delivered value, and provide tools to close the gap. Book a meeting with me to learn more.