June 25, 2008

Core Strategy and the Value Proposition

By J Sherer

Four generic business strategies exist in the modern business environment:
  1. A complete customer solutions strategy encompasses providing many different products and/or services in tandem in order to meet multiple customer needs all in one place (e.g. Starbucks, IBM, Micrsosoft).
  2. Following a product innovation strategy means that an organization will constantly release the newest and/or best products in its selected category (e.g. Apple, Google, etc.).
  3. Being the low cost leader involves providing products to a mass market at a very low cost to the consumer (e.g. Wal-Mart, Jiffy-Lube, Amazon).
  4. Taking on a lock-in strategy means tying consumers into your service offering and keeping them there (e.g. L.A. Fitness, etc.).
These strategies can be combined, but are frequently used in singular (organizations can’t be all things to all people). Great. So…what does this have to do with writing?

Organizations have learned to define themselves through their core strategy because doing so allows them to clearly articulate their value proposition. What’s a value proposition? Simply stated, it’s what a company will provide consumers that will add value to their lives. Every company needs to ask itself that question. Why would consumers pay us money for this product?

Now, writers, take a step back. Ask yourself this: why would anyone want to read my work?

Let’s take one of the businesses listed above to explore possible answers. Starbucks. What does Starbucks provide its customers so that they’ll pay an absurd amount of money for coffee? The answer? Their value proposition:
  • Excellent coffee.
  • Friendly baristas (that remember your name and drink of choice).
  • Casual, relaxing, and inviting atmosphere.
  • Complimentary products (muffins, music, etc.).
We know how Starbucks gets people to pay for coffee, but do you know why people should read what you write? Think about it. You’re going to spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. What is it that you’re going to provide that will add value to the reader’s experience, and what core strategy are you going to utilize in order to get there?

Let’s explore that together.


Sherer said...

Excellent stuff J. It seems however you communicate whether it be with words, actions, or WRITING. THe message needs to be strong and consistant.

Clara Anthony said...

Good analogy. It is an obvious question be it for a business man or a Writer to develop a value proposition that ties the customer to the product to make him pay for it. Yet, it is the absence of the evaluation of this strategy that results in a flop product or unread peice of work. If it is the audience who make the play, novel or cinema popular then the need to think the value proposition from the audience angle is a survival issue and has to be measured a 100 times before a final cut is made.

Also, unlike outsourcing strategy, where firms like Cleave Global have reduced the burden for the corporates, a writer is alone in his creativity and can only hope for muse to strike which would echo the readers thoughts and tie them to the story in the book.

J Sherer said...

Sherer, a strong and consistent message is very important. One thing the business/writer cannot do is be all things to all people. It's just not possible.

Clara, excellent points (and you're beating me to some of my future points! I love it!). A writer must know her audience. At the same time, the writer is definitely alone in her ability to deliver on her value proposition.

Some writers are able to collaborate with others or even have ghost writers write for them (Maya, a fellow writer on this blog, has ghost written for famous authors). But, in order to "outsource" creativity like that, the writer must have a clear style and brand image.

In other words, she must have a core strategy and a value proposition that is identifiable and can be articulated and replicated by another author.

I love the thoughts, Clara! Thank you for writing!

Anonymous said...

Wait, I don't get it. So you're saying authors should package muffins with their books? I can see where that might work if the customer was ordering online, but what about bookstores? I don't seriously think we can expect them to keep replacing the muffins as they go bad, and if they don't, it would most likely be a turn-off to potential customers.

Aside from that oversight, though, this is really interesting stuff. Keep it up!