Customer Value Propositions in Business Markets
Customer value proposition” has become one of the most widely used terms in business markets in recent years. Yet our management-practice research reveals that there is no agreement as to what constitutes a customer value proposition—or what makes one persuasive. Moreover, we find that most value propositions make claims of savings and benefits to the customer without backing them up. An offering may actually provide superior value—but if the supplier doesn’t demonstrate and document that claim, a customer manager will likely dismiss it as marketing puffery. Customer managers, increasingly held accountable for reducing costs, don’t have the luxury of simply believing suppliers’ assertions. Customer managers, increasingly held accountable for reducing costs, don’t have the luxury of simply believing suppliers’ assertions. Take the case of a company that makes integrated circuits (ICs). It hoped to supply 5 million units to an electronic device manufacturer for its next-generation product. In the course of negotiations, the supplier’s salesperson learned that he was competing against a company whose price was 10 cents lower per unit. The customer asked each salesperson why his company’s offering was superior. This salesperson based his value proposition on the service that he, personally, would provide. Unbeknownst to the salesperson, the customer had built a customer value model, which found that the company’s offering, though 10 cents higher in price per IC, was actually worth 15.9 cents more. The electronics engineer who was leading the development project had recommended that the purchasing manager buy those ICs, even at the higher price. The service was, indeed, worth something in the model—but just 0.2 cents! Unfortunately, the salesperson had overlooked the two elements of his company’s IC offering that were most valuable to the customer, evidently unaware how much they were worth to that customer and,...
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