Do you speak your clients’ language?
A common challenge that quite a few of the companies I work with have is the following: they have a very lean, cost-efficient solution to solve clients’ problems but struggle to communicate it efficiently. They do not speak their clients’ language.
This might have several reasons: perhaps it’s a technical problem that clients don’t understand, or perhaps they don’t perceive the issue as a problem because ‘we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘that’s the way things are’. In any case, the client might keep on working with a less than optimal solution and the supplier fails to make a sale.
One effective solution
The traditional marketing literature proposes one clear model for tackling this challenge: segmenting your market, targeting one or more of those segments and positioning your brands and products.
This is a very effective model and it certainly worked within the FMCG and Education companies I worked with. The big drawback I saw was that it took a long time to go through each part of the model. Typically a year would pass from the moment you decided to start the project until you had a robust answer to your questions. Smaller companies, start-ups and charities don’t typically have the resources to go through this cycle.
A novel approach
I was in the search of a nimbler way of getting under the skin of my clients’ clients. And about 6 months ago, I came across with the Value Proposition Design model from the company Strategyzer. I was familiar with their Business Canvas (which deserves its own blog post), and the Value Proposition Design goes deeper on the central bit of the Canvas, the Value Proposition, i.e. what your product or service does for your client.
Although it’s original scope is wider than ‘just’ communicating your value proposition, I have used it very effectively for that purpose. The things I like about it are the following:
- It introduces the Value Proposition Canvas, which is highly visual and lends itself to be used during workshops
- It avoids using marketing slang. All of the terms are very understandable for people outside of the industry
- It really focuses on the most important part of the equation: your client! By defining their jobs, pains and gains, you can really get under their skin and start talking their language.
Let’s unravel this last bullet point:
- Jobs: are the things your clients are trying to get done (at work or in their life)
- Pains are anything that annoys your clients when they’re trying to do their jobs (or before or after). They might event prevent them from doing the job in the first place
- Gains are outcomes and benefits your client wants
While jobs are usually quite ‘functional’, both pains and gains can also be very ’emotional’. So effectively, this is a great way of taking our client’s perspective and leave behind the industry jargon that might have been obfuscating our message.
So, next time you struggle communicating the benefits of your product or service, I would definitely recommend using a visual tool to aid your thinking. A bit of empathy and ‘perspective taking’ goes a long way to get speaking your clients’ language. I will expand the article and share my experience more in future posts. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me for any questions you might have!