What’s so important?
What’s so important about a value proposition? Simply that it’s the unique promise or value you provide to your clients and prospects. Here are some characteristics of a well-formulated value proposition:
At the Institute of Data and Marketing we were taught that a value proposition is, “the single-minded expression of an emotional or physical benefit”.
I don’t know where the quote comes from, but it captures one important element which is the emotional connection that a good value proposition should have, but there are others.
Your value-proposition is based on your understanding of your target clients. Knowing them as you do, what are you offering them?
How does your offer create gains for them?
How does you offer relieve their pain?
Work out what is essential in your offer, rather than what is just nice to have, based on your understanding of your clients’ needs and wants. Now go back to your competitor analysis and see what they are doing and what you can do differently. This is your value to the market.
You need one value proposition for each of your target groups, but they should be linked closely together because they are all based, one way or another, on your offer.
Online and offline
Dr Dave Chaffey, CEO of Smart Insights reminds us that we operate in both a physical and a digital world, and the digital world offers some advantages over the physical – in particular it gives us access to a much wider population, whether it’s suppliers or clients than is easily possible in the physical world. It also allows you to go to places that are not possible in the physical world, such as close up to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or to a tea garden in Kyoto.
Dr Chaffey writes, “ideally the online value proposition should exploit some of the unique advantages of being online which include immediacy, interactivity and depth of content, faster, more convenient, easier as well as cheaper to buy online, better experience online, new experiences online, more resources or information online…”
A great tool to help you
The value proposition canvas is a marketing classic, developed by business consultants, Strategyzer. It’s actually a simple way to get you to ask the right questions and to visualise the final proposition. One of its key strengths is that it gives us a way for a group of people, rather than an individual, to work on the value proposition or to review it.
It is vitally important that the value proposition is not the work of one person, and then imposed on the organisation, but is co-created by a group of stakeholders firstly to focus it sharply, and secondly to foster adoption across the organisation.
How we built our value proposition
We think the best way to explain a concept is to show you, and so we’d like to tell you exactly what we did with our own value proposition and hopefully you’ll find it helpful.
First: we researched and identified our target market
Our primary target market is the FinTech sector challenging the incumbent financial players with disruptive peer to peer technologies or supporting it through RegTech, InsurTech and other financial technology companies.
Although blockchain was taking the headlines at the point where we were analysing this, we identified 4 main areas of focus (and investment):
- Robotics and process automation (such as the rise of robo advisers for wealth management)
- Biometrics and identity management
Cyber security and GDPR compliance are specific areas of focus which may sometimes involve the use of FinTech technologies and has certainly given rise to new tech start-ups which we would consider to be part of our market if they operate within the financial services industry.
We also know that brand-new start-ups are not our target market. The kind of product we offer requires a commitment to ongoing marketing activity, and it requires both budget and data to be successful. Our target market are usually firms that are further into their journey than brand new start-ups.
Qualifying in (and out) best fit prospects
We are very niche and focused in our target market, arguably we may be too tight, but we are confident that we can add value in our target market space, because of our previous experiences and expertise.
To help you determine what is the best fit prospect type for your business, we have created a B2B prospect fit evaluation workbook. It’s essential to apply these principles when you are nurturing leads at the decision stage of the buyer journey, (see our latest blog on this) but you can equally well use it to help define your target market before you even start promoting your products and services.
Download your B2B Prospect Fit Identification worksheet, here.
Bad fit prospects are not bad companies. They are just not a great fit with your own organisation. But they can become bad customers, creating stress for your organisation, damaging your reputation, and perhaps hurting their business too.
Using this checklist, you can qualify them out of your funnel and protect your business from customers that are not a good fit.
Research your market
It’s very important to have a firm grasp on the situation in which your target market operates. Clearly, the FinTech market represents a paradigm shift from the pre 2008 (Lehman et al) position, where challenger banks, peer-to-peer platforms and crypto-currency offerings proliferate.
Our research revealed a number of things:
Challenge vs collaborate
Initially FinTechs grew out of the global financial crisis of 2008, and so they had the aim of disrupting the banking and financial services industry. As time has passed many of these companies now see their best chance is to work with the incumbents for reasons of regulation, investment and other support.
Banks have also embraced the so-called FinTech revolution by building accelerators or by investing directly in these new companies. It allows them to control the threat and modulate the approach of the disruptors. The FinTech companies get investment and other support they need to deliver their technology (which the bank will own at least in part).
Application: This is important for us because it means we can’t look at the FinTech target market as a stand-alone proposition. Incumbents are there too.
There are delivery and culture problems
Although they are no longer inimical to the very idea of each other, our research revealed there is an issue of culture which can cause significant strain – especially that of the nimble start-up versus the monolithic and bureaucratic enterprise, and delays to delivering products that the bank considers fit for purpose.
Developing technology is capital intensive, and the cultural problems and longer than expected lead times haven’t helped. The ROI that both parties have hoped for is taking longer to generate. In 2017 when we did this analysis, only 20% of financial services companies expected ROI on their investments in FinTech products.
We then felt that there was (and is) a growing pressure to deliver not only a product, but a profit, which if not met may mean banks will be reluctant to take on new FinTech companies as ‘too difficult’.
Application: This helped us to see that despite the fact that FinTech firms had secured funding and a safe haven in the banks, the need to build a solid pipeline of clients was still a priority. Those that have gone with other investors are even more under pressure as those investors look for lucrative exits.
Looking at this through an industry lens, we felt a failure to address this problem could lead to another shift in the entire FinTech industry as bank find the investment ‘too difficult’ whilst at the same time acquiring the skills and staff to innovate on their own.
We were also becomingly increasingly aware of the issues posed by regulation. When we started our analysis, many FinTech forms were operating in ways that meant they had no direct regulatory oversight, but we sensed it was only a matter of time before the regulators started to scrutinise FinTech activity, and so it proved.
The argument we made a few years ago when I was CMO at Euroclear, was that technology is not regulated in the financial markets (it may be different in medicine or defence!) but activities are. One activity that has caught the eye of the regulators is the issue of tokens and coins (ICOs, ITOs) to raise funds.
Those FinTechs that do this argue compellingly that it broadens and democratises the market, allowing the ordinary person to have a stake in building a new business, which in the old world would be accessible mainly to institutional investors and their high net worth clients. The regulators argue compellingly that there needs to be some protection for investors and have begun to characterise certain types of tokens and coins as securities that fall under security issuance regulations.
Application: The regulatory agenda is one we will have to watch constantly as it may have a very significant impact on the FinTech market. Banks, not FinTechs, are the masters of working within a regulated industry.
What is our target market trying to achieve?
This is a vital piece of analysis that stops your research simply being a map of your target market landscape at a single point in time. (Although it should be a living document, it will actually reflect the situation at any given time.)
Given what we had uncovered about the pressure FinTechs are under to speed up the delivery of a solid ROI, we were able to create a priority list for what we understood they needed to do to meet the goal of fast ROI.
Our list of top ten FinTech priorities looked like this:
FinTechs need to:
Establish their business case
Develop their product or service
Build awareness *
Develop interest *
Generate (more) leads *
Improve quality of leads and conversion to sales ratio *
Understand and comply with the regulatory implications
Eventually, manage (delight) existing clients *
Application: The points with an asterisk are those where our own products and services could help. In other words, we were beginning to see the fit between our own company and our target market, and also the other priorities that FinTech companies have which might take the focus away from our offering.
Is the FinTech ROI uplift a problem that should be solved?
Everyone who has been involved in any commercial venture knows that inertia is often the biggest hurdle to making a deal. If the cost and hassle of taking on a new service is not matched by the pain and pressure of the problem, people won’t bite – especially if there is a perceived risk or accountability in the purchase.
One statistic we have quoted before is from the CB Insights study, “Top 20 reasons why start-ups fail”, and the number one reason is because they build a product nobody wants. It may be better to say, ‘nobody wants the product enough to overcome the inertia factor’.
We too could be in that position, so we took a great deal of care to answer this in the best way we could, with the knowledge we had after our research.
We looked at this in several different ways:
Could the problem lead to a significant failure in the FinTech industry?
What did it mean for banks?
At the point where we did the research, the banks were very worried about losing revenue to the innovation community. Key sectors were payments, fund transfers and personal finance.
In a 2017 FinTech survey by PwC more 88% of incumbents believed that their business is at risk from disruptors. That means the imperative for the banks to control the innovation agenda is very high.
82% of incumbents expected to partner with FinTech in 2017 and 77% were increasing internal efforts to innovate.
For the banks then, cracking the FinTech problem was a high priority. Whilst no one thought the banks would be displaced, failure to manage the innovation threat or embrace the opportunity would have created a loss of revenue and increased costs.
What did it mean for FinTechs?
At the point of our research in 2017 it was clear that banks feared them, were willing to work with them, but also looking at going it alone if they had to. We felt there was an opportunity for FinTechs to deliver for the banks, and if they didn’t the banks would discard them.
Undoubtedly the two biggest challenges for FinTechs were attracting investment and managing regulation. To both, the banks provided a solution, but we felt that this would be to a limited number of companies. Many FinTech companies would have to work outside the banking environment; delivering their products quickly and generating a return on investment as soon as possible. For these firms, failure to do so is an existential threat.
Application: Although we could not help in the regulation and investment areas which were priorities for this emerging breed of new companies, we could help in the delivering of ROI. Those in the banking circle would have pressure, but also access to the banks’ own marketing resources. Those outside, would need firms like us.
Is there any industry support to address these issues?
- There is global support (from social and regulatory organisations) for a challenge to the banking industry and FinTech is an effective way of challenging the incumbents.
- ROI is slow, but the economy is picking up which increases the opportunities
- Failure to develop ROI means that the status quo will not be challenged and the FinTech organisations themselves will fail.
- Increased competition (bubble) makes it imperative for FinTech organisations to take business development seriously.
Regulators will at some point want to regulate, not the products, but the way the products are used, and FinTech companies will have to take on board the regulatory aspects of their market.
Fixing these problems is important if a large number of FinTechs are to survive.
Is the problem something that needs to be addressed now or later...or maybe sometime?
Clearly the answer is 'now' for those FinTech companies under pressure to pay back investors and generate a revenue stream. Those under the auspices of large banks and financial firms may have a little more time.
What is the competition like?
Looking at the competition is really important; another reason for companies to fail is that they enter a market where competition is simply too fierce for them to penetrate and make a difference, even if their products are better and cheaper: if they can’t be heard over the tumult in the marketplace, they have little chance.
There are solution providers in the space – this is a competitive field, but with extensive financial industry, FinTech and tech start-up experience coupled with trained marketing skills, we have many advantages.
The problem is obvious (to the industry) and is closer to critical than aspirational. At some levels it represents a real threat to many of the FinTech companies as well as to the goal of challenging the incumbent banking sector to raise its game.
Application: The bottom line is that resolving the problem is not optional (aspirational) nor is it unacknowledged (latent) which would be a much harder sell.
Although we are taking a linear route through one generic FinTech Marketing Agency value proposition, ideally you would need one value proposition for each of your target segments. To do that here would turn this long article into War and Peace, but I have included below the template we used to segment the FinTech market.
How granular should you go?
There are two key points to remember when you are segmenting your market.
- The first is that segments should have common characteristics, so you should be able to say what shared characteristics, (needs, demographics etc) are present in your segment.
- The second is that different segments should have different marketing needs – or why bother to segment. In the end we did not use every box on the spreadsheet to segment our target market but having a sheet like this helped us to easily visualise what the segment possibilities looked like.
The answer to, “How granular should I go?” is only to the point where you have groups with enough shared internal qualities to share the same marketing needs, which are different needs to the other groups you can see in your target market.
So, we have looked at our target market, and we now need to look at ourselves and what we can offer as honestly and objectively as we can.
There are many guides as to how to do this; we used a little book called God is my CEO which offers a particular Christian perspective, which is very relevant to our own faith values, and you may want to use the same or have other resources that you prefer.
In the end, we looked at our values, our skills, our experience, our passion, and asked the question, “If money was no object, what would I do?”
Alongside the B2B Prospect Fit Worksheet, we published another workbook, which is faith neutral for those that are worried 😊 which is called the positioning Statement Workbook.
Download your Positioning Statement Workbook, here.
This booklet will guide you with a series of questions to help you answer difficult questions like why you are in business and get clarity around who you are serving.
It encourages you to look closely at your strengths and weaknesses, and it asks you to examine your principles and values.
Ultimately, you are helped to write a positioning statement which distinguishes you from your competitors. All this is invaluable in crafting your value proposition.
What we came up with for Flagship Marketing
We specialise in building business for FinTech firms which have the following characteristics:
- Attached to bank
- Not attached to bank
- Anglophone or Francophone
Psychographic – who are worried about
- Lack of ROI
- Job security
- Challenging the banks (social)
- Getting their product to market
- And the regulatory aspects of their industry
Our product / service is helping FinTechs
Note that we didn’t talk about our product in terms of ‘how’ but in terms of outcomes. We are not copywriters or media buyers, because that doesn’t meet the needs of our target market. Instead we said our goal is to help FinTech firms:
- Become well-known (discoverability) in the noisy marketplace) and helping their targets to understand why they are a good answer to their problems
- Understand their target market and how to sell into it profitably
- Attract high quality leads
- Convert leads to sales
- Retain and increase engagement with customer base (delighting for retention and advocacy and referrals)
We are specialists who understand three things especially well.
- Global financial services market
- Tech start-ups
- Content marketing, digital marketing / business development
That provides the ability to
- Position FinTech products successfully in a competitive landscape
- Effectively address FinTech target markets – with issues that are relevant to them, at the point where they consume information, as trusted people known in the industry
- Position the FinTech organisation as credible and relevant and create awareness around it
- Generate a pipeline of highly qualified (i.e. high quality) business leads
- Lead prospects through a funnel from awareness to commitment
- Build engagement with existing customers to help retention and advocacy to support new sales, and, if appropriate cross or upsell products to boost ROI
Unlike general marketing agencies
We have skills and experience in a particular domain which means that we are not ‘going to school’ on our customer’s time, we know their industry because for years it has been our industry too.
And we offer something on top of that which is, because we are an agency, we see far more FinTech companies than any of our customers do, and we can offer them a deep and broad perspective on the industry which they would find difficult from their singular point of view.
Our Value Proposition
So we come to our value proposition. There’s one more thing to say about it; A value proposition should be compelling to those we want to attract and repelling to those we can’t serve. In other words, it needs to help qualify prospects.
That requires a radical focus on relevance all the time. It should work at a macro level for sites etc, and at a micro level of individual customers. The end game is to talk about our value, not just in a polite way, but that compels people to act.
Here’s where we have got to today. It’s not finished – it never will be - but it’s a start that shows the value we bring, the uniqueness of our offer, for a specific group of clients (although we can be more granular) and importantly, why we are doing it.
- We believe the socially-motivated, fresh-thinking FinTech movement has the potential to make the financial industry better for everyone
- Flagship Marketing is a specialist digital and content marketing agency focused on building profitable ROI over time for FinTech scale-ups which are committed to overcoming the potentially existential risks of bringing a new product to market
- We do this through more than 30 years of study and practice in financial services, digital and content marketing and through the insights of managing our own start-up firms from the 1980s till today.
Thanks for reading – hope it’s helpful! (Let me know in the comments)