In life, everyone wants to stand for something. In the business world, a company’s “value proposition” helps to define its very existence, what benefits it provides to its customers, how it solves problems, and why it’s distinctly better than its competitors. Loosely defined as a “promise of value to be delivered,” a corporate value proposition gives customers a reason to buy – and to keep coming back for more.
Retired U.S. Army Major Generals, Robert W. Mixon, Jr., and John Batiste have long histories of being able to effectively explain how they solve customers’ problems, improve situations, deliver specific benefits, and pinpoint why “ideal” customers should buy from them versus the competition. Both men served their country for over three decades in various military leadership roles before joining forces to co-found change management firm Level Five Associates. Together, they help organizations develop strong leaders and unique cultures using their own trademarked “Big 6” Leadership Principles.
I interviewed Robert and John for my new Innovate for the Future video series, which encompasses five different episodes focused on building strong bench strength, developing effective corporate cultures, re-imagining business models, and making other bold moves for 2016. In the third episode, Robert, John and myself talked about value propositions, how to create world-class experiences for customers, and the pressing need to break down the silos that exist within many organizations.
In many cases, simply knowing what you stand for can help set the stage for a successful value proposition. Trapped in a world of sameness, many distributors never review, update, or enhance their value propositions and wind up rendering themselves obsolete in the process. In military terms, Robert and John said the U.S. Army has struggled with the ongoing need to attract and recruit the country’s best and brightest young men and women.
“The real value proposition of the military is the opportunity to grow personally and professionally in an environment where there is both great tradition and respect,” Robert explained. “When you can serve in an organization where tradition and respect are ingrained as part of your culture of excellence, you’re serving and working for something beyond yourself. That’s appealing to many.”
John concurred, and said “at the end of the day, that’s what motivates teams to move forward and accomplish extraordinary things.” That same level of passion transcends into the business world, where navigating marketplace dynamics and overcoming daily challenges as a team help companies establish solid footing on the food chain.
As we stress in the The Innovative Distributor™, if a distributorship is going to break the sameness trap, it has to stand for something. On the customer service front, for example, companies have to create a world class experience every time out or risk watching their valued clients switch to another supplier. As we discussed in Episode 2 of this Innovate for the Future series, corporate culture plays a critical role in achieving this goal. “When all leaders and team members are aligned and sharing the same values,” said John, “and when there are no silos, stovepipes, or cross-talk, the cohesion and teamwork extends across the entire organization (and into the customer service component).”
Because companies are in business to make sales, serve their customers, and cultivate great teams, whether or not they can create a world class experience impacts every department, function, and individual within those companies. “The operations or purchasing departments can’t work in isolation or in silos,” said John. “They all contribute to each other’s success.”
Breaking down existing silos requires a strategic planning process led by the firm’s CEO (i.e., chief culture officer). Once that happens – and once the firm’s value proposition is defined and embraced – companies can understand what they stand for and what truly makes them unique in the competitive marketplace.
This point is particularly relevant in distribution, where serving something beyond yourself – and creating strong value propositions – requires some elbow grease. With the next competitor literally just one click away online – or one phone call away in the brick-and-mortar world – companies must focus on delivering a meaningful and memorable experience for every customer.
“Achieving these benchmarks isn’t always easy, and they’re deeply rooted in the culture that you build from within,” John said. “In the end, you really can’t provide great customer service or be a wonderful partner in the supply chain unless your own team is grounded in the fundamentals.”
To cut the gravitational pull of the status quo and dominate the marketplace, companies need to make the commitment to being different and standing for something. There’s no time like the present to start down this path and start creating excellent experiences for everyone your company touches.