Victoria Tifft Featured

7:01pm EDT February 28, 2011
Victoria Tifft Victoria Tifft

Call it an elevator speech or a value proposition, but when it comes to communicating messages about your company, a solid 10- to 12-word statement that conveys who you are, what you do and what makes you different is imperative. If you’ve ever needed to apply for financing or venture capital funds, then you’ve been down this road. Creating the right value proposition for your firm takes a bit of thought and often a change of perspective.

Creating the right value proposition forces you to think about what your customers perceive as value. Ask yourself, ‘If you were in your customers’ shoes and they didn’t have your product or one similar — what would happen? Would they lose customers, would they be late for a regulatory finding? Would their car rust faster?’ Next ask yourself, ‘If they bought a competitor’s product instead of yours, what would they be missing? Would they have pretty graphs, but miss detailed information that could pinpoint a potential problem? Would they spend twice the money and delete their weekly pocket cash? Would they get their project started later and encounter administrative hassles that would slow their ability to deliver a critical project?’

Then go a step further. How does it affect the bottom line? Does the subsequent car rust decrease the car’s useful life and make them need to buy another car sooner; does the late project delay the release of a product, or even worse, let a competitor grab the initial market share? If they missed the critical information, could it cause a recall or even brand damage? Begin to think of your product in terms of how it affects the person you are selling to, and then how it affects their company. In very complex sales with multiple buyers, these questions also extend to the political affect on a player and often the impact on their compensation or status in the organization. However, to get a value proposition right, start by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and asking the basic questions we’ve gone through.

My firm is currently re-evaluating our value proposition to ensure that we are in alignment with what our customers perceive to be valuable. We’ve done our homework, met with several customers and feel that we understand their perception of our value. We entered into a two-stage process. In the first stage, we developed a broader proposition statement that captured who we are, what we do and what makes us different. This statement was: “Clinical Research Management Inc. helps government and commercial customers accelerate research and product development timelines for basic and applied research, through late-stage clinical markets for drugs, biologics and devices. Our customers repeatedly come to us for our extraordinary customer service and ability to craft successful, innovative and knowledgeable solutions for their needs.”

Next, we refined the broader statement and chose 12 words that clearly stated our value proposition. In the end, that gave us the following: “Our innovative and knowledgeable solutions accelerate customers’ research and product development timelines.”

As a corporate leader, once value propositions are truly identified as the path to a customer, you need to ensure that your infrastructure, services/products and capital expenditures align with delivering innovation and knowledgeable solutions for our customers. Requests for expenditures outside of these parameters are potential loss leaders because they won’t align with your customers’ interests.

The most successful businesses are born of ideas that fill an unmet need. Value propositions are the mechanism to institutionalize that concept as you grow. So listen to your customers, get your team together and craft a value proposition statement that identifies who you are, what you do and what makes you different from everyone else.

Victoria Tifft is founder and CEO of Clinical Research Management, a full-service contract research organization that offers early- to late-stage clinical research services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Reach her at vtifft@clinicalrm.com.