5 Start-up Mistakes Leading to Misaligned Propositions

Getting a proposition wrong can be expensive and damage a product brand and yet so regularly I see great companies with great ideas and products miss the mark in their proposition.

One of the most difficult things for start-ups is building, testing, sharpening and reinforcing their proposition. All too often the entrepreneurs get the concept, design the software and launch it without spending the time on the “Marketing”. This is most often because people believe marketing is for the reserves of the big corporates or the focus of the washy people who could not do the business or science degree at university. This could not be further from the truth however. Marketing, positioning and proposition is fundamental to being able to get a going concern to really go! Why is this?

Developing the proposition is about defining the success criteria, understanding what you are selling and shaping the pitch to the right audience. It is about taking a step back and thinking about what it is you would want someone to tell you about your own product. Come to think of it, how many brands, services or products do you think you could probably define better than their own adverts do? Probably quite a few. This is the focus of proposition shaping.

There are typically 5 things that start-ups get wrong when they start to go to market (for investors and/or commercial development) which mean that people scratch their heads before they reach for their wallet, we need to rectify those 5 problems and sharpen the proposition and align it to our buyers.

The 5 typical problems I keep seeing in misaligned propositions are:

1) Thinking big and forgetting the baby steps that get you there

  • the real market opportunity is won one sale at a time are you constantly refining your sale or slapping it out there?
  • go-to-market is about aligning your achievable market to your vision, are you building credibility?

2) Spread too broad and lack focus

  • fix-all solutions are hard to buy or too good to be true, is your proposition tight?
  • tight propositions mean new services can develop in parallel, are you giving too much away in solving too much?

3) Forget that your audience don’t know your product

  • even high tech can be simplified beyond technology into enablement, can your mother understand the proposition?
  • don’t assume your market knows the problem like you do, are you selling from a common starting point?

4) Defining the proposition as a nice to have not a solution

  • too much emphasis is put on the extra benefits, are you selling lots of benefits or a solution to a specific problem?
  • people feel the need to over validate with external information, are you forgetting the original “spark” that led to the solution and how you solve the problem?

5) Don’t align the message to the solution

  • proposition pitches try to be catch all and complex people buy simple, are you selling a solution or a service?
  • people are looking to solve a problem, does your product proposition enable champions and evangelists?

When one understands these 5 concepts you can work to counter them in a tight and refined proposition. This means you can task your sales team, enable your marketeers and impress your investors. A tight proposition is one that is about what you can do for your customers, how you can help them solve a problem they have and how they can rave about your amazingness.

I am running workshops with entrepreneurs to test their propositions and help sharpen them with a focused strategy. Over a 3 hour session we:

1) benchmark for common mistakes
2) rebuild the proposition to be solution-centric
3) define the simplified messaging for enablement and championing

Do you want to run through your proposition or have a benchmarking session? Do get in touch.

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