Defining the important features of my product and how they affect the sales process

Whether you are selling a product or supplying a service, you have set up in business to provide a benefit to a customer in exchange for money. This is your value proposition.

Philip Kotler proposed a 5 layer model for product definition, seeing the product as an onion that has a core benefit surrounded be additional levels of value-added product from things the proposition must deliver through to how the product may expand into the future.

The model is quite complex and like most models, tends to lead to a debate over whether this feature is expected or augmented.

This kind of misses the point, which is to see your product from a customer-centric perspective.

Core Benefits

Many startups, especially those that are tech-based have a tendency to get wrapped up in their own brilliance, and you will frequently hear salespeople espousing the greatness of a feature that their CTO tells them is fantastic, but in reality, delivers no tangible advantage to the customer.

The core benefit is the solution to the customer's problem and has to be at the heart of the proposition, the marketing and the sales process.  This answers the question @ "what can you do for me?" and has to be defined in terms of the customer. 7Up is first and foremost a drink and must stop you feeling thirsty. BMW is a mode of transport and must get you from A-B. North Face clothes keep you warm in extreme weather. 

Hygiene Factors

These are the must-haves that define the minimum acceptable standard for the proposition, that if you can't deliver, won't even get you in the door.  A car must have an engine, seats and meet a set of environmental and safety criteria. A Drink will need to available in acceptable packaging at a retail site which is convenient for the customer. An eCommerce transaction needs to be safe, secure and privacy compliant.

One thing to be clear on here. These are not benefits, no one will buy just because you are GDPR compliant, but they definitely won't buy from you if you are not!

Added Value

These are the important aspects of your proposition and where you can deliver more value to your customer to justify the price and blow away your competition.

However, you need to look at this from the customers perspective and describe this in terms which matter to them. Many B2B companies talk about how great feature X is and assume that their customer understands the significance and has the time and imagination to connect it to the problem they have. They won't.

What value are you adding to them with the proposition? If your wonder product has a feature that can save them time, how much time and what is the business benefit of that time-saving?

To give an example, I used to work in the home security space, where the company sold monitored alarms. The idea that you need an alarm is not a positive feeling, making this a grudge purchase driven by fear.

Our Value proposition, however, was based around the sense of relaxation the customer felt knowing that their safety was being monitored by the largest security company in the country whose systems and personnel were approved at the highest level.

This allowed us to portray a positive message in our marketing and a strong sense of community within the customer base who saw themselves as part of a wider community rather than just users.