For us to execute effective education services marketing and drive customers to purchase, complete, and apply what they learned in our training courses, we need to learn the art of value proposition design. Value propositions are not just about listing product features and then next to each feature listing the benefit that feature creates. Value proposition design is about two things: 1) understanding customers in the context of their work; and 2) figuring out what helps them perform their work. If we can figure these two parts out, and link them together, we can create training courses and marketing programs that speak perfectly to what our customers need.
Notice I said, create courses AND promote them.
It’s no good for us instructional designers to create high quality learning experiences and not have anyone know about them. We need to be good at creating courses our customers need and persuade customers to purchase them.
Throughout the month of May, I have written about value proposition design and how we can apply it to our customer training course offerings. Last week, we talked specifically about designing the customer profile. In this article, we will walk through creating the value map.
The value map is about addressing the reasons your identified customer profile will buy courses from you. It has three parts:
Products and services
Let’s talk about each.
Gain creators are solutions that help your customer realize the gains identified in your customer profile. Gain creators are not your products and services. They describe “how’ your products help a customer achieve a gain.
Let’s talk this through.
If a gain is a savings, a gain creator describes how a customer will save. In the example of a project management software administrator, a savings could be saving time. If a customer wants to save time, your product might help them with:
Fewer steps in a task
Integrations with other tools
Your customer training courses, might help a customer save time by focusing on very specific, job-oriented, practical topics.
If a gain is to save money, a gain creator might be a course designed to teach a configuration and rollout methodology, so a customer does not have to engage your professional services team for $20,000 or $50,000. A $12,000 private course on methodology will save your customer five figures and enable them to run their own successful implementation. The course is not the gain creators, the “rollout methodology” is the gain creator.
Notice that when you think about your gain creators, you start with the list of gains that you documented on your customers profile, and write down “how” your products help customers achieve those gains.
If you remember from my previous articles, one of the “gains” we listed for project management software administrator training is that the training “gives me a credential.”
You could arrive at a gain creator (for each of your gains) with this simple exercise.
If a gain is ______________.
The gain creator might be ______________.
If a gain is “gives me a credential."
The gain creator might be “administrator certification.”
You could go through each of your gains and identify your gain creators. Also note two things. First, you should start with your most important gains. Remember in the customer profile, you ranked your gains from most to least important. Start with your most important gains. Second, you do not need to address all of your customers’ gains. In fact, your product might not address all of your customer gains. No product addresses every customer need, right? Focus on the highest ranked gains on your customer profile.
Your pain reliever is a solution to help alleviate a pain point. More specifically, a pain reliever describes how your product (customer training) relieves a customer pain.
If a pain is spending three hours in a boring training course with too much theory, your pain reliever might be that your course comes with a checklist documenting how to apply the steps of a job task learned in the course.
The point here is that a pain reliever helps reduce or eliminate those things that frustrate your customer. Spending three hours in a course with too much theory is frustrating.
I’ll give you a real life example from one of our customers.
This particular customer sells training courses to customers all over the world. They track sales and value added taxes (VAT) across numerous countries into which they sell training. One of our customer team members told us, quite literally in frustration, “I spend at least four hours a week tracking sales tax rules all over the world to make sure we are compliant when we sell training. It’s awful. If you can help me with that, I would be so happy.“
We explained that we can alleviate that pain with our Avalara integration. Our pain reliever is an integration with another product, Avalara. Avalara, not Learndot, automates sales tax discovery and processing tasks. A customer expressed a pain. We offered a pain reliever in our integration.
Pain relievers don’t have to be related to a specific feature or functionality of your product. One of the lessons from Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is whole product thinking. You may have pain relievers that are not specifically addressed in your product, but you can still help a customer relieve a pain.
When you think about your pain relievers, you start with the list of pains that you documented on your customers profile, and write down “how” your products help customers relieve those pains.
If you remember from my previous articles, one of the “pains” we listed for project management software administrator training is that most training offers “no clear path to applying.” You take that pain, and write down on your value map, how you relieve that pain.
You could arrive at pain relievers (for each of your customers' pains) with this simple exercise:
If a pain is ______________.
The pain reliever might be ______________.
If a pain is “No clear path to applying."
The pain reliever might be “In this course, you will define and document your permission schemes.”
You could go through each of your pains and identify a pain reliever. Also note two things. First, you should start with your most important pains. Remember in the customer profile, you ranked your pains from most to least important. Start with your most important pains. Second, you do not need to address all of your customers’ pains. In fact, your product might not address all of your customer pains. No product addresses every customer need, right? Focus on the highest ranked pains on your customer profile.
Products and services
On the value map, products and services are the things you sell. In your cases, these could be courses, training credits, private, virtual instructor-led courses, free, on-demand eLearning courses, subscriptions to course catalogs, and any other service you offer customers. Another way to look at your products is to make a list of your revenue streams.
The products you should list on your value map depends on what customer segment you are creating this canvas for. In other words, don’t list all of your products. Just the products related to the customer segment you are designing.
For example, if a canvas is designed to document the value proposition for a VP of operations (the economic buyer of your project management software training courses), as opposed to an administrator, the profile is different, the gains and pains are different and the gain creators and pain reliever are different. Therefore, the products you offer to address the jobs, gains and pains of the VP are different.
For example, the products you might list for a VP would be training credits or private training because a VP might be more concerned about training an entire team than an administrator profile. So just keep in mind when you think about what products and services to offer…think about the product and services related to this specific customer profile.
Follow this process:
If a gain is _______
The gain creator might be __________
The product might be ______________
Back to the administrator profile:
If a gain is “gives me a credential."
The gain creator might be “administrator certification offered.”
The product might be “Certified Project Management Administrators.”
You take this example, go through each of your gain creators AND pain relievers and list the training course offerings you have that address gain creators and pain relievers.
Also note two things.
First, just as you ranked gains and pains by importance in the customer profile, you should rank your gain creators and pain relievers by importance. Start with your most important gain creators and pain relievers.
Second, you do not need to address each. In fact, your products might not address all of the gain creators and pain relievers that you listed. No product addresses every customer need, right? Focus on the most important ones.
Why the value map matters
The value map side of the value proposition canvas matters because it is our opportunity to figure out how our products and services specifically creates value for customers in the context of the customer profile (the jobs they do, the gains they seek, the pains they seek fo avoid).
That’s real life.
The more we can address our customer needs in real life, the more value we create, and the more effective our marketing will be.
Get good at value proposition design
All of us in education services marketing should get good at value proposition design. Since many of us have backgrounds in instructional design, we are already designers, so this shouldn’t be difficult to learn. It is an important skill from improving what we offer customers and in creating marketing programs to promote what we create.
If you haven’t yet, read my previous article on creating customer profiles. The magic in value proposition design is not just creating a good value map or customer profiles, The magic is in putting them together. In order to put them together, we have to understand and work through each first.