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Putting your education services value proposition canvas to work

Written by Bill Cushard

Published on June 2, 2020

Education services value proposition - The Learndot Blog

If you read my last article, you know that I struggled with value proposition design because I didn’t really know how to answer the question, “How do we know if this [value proposition canvas] is good?” I am still learning, and I have learned two techniques for answering that question that I want every education services team to learn from, as I did. 

The first technique, which came from the value proposition design book directly, is to validate each item on the canvas. This was the subject of my last article. 

In this article, we will talk about a second technique, which is simply to write descriptions of each item on your value proposition canvas. This second technique comes from Steve Blank, silicon valley legend,  startup founder, author of must-read startup and customer development books, and teacher at Stanford. 

I’ve argued that one of the main reasons to design a value proposition canvas for your education services business is so you can work with your marketing team to create effective marketing. Although your marketing team will be impressed that you have a value proposition canvas, and it is a necessarily condition for your marketing to help create really good marketing for your education services offerings, you cannot just hand your marketing team a canvas with a bunch of stick notes on it. 

You will need to explain things.

Help your marketing team help you

So, even if you designed your value proposition properly, and you did it together with your education services team, and not all by yourself, you should still spend the time to write up descriptions of each sticky note to explain them sufficiently so someone else, who was not on your “design team” can understand each. 

Steve Blank, in his book, The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, advises that once you have completed a draft of your business model canvas, that you should write up a short description of each item on the canvas to explain what it means. 

I just want to pause here and call out that, yes, Steve Blank, gives this advice for the business model canvas (created by the same people who created the value proposition canvas). I am suggesting here that we apply Blank’s advice on writing up descriptions for each item on the business model canvas to writing up descriptions for each items on our value proposition canvas. 

Same process, different canvas. 

OK, back to the article. 

Clarify your thinking

I find this advice of writing descriptions for each sticky note a useful exercise for two reasons. 

First, it help you (and your team) clarity your thinking on the items you place on your canvas. If one of your gains is “obtain a credential” you might want answer the question, “What does obtain a credential mean?” 

It might mean that a software administrators wants to be visibly rewarded for the time she takes to learn new software. A credential of some kind is what she wants, so she can feel a sense of accomplishment. It makes her feel good that after spending X hours learning your software that she can say to herself and others, “I am certified.”

Understanding some of the details and/or back story for “obtain a credential” helps you and your team promote the certification in such a way that it is relatable to your customer, so they are more likely to purchase it / register for it.

Second, when you write up a description of each item, it is easier to work with stakeholders to implement it. Think about the practicality of giving your value proposition canvas to your marketing team. You created list of sticky notes. You agonized and argued over them. Now you understand them well. If you give that canvas to your marketing team, they will look at it and say, “Huh?” But if you give them a description of each, they will get it. And then they will know how to build marketing campaigns because they will understand your customer and your value proposition almost as well as you do.

Make the time, take the time 

So, take the time to write up descriptions for each item on your value proposition canvas. It is time well spent. 

Bonus points for creating a slide deck and scheduling a meeting with your entire marketing team to run though your value proposition canvas and then provide the supporting documentation (your description write up) as a follow up. 

To put your value proposition canvas to work, I’d take Steve Blank’s advice and write up descriptions of each item on your canvas. Then, take it to your marketing team. 

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