How to Create a Winning Marketing Plan with a Value Canvas

Marketing Plan Checklist

Is your product-market fit not panning out? Perhaps it is time to go back to the drawing board and rethink your marketing plan. Check out this blog for a checklist to develop a winning marketing plan:

  • create a value proposition canvas for what your product means to prospective clients.
  • It is important to have specific, concrete testable hypotheses to determine what will resonate with buyers.
  • Then you need a marketing plan with flexibility, which allows the Founders to adjust their plan as they discover what works and what doesn’t.

Flexibility until you find product-market fit

Startups need a go-to-market plan with flexibility. Flexibility in the marketing plan allows startups working on sales to have enough structure to know what is working, and more importantly, what isn’t working with prospective customers. To create a flexible go-to-market plan, Founders must think about what their product means to their prospective clients. By developing a pitch and documenting several reasons potential customers will buy your solution, you can move confidently to market with several testable hypotheses that should lead to sales.

Building several testable hypotheses does not have to be overly time-consuming. The process should result in a straightforward document that everyone in the company can understand and execute. When a company has a unified approach and is testing the same assumptions, it is far more likely that when the product-market fit is achieved, the underlying reasons will be understood. One such tool for thinking about and documenting testable hypotheses is the value canvas. A set of value canvases provides every company, regardless of the size of their sales force and budget, to fund a product-market fit exercise. First, let’s explore product-market fit.

What is Product-Market Fit and Why is it Critical to Success?

Product-market fit is a unique set of attributes that allows a company to successfully acquire the addressable portion of the market for which these attributes will work. Generally, the attributes a company will work with to find product-market fit will include: product positioning, product pricing, customer success strategy, and go-to-market strategy.  When one of these items is not in alignment with the addressable market, the product-market fit may not be achieved.

Startups seeking product-market fit may ask, how do I know if I have product-market fit?  That’s when we talk about leveraging early indicators of product-market fit – measures that give an indication as to whether or not there are enough prospects that would be interested in using your product.

A common metric used to measure early indicators of product-market fit is conversion rate. Conversion rates describe how many prospects convert into customers from your customer engagement strategy. Conversion rate metrics can reveal important information about your sales funnel, including where people are dropping out and why they’re doing so.  These metrics may also reveal what needs adjusting from one step to another in order to close more deals.

If conversion rates are higher than expected, it’s possible you have found your niche:  that special mix of products, marketing messages, and most importantly target audiences, which resonates with buyers. A good indication that you have achieved product-market fit is whether buyers of your solution are actively referring others to your solution.

When finding product-market fit, the first step is to begin developing a number of hypotheses of what is driving your ideal customer to purchase your solution.

To understand the motivations driving your customers to buy and refer your product to their network, we must first document a number of testable value propositions. Value propositions describe the key attributes of your addressable market that motivates them to purchase your solution. Without understanding the motivations of your addressable market, and documenting the key attributes you are using to find fit, you will be forced to rely on the skill of your sales team and serendipitous events to close deals.  To find product-market fit, we need to leverage data and insights rather than guesswork and luck. The first step in doing so is naturally documenting your value proposition.A number of tools, like the Value Proposition Canvas and Lean Canvas, provide a useful framework for documenting your potential customers’ motivations to buy your solution. These documents reveal insights into your audience’s needs, values, and attitudes; all of which are essential for creating testable messaging to see what resonates. Once you have found resonance with your target market, you will have created valuable intellectual property in the form of persuasive messaging and an effective marketing plan.

A successful value proposition exercise ensures that your customers will recognize the solution to their problems in your marketing materials. Once your customer sees that you understand their problem, your messaging, documented in the value proposition canvas, will demonstrate that you are uniquely positioned to address their pain points, and what it is that makes you different from other vendors in your space. This is where positioning matters because it gives them confidence that you can solve their problem with your product or service.

A value proposition canvas will include all of the components required to plan and execute multiple go-to-market strategies to ultimately find fit. So what are the specific elements of a value proposition canvas?

The first is the identification of the market you hope to serve. This first element will include the name of the market, a specific company growth stage, trigger events that indicate a need for your solution, and a title of an individual who is likely to feel the pain your solution resolves AND has the power of the purse string.

The second component of the value proposition canvas is an overview of the motivations that will cause your customer to purchase your solution. To make the process scalable on a budget, you will need to create a detailed profile to find individuals within your target type of company to approach. In this exercise you will identify their responsibilities in the company that expose them to the pain points your solution solves. You will document a number of pain points associated with these responsibilities that will motivate them to purchase your solution. Ultimately you will identify benefits that a person with the identified responsibilities will value above and beyond resolving their pain points.

The final element that needs to be added to your value proposition canvas is how you plan to market your solution. In this portion of the value proposition canvas, you will include your service details, how your solution relieves your client’s pain, and how your solution creates the gains your client wants to realize from your solutions.  In addition, you’ll want to give your client an understanding of what other people are saying about your product or service and what evidence exists proving its effectiveness.

This final component of your value proposition canvas is the critical place for you and your team to track how your ideal customer is responding to your messaging.  Understanding your prospective clients’ perspectives will help you tweak your message when your message is not resonating with your audience.

Here, you will catalog all feedback your prospective clients have given to date. Feedback may be positive, negative, constructive criticism or insights into one of your competitors. Crucially, by working through a structured list, you will have an opportunity to determine which pain points drive the most engagement, which gains are most likely to cause your prospective client to buy your solution,  and which can provide clues as to what differentiates them from your prospects. On top of capturing insights, it is important to include notes on how potential customers responded during sales calls in particular conversations as well as face-to-face interactions. These identify strengths and weaknesses in your go-to-market strategy quickly without any ambiguity.

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