Leadership is scary business. Both for ourselves, and our customers. It means moving from where we are now, to some place new, some place unfamiliar, some place unexplored. Leadership is personal — you cannot lead a crowd, you can only lead persons, individual people. Business is scary leadership.
In Choosing Your Surfing Style, we chatted about changing value propositions. The “wave” we looked at there (a wave comprised of successive adoption curves) charts a path of ups and downs as new value propositions move in, through, and out, of a market. Many companies participate in part of that movement. Few companies navigate it entirely. Changing value propositions is simply another way of saying leading our customers. We can lead our customers along the path of the wave as it moves through the market.
But leadership is hard. How can you help someone understand something they haven’t experienced before? How can you help them choose what you know will be helpful? How can you lead them to a better place?
It’s only a partial answer, but perhaps the following is part of the key — the five phases of changing value propositions:
1. Awareness — Begin to talk about the change you’re designing for customers. Make it part of your communications and conversations. Allow it time to define a space in their mind.
2. Invitation — Next, reach out and invite those you think would most benefit and would be most open to the new value proposition. Be personal, and be real.
3. Explanation — Take time to explain what this change would mean for this particular individual’s situation and how it would actually improve things. Be open to questions. This can be a true test of whether the change imagined is actually worthwhile.
4. Experimentation — Ask the customer if they’re open to experiment with you: there is no compulsion, and the relationship will be honored above the product.
5. Adoption — Once the new value proposition is experienced and the positive change has occurred, we’re at the point of adoption. This one person, and the one product, have now moved their position on the adoption curve, because of your leadership.
Of course, this is the real world, and not all goes swimmingly. The reality is that:
a. some customers will follow,
b. others will leave, and
c. new ones will be added.
And that’s okay. When we change value propositions, it isn’t going to make sense for 100% of our customers to change with us. We can both be honest, still show our care for them, and lead in a different way by helping match them with someone who can serve them best.
Changing value propositions is a hard proposition, but we can keep it human by approaching it from the perspective of leading our customers. By doing so, we shift from being order-takers to future-makers. Business is about people, and the only long-term sustainable business model is to care about them and follow where that care leads us.
Adrian G. Simmons is a CPA innovating ways to put money in its place. After working as an auditor out of college for KPMG, he joined his father in public practice in 2002, and now acts as the Chief Creative Designer there. With the team, he looks for ways to help their customers become financially strong, so that they can focus on what truly matters in life. Adrian likes tech, uses a fountain pen, successfully attempted a half-marathon (and may try another), and prefers dark over milk chocolate.