Process-Level Value Proposition: How marketing can leverage the value it creates


If I am your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than your competitors?

This is the essential value proposition question, and many major business decisions must be made to truly discover and deliver on your company’s value proposition — from the CEO down to the intern.

But today, let’s focus on the small stuff to raise this question for you …


What minor changes can you make right now to deliver a better value for your customers?

Once you have the big stuff taken care of, once marketing has communicated (and sometimes even created) value, sometimes the little touches make all the difference. They are the tipping point to help your ideal customer decide to choose your product or service instead of your competitors’.

Let me give you an example.


Really, they’re more than just stickers

My wife and I needed to buy some Mother’s Day cards, so we stopped by Deerwood Village, a shopping center near our house. As soon as we swung into the parking lot, we were confronted with three choices right next to each other that all likely offer Mother’s Day cards:

  • Publix (a grocery store)
  • CVS (a drug store)
  • Hallmark Gold Crown store (a gift shop)

We decided to buy the cards at the Hallmark store, and a simple but profound thing happened at the checkout. The cashier handed us stickers.

But, they weren’t just stickers. They were a signifier.

When she was done ringing us up at the cash register, she said, “Wait. Let me give you some of these to put on the back of the envelopes.”

With that, she reached down and counted out four gold crown stickers.


She stuck them in the bag and smiled at us, adding, “Because, really, you don’t want people to think you just happened to grab some cards at the grocery store. Am I right?”

When she said the words “grocery store,” there was clearly a down emphasis meant to imply a negative perception.

This is an extremely small gesture (and likely very small cost) in the grand scheme of a company’s value proposition. However, here’s why I think it could help serve as the tipping point to help customers choose Hallmark over a competing store …


Value perceived is value received

You can’t simply deliver value to your customers. Your customers must perceive that value in order to receive it. In other words, all value creation is based on the receiver’s perception.

Hallmark has mastered this principle. Really, a greeting card is just paper stock with a little bit of text and pictures on it — something, I’m guessing, that costs pennies on the dollar to produce yet sells for several dollars. However, the value creation doesn’t exist in the paper or really even in the writing of the cards.


The value is created in the marketing department

The value in Hallmark cards comes from the brilliant slogan “When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best.” This slogan is then accompanied by heartwarming (and very clever) commercials where the card’s receiver flips the card over looking for the Hallmark logo on the back and then — wait for it — smiles while placing a soft hand against his or her heart, clearly moved by the gesture.

While this can be seen as emotionally manipulative (and, really, pretty much every “holiday” that requires cards is somewhat manipulative), it also is value creation. To Hallmark’s credit, it has lived up to that value promise, or the value creation wouldn’t exist.

From Hallmark’s website — “As J.C. Hall expressed in his autobiography, When You Care Enough: ‘The slogan constantly [puts] pressure on us to make Hallmark cards ‘the very best.’”


This is, after all, why we give cards to other people to show that we care for them. There are many ways we could show we care. However, cards create an easy fix shortcut. We don’t even have to think of the words to say — they’ve been written for us. We only have to show care in actually picking out the cards and coughing up a ridiculous amount of money for a piece of heavy stock paper.

Because we care.

More importantly, we want the card’s receiver to perceive that we care.

Hallmark has created that perception through its marketing, which is the biggest value in buying that card.


Tapping into the core value proposition for the process-level value proposition

What I’ve discussed heretofore is Hallmark’s core value proposition, but a customer could get that same value prop by buying a Hallmark card at CVS or Publix as well.

So why buy from the Hallmark Gold Crown store?

Here is where Hallmark has intelligently leveraged its core value proposition to create the process-level value prop of buying in the Hallmark Gold Crown store instead of another store. (If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, you can read about the four essential levels of value propositions.)

And that’s where the Gold Crown sticker is both a creation of value and a signifier of it.

By having already created a strong value proposition in the mind of the card’s receiver, marketing has created an asset customers essentially leverage when giving the card — which is a great reinforcement of the store’s value proposition to the customer.

It’s just a cheap sticker, but what the sticker says is, “I didn’t just get you a Hallmark card while I was picking up milk in the grocery store or a prescription while I was at the drug store. I went out of my way to the card store to buy you a card, because you are so special to me.”

Sure, you could say that to someone or show them a receipt.

But by sticking the shiny gold sticker on there, Hallmark’s marketing team has created value by allowing customers to show value as part of the product.

So what’s your shiny gold sticker? How can you create value for your customers? And what small signifiers can you use to leverage that value?


You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, @DanielBurstein.


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