The fundamental particle of innovation is the idea, but individual ideas are rarely enough to provide value. Things get interesting when ideas are combined, adapted to specific clients, and put into context.
Last time, I wrote about needs driving innovation. Water is an idea that satisfies a need, thirst. Job done? Not exactly. While there is always a market for the essentials, most goods and services add value beyond basic needs.
An idea becomes fuller and more appealing if something is added to make it more valuable. This could be price, quality, or a utilitarian value like convenience. But more and more, the values that matter are less tangible.
Ease of use – A cup… maybe with a handle. This beats slurping from a stream or even scooping up water with your hands and trying to get it into your mouth. Of course, with more complicated products and services, ease of use isn’t as obvious. Some people can’t drive a car without automatic transmission. For others, the limited options and lack of feel ―especially for challenges like driving up a hill in a snowstorm― make this driving “help” into a curse. So ease of use always considers the targeted customers and clients, the challenges they face, their knowledge, and their skill level. Variations matter. The hand controls that allowed Franklin Roosevelt to drive despite paralyzed legs would confound most of us.
Control – As indicated above, some people like to have a deeper involvement. With another example, investments, there are clients for whom an index fund they never need to look at is perfect. Other clients want the ability to do real-time research and shift money from moment to moment. Part of this may be a need to customize to exact specifications. Today’s audio editing programs allow people to take artistic control of music to deliver professional level songs. For others, control may be mostly about self-expression. Businesses that help people customize cars, cell phones, and other items that seem intimate to users are legion.
Identity – Value propositions often speak to emotional and psychological needs. In the US, if you drive a Subaru, you are probably a Democrat. If you drive a Land Rover, you’re likely to be a Republican. Businesses create the advertizing and group associations for products and services deliberately. They may appeal on a subconscious level, as an acknowledged tag to connect with a group, or as a status symbol.
The value proposition may also be familiarity. An application that runs on Apple systems will have a look, feel, and quality promise that is distinctive. A movie that fits a genre (romance, action, science fiction) aligns with positive past experiences for an audience and assures viewers that certain expectations will be met. The reputation of a corporation, professional, or individual is also part of the value proposition. People feel better about buying from a company that is altruistic or otherwise demonstrates moral or social responsibility. Successful sales people connect with customers and clients, convincing them of their friendliness and integrity.
You can slurp you water directly from the tap. Or you may visit that organic store with the knowledgeable staff and buy carbonated water with a hint of lemon sold in a branded, recyclable, toxin-free container that comes from an environmentally responsible company that your favorite movie star prefers.