Product Value: How to Know What Your Product Is Worth to the Customer

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Obviously Awesome" by April Dunford. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What’s your product worth to your customer? How will each feature benefit them?

In Obviously Awesome, April Dunford proposes a 12-step process that lets you position any product well. Step 6 involves product value. First, identify each feature’s benefit, and then figure out what the value of each benefit is.

Let’s take a closer look at this step in the product positioning process.

Determine Your Features’ Value to the Customer

Once you’ve determined what your product’s unique features are, you should figure out how each feature adds value to your customer’s life, counsels Dunford. Product value really comes down to feature value.

It’s easiest to break this step into two sub-steps: First, determine each feature’s benefit—what the feature will do practically for the customer. For instance, if your vacuum’s feature is a high-powered suction mechanism, the benefit is greater cleaning power.

(Shortform note: In Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller proposes that your product should not only add benefit and value to your customer’s life but that it should also help them solve a philosophical problem—a misalignment between their lifestyle and their values. So, ideally, your vacuum would have the benefit of greater cleaning power, the value (as we’re about to see) of a clean home, and solve the philosophical problem of not having enough time to spend on things that matter to the customer due to menial chores.)

Next, determine what the value of the benefit is, advises Dunford: how the feature helps the customer solve their specific problem. In our vacuum’s case, the high-powered suction feature with the benefit of greater cleaning power leads to the value of a less dirty home—the problem the consumer is trying to solve. 

(Shortform note: In the Little Red Book of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer proposes you consider “value” in an additional light. Beyond the value your product provides directly, your company must also provide value to the customer through services like advice, email or social media communication, and ongoing support. If you don’t offer that sort of value yet, consider establishing avenues for this.)

Dunford adds that you need to translate your product’s feature to its benefit and value for the customer because it’s rarely clear to the customer how these things are connected. For example, you might need to explain how your vacuum’s faster-revolving brush (feature) separates carpet fibers better, allowing it to suck up deeper dirt (benefit), which keeps your carpets cleaner longer (value). 

(Shortform note: Marketing experts like Dunford stress the importance of showing the customer exactly how your product improves their lives and not making them draw those connections themselves. In Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller elaborates that many brands fail because they don’t tell customers how they help them stay alive or prosper—every human’s two main goals in life. When brands don’t clearly show how they help customers achieve those two basic goals, customers overlook them.) 

Gather Like Values Together

Once you’ve determined the value of each feature, group these values together based on their relevance to the customer, states Dunford. Do this by thinking about what values the customer would associate with each other. For instance, your customer might consider that some values fall into the category of “ease of use” while other values fall into the category of “cleaning effectiveness.” Narrow this down to one to four value groups.

(Shortform note: Rather than just imagining what values your customer might associate with each other, consider asking them, as Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles suggest in Raving Fans. When doing this, ask people who’ve already purchased from you or who plan on doing so (you don’t have to only ask your top customers, as Dunford suggests). Blanchard and Bowles recommend inquiring about what customers appreciate about your product—this will help you understand what they value about your product. To figure out what values customers associate with each other, ask customers to then zoom out and describe what bigger-picture aspects of your product they like—this should provide you with value categories.)

Exercise: Adopt New Perspectives to List Your Product’s Features and Value

Identify the features, benefits, and value that both you and your customers perceive in your product, and consider how these might differ.

  1. List what you personally feel are your product’s five best features. Then, determine what benefit (the practical support) and value (the problem-solving ability) each provides the customer. Write these down next to the feature.
  2. Now, note three customer segments that would be interested in your product. Be sure these are narrow segments (for instance, “work-from-home parents” is a narrow segment, while “parents” is too broad). 
  3. Put yourself in the shoes of each of these three customer segments, and ask yourself what they would consider to be your product’s best features and those features’ benefits and value. What would they appreciate in your product given their circumstances and needs? 
  4. Finally, consider if the features, benefits, and value you see in your product differ from those your customer sees. How might you position your product differently to reflect your customers’ perspectives?
Product Value: How to Know What Your Product Is Worth to the Customer

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Here's what you'll find in our full Obviously Awesome summary:

  • What "positioning" is and why it's so important for marketing
  • Three common (and avoidable) mistakes marketers make
  • A 12-step process that lets you position any product well

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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