Love imageDon’t fall in love with your product at the expense of your value proposition. The core value proposition of a startup is such a critical element, but it doesn’t always get the proper attention. It is not just a 3-line slide. It is the only thing that ties your product to your market success. It is a promise that, once fulfilled should allow you to realize your business model. I’ve already discussed that if you are too focused on your product after achieving a market fit, you might miss making your business model a reality, in Forget the Product, Start Focusing on the Model. In The Leaping Startup, I said that if you listen too closely to user feedback, “most customers will give you incremental feedback, and that will limit your potential if you only listen to that….  Only few users will give you insightful or strategic feedback.” Two supporting comments are worth noting from that post: Bob LaGarde:

“I achieved early product success and in the excitement that followed  became overly focused on continuous product innovation to the neglect of business/revenue model refinement.”
Rohan Jayasekera (co-founder of Sympatico)
“… I was helping the product manager to write his job description, and told him that for now his job is to achieve product-market fit — and that once that’s accomplished we’ll need to throw that job description away and write a very different one.”
A few days ago, Robert Hacker wrote a succinct post, How Companies Can Avoid Incrementalism, naming 3 ways: 1. Focus on the value proposition and not simply the product or service. 2. Focus equal time and energy on business model changes. 3. Systematically review value proposition and business model. Robert’s post referenced an excellent article by Aaron Schildkrout, founder and co-CEO at, Value-Driven Product Development: Using Value Propositions to Build a Rigorous Product Roadmap. Actually, this was a Part 2 to a series of must read articles on Product Management. Aaron’s foundational thinking follows this logic: Business Strategy–>Value Propositions–>Product Imperatives–>Product Roadmap. He has a 14-step process to ensure that every product innovation directly contributes to your value proposition. There are several money quotes from Aaron’s must-read article (did I say that twice?), starting with the central belief that “Value propositions are the central hypothesis of your company.” And this key statement:
“Everything we do at HowAboutWe Dating is oriented towards making good on our value propositions. To the extent that we achieve this, we believe our target market will love our product and our business will work.”
Followed by this one that nails how a product roadmap relates to the business model.
“The first step to effective roadmapping involves translating your value propositions into what you might call product imperatives: The things your product has to achieve to make good on your value propositions.”
Some startups fall in love with their product vision and continue to pursue it for too long, and they forget to fall in love with their value proposition instead. Please re-visit your value proposition, and double-check that every present and future piece of your product(s) fully ties in with the realization of your value proposition. It is your value proposition that will propel you forward, not your product. Your product enables the value proposition to be true. The strength of the value proposition enables your business to survive.]]>