Justify Your Existence

Back in the day, when we used read things in hard copy, there was a feature (in The AV Club, I think) that demanded that bands they reviewed to “Justify your existence.” The bands had to explain why they mattered; why should the customer should listen to their music, buy their CD (yeah, I just aged myself), and choose to wear their t-shirt. And this was before Spotify, iTunes, or Google Play.

This is a great question, not just for bands, but for businesses. And I don’t just mean new start-ups. I mean all of them. I don’t care if you are 100 days or 100 years old – Why should your company exist? Just because you have been around a long time, why should your business continue. If your business makes horse drawn carriages, you bet I am wondering what exactly your plan is.

In the business world, we call it the “Value Proposition.” If you start typing “value proposition” into your search engine of choice, you get suggestions of templates, canvases, examples, and lots of suggestions on how to use it as a marketing tool. All are great — if they work for you. But really, you just need to know, and be able to explain, the following:

  1. Who is your potential customer?
  2. What are you selling to them (product or service)?
  3. Who are your competitors?
  4. Why should your potential customer pick you instead of your competitor?

Lots of people focus on #4. Worse yet, they answer with lots of information about themselves. Because I wanted to make pies for a living. Because I needed work-life balance. Guess what? Customers are worried about themselves, not you. So those first three questions are important, too, and not as easy as you think.

In fact, we run into a lot of companies who are very confused about what they are selling. Is it a product, a service, a lifestyle? This is something that I have to remind myself about a lot. I am not selling contracts. I am even not really selling legal services. At the heart of it, I am selling stress relief and prevention. When I lose sight of that, my clients and I both get off track.

So go on – justify your existence. I’m in the market for a new carriage.

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