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Stop saying "Provide Value" and "Value Proposition" and Use These Words To Make More Sense

The word "value" is being over-used almost to abuse, but there's a deeper way to understand why it's so important, and a trick to understand it and communicate it better.
Stop Saying and Thinking Provide Value And Say This Instead

People overuse the word 'value'. So it's suffering from too much quantity and not enough quality. Whether you're on twitter, deep in blog posts, or recovering from someone's youtube video that didn't provide enough value for you ... here you'll find a better explanation (not definition) of value, and a simple trick to make it make sense.

A Better Explanation of Value

Before we get to a better way to describe 'value', I want to make the high schooler in you roll their eyes. Then we'll see how it fits in a professional and business context.

"What's the value of X?" Everyone's heard some form of this from their algebra teacher, and maybe even a physics or chemistry teacher (double eye roll!).

With this little statement, we imply that 'value' refers to a measure of something. For calculating the slope of a line or the change between points of a curve, the value is the result that we measure.

When it comes to products and services sold by business, what customers value or evaluate differs. Soccer dads value flexible seating and cargo space in their mini-vans. Kids want cool graphics on their tees that make them edgy but not uncool. Project managers want tools that help their teams complete better products faster, not worse products slower.

So when you "provide value" you aim to increase or decrease  a result that your buyer or customer is getting. You may be increasing speed of delivery or decreasing frustration with building furniture. You could be giving them their first helicopter ride, or their 1 millionth credit card point. Either way, providing value has you change a buyer's or consumer's situation based on a specific measure they're evaluating.

If you pay attention to the design world, where people invent new products and services, there's also talk about a "value proposition". What you're proposing is an exchange of a change in their world for money. The more change they want and value, the more money they're willing to fork over. So you're proposing to change a measure or value, for cashola.

Given what we just discussed (well, what I wrote and you read in your head) I'd change "value proposition" as an adjective-noun phrase to "propose value" as a verb-noun phrase. Apparently not only do I offend you with bad algebra references, I throw in grammar for bad measure.

Even further, let's change "propose value" to "propose some change". If you're in the world of creating value propositions, either as an entrepreneur or a copywriter, this new phrase may help you think about, explain, and communicate better, without sounding like everyone else.

Simple Trick: search-and-replace

The simple trick I use to make 'provide value' make sense, even when I think the person saying it doesn't understand and can't explain what they're saying is ... replace it with a better phrase.

I was watching randomly flipping through channels and happened upon then President Obama talking to one of the hosts of Good Morning America. He said something that stuck with me. He said that people needed jobs in order to do something useful. It was the "something useful" that stuck with me.

A lot of people want the output of a business, i.e. the money. But that output comes from doing something useful for someone else. For entrepreneurs it's doing something useful for customers. For employees it's doing something useful for the next person on the production line. For some employees it's improving a spreadsheet so the accountant's life is easier. 

Whatever the case, it's the doing something useful for others that makes a thing valuable. 

So whenever you hear someone say "provide value" do a search-and-replace and think "provide something useful". And if you're in the hot-seat, instead of saying "provide value" just say "propose and provide something useful" and bet your bottom dollar that you'll get a lot more head nods than eye rolls.


the two new and different ways you can understand, think about, and communicate the over-used "provide value" and "value proposition" are:

  1.  "value proposition" -> propose an improvement
  2. "provide value" -> do something useful


That's about all I have to say on this. I hope this little blog post provid (cough) ... continues to be useful to you in the future.

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