I am such a geek for propositions. I believe they’re what makes the world go round. (Fine, love might have a role to play as well).
A good proposition can turn a mediocre run-of-the-mill product into something compelling and exciting. It’s the wrapper that gives meaning to your offering and when it’s composed in just the right way, it can shift your business and customers into perfect alignment.
This is why I believe that propositions – and specifically their expression in a clear sentence – deserve more attention. (Read more on what we mean when we say propositions, from my colleague Fraser.)
But now to the bane of my existence: the dreaded one-stop shop.
This article is a write-up of my talk at Pi People, Idean UK’s event for curious minds. Our business design team hosted an evening of talks and discussion on what makes a standout proposition.
What is a one-stop shop? It’s an expression that people often use to describe a new, but still vague, offering that lacks a clear differentiator or hook. Sometimes people reach for this expression when they are trying to connect the dots of a siloed customer experience and want to create a more joined-up service. Sometimes people are simply being lazy and try to convey a false sense of clarity by wrapping a neat label around an offer largely founded on assumptions.
No matter what their reasons might be, I can’t stand the expression. So here are four ways to avoid the pitfalls of creating a one-stop shop:
You’re probably already thinking of Amazon. Yes, Amazon is a sort of one-stop shop. But did they start off as one? No! Even if your master plan is to take over the world, you should start small.
Bezos famously started selling books because they were non-perishable, stackable, easy to slide through a letterbox and he could offer a much wider selection than any brick-and-mortar retailer. By concentrating on just one product category, he was able to refine his user experience and prove that his business was viable.
Focusing on one clear value proposition, to begin with, doesn’t mean you can’t take over the world later.
I often encounter the expression ‘one-stop shop’ in workshops or meetings, when execs are struggling to explain how a new proposition can deliver value to their customers and business. They usually set off on the right foot, but then get trapped in a swamp of anonymous things ‘in a box’. Often this is because they just haven’t found the right words to express the value of a proposition they want to create… or perhaps they are just being lazy!
The truth is that if the value lies in solving lots of different little problems in one place, you probably haven’t found a single problem that is big enough to be worth solving properly.
Bringing lots of things together in one place, that already exist elsewhere, is not only hard to explain to a customer, but it’s also unlikely to get them excited. Imagine: “Here are lots of solutions to problems you’ve already solved. We’ve brought all these things together into one place and made them harder to navigate for you.” Tough sell.
What is the thing that’s going to get people excited about your new offering? It’s pretty unlikely to be ‘doing everything you can think of, in one place’. It’s way more likely to be about how you do that thing.
Monzo’s Tom Blomfield talks about your ‘attack vector’ – the thing that you can do better than anyone else. A current account is not a new thing in itself, but creating an amazing user experience around it is what can set you apart.
It’s also important to consider that the thing that gets customers hooked on your offering might not be the same thing that makes you money. Your launch proposition probably won’t reflect your entire business plan. However, it is key to focus your proposition on what will gain traction with your target market quickly.
Take Asto as an example – a business created to help SMEs take care of their finances. You might start by helping small business owners solve one particular problem: managing their expenses. It’s an offer people can easily understand. Once you’ve nailed that experience and established a client relationship, you can expand into other more revenue-generating areas. In Asto’s case, adding invoicing, cash flow management and invoice factoring to its offering.
Everything about a one-stop shop is ambiguous and risky: the customer, the product, the experience… they all remain fuzzy. Focus your proposition on solving a specific problem for a customer and your riskiest assumptions will become much clearer, and you’ll see what you need to test first. Testing a specific proposition also makes it easier to pivot and iterate your offering.
As a matter of fact, laying bare the assumptions you made when shaping your proposition, and creating a plan for how you can close your knowledge gaps, will provide you and your team with much more confidence than empty words like ‘one-stop shop’ ever could.