Business strategy

The value proposition as the differentiating factor of our personal branding

13 of September of 2016

The idea of personal branding entered our professional surroundings a few years ago. A lot of things have changed since Tom Peters published his article The Brand Called You in 1997, among them the advent of the phenomenon we know as Web 2.0 or the collaborative web. This new platform for interactive engagement between brands and people has enabled all citizens to have our own voice and make our own mark on the World Wide Web. And that is what has consolidated the personal brand concept: a medium that used to be accessible to companies and corporate brands (communication to large groups) is now possible for individuals. COFFEE (Ferrovial social network), the internal social network that enables insight into the corporate dynamics and knowledge exchange among Ferrovial’s employees, is a good example.

Personal branding is being the brand manager of your own brand, which in turn is the result, the footprint you leave on others in both the real and virtual worlds.

Ferrovial is one of the few companies that understands the importance of the personal brand in management of personal and professional relationships and three years ago made a commitment by including training in personal branding in the courses and workshops held within the framework of the Summa Universitas Ferrovial.

What is the leitmotif of a personal brand management process?

The brand is not only our visible aspect: it is everything. We cannot imagine an iceberg: what we see is only a small part of the mass of ice. The same is true of the personal brand. Behind our visible profiles there is a profound effort of self-knowledge and another of strategy. Like the corporate brand we begin by defining “who I am”, continue with “where I want to go” to finally ask ourselves if we are getting there.

The personal business model is elaborated in the central part of the strategic phase. Using the Business Model Canvas (BMC) created in 2008 by Alexander Osterwalder is highly recommended. It analyses three key areas:

  • Value proposals (what is my core difference that provides value to others?)
  • Key Partners (Who will help me to achieve my objectives?)
  • Customers or stakeholders (who do I help?)

It also analyses four support areas:

  • Key activities (What do I do?)
  • Key resources (hard and soft competences, awards, certifications…)
  • Relationships (the type of relationship we establish wit stakeholders)
  • Channels (what communication vehicles do I use to connect?)

The BMC also analyses our cost structure (expenses) and revenue stream (income), although for the moment these aspects are secondary for people who work for Ferrovial.

The phrase “if you’re an average Joe, you’ll be the first to go” forces us to reflect on the need not only to analyse our differential area, but also whether or not we are communicating it as efficiently as others. The differential area is made up of our value propositions.

How do we analyse our value propositions?

The central value of the brand is not formed by a single proposal but by the sum of various. People are like snowflakes, no two are the same, and even though at first sight two professionals have received the same training (resources), are engaged in the same field (activities) and play the same role in relation to their customers and collaborators (relationships), there are aspects that ensure that one will be more suitable than another for a specific project: the value proposition. Let’s see to what extent we are identified with these proposals.

Value propositions

  • Price: Are we offering a service or selling a product at a more competitive price than the competition? Does our price include more or less services than the competition? Do we provide credit facilities or financing?
  • Novelty: It may seem ephemeral, but if we have a technology that enables increased production and profitability in a project, this difference may be key. Obviously, a competitor can access the same technology a posteriori, but the timing factor and novelty could tip the balance in our favour.
  • Quality: The most overused word in the dictionary is still a key differentiating factor. The materials, deadlines and the seniority of the managers are important components of a robust value proposition.
  • Brand Status It will not be necessary to dwell on this point for long. Put yourself in the shoes of a public administration granting authority: with which tender would you sleep easier, with an inexperienced local company with little infrastructure or with Ferrovial? The brand in itself is a unique value proposition and no competitor can use our brand.
  • Convenience: This refers to the ease of procurement, of inter-company relations, execution… all the aspects that make the experience simpler and more cordial. An empathetic project manager will know how his or her customers want their project implemented.
  • Achievement: The fact that our product or service ensures additional or better results than that of a competitor may constitute a differentiating element. Sometimes they are ancillary services, but added to the main proposal they multiply in value.
  • Risk reduction: What is our airbag, ABS or seatbelt that can avoid risk in the event of accidents? Is it a technological or human factor?  Nobody likes running risks, so drawing up a list of 10 reasons why our service provides greater assurance is far from being a pointless exercise.
  • Cost reduction: Who does not remember the automobile manufacturing model change started by López de Arriortúa, the Spanish citizen known as SuperLópez? The fact that our offer significantly reduces operating costs could justify a higher initial price, will be a confidence-building element for our customers and opens the door to creating new services due to the savings.
  • Design: Why do we pay more for a brand like Apple than for others? One factor is the design, which facilitates operation of the device (functional design), in addition to enhancing the attractiveness of the proposals. The idea is to ascertain which components of our service’s or product’s design generate confidence due their aesthetic appeal which also enhances operability.
  • Customisation: this refers to the option of personalising our offer to the customers, and this entails knowing them very well. Coca-Cola dethroned Pepsi in the U.S. by customising their cans, enabling people to buy a drink with their name on it.  Our customers don’t usually like standard proposals. They like to feel special.
  • Experience: “We have already successfully implemented this type of infrastructure 15 times this year”: it’s a case of corporate experience. It is exactly the same at the personal level: “I have been designing this type of structure for 20 years and I know the equipment I need. I can foresee any problems that may arise, how to mitigate them and achieve the maximum efficiency and profitability. A proposal that justifies a higher price is irresistible.
  • CSR /PSR: In addition to Corporate Social Responsibility, people can add Personal Social Responsibility. Imagine two apparently identical proposals: Ferrovial’s proposal is the only one that includes half-yearly review of the effects of the project on local sustainability. And at the personal level: I can ensure the maximum energy saving in this project: I am a member of the X Foundation that safeguards sustainability in the X region. Remember that a component like that can make all the difference.
  • Method: Not everybody implements a project in the same way. Although it may seem like a purely internal issue, explaining the specific method to be employed generates greater confidence. When we analyse a demographic survey, factors such as the sample population, the questionnaire methodology and the way the results are tabulated speak to the customer of the amplitude of the margin of error.

And then?

Analysis of our value propositions does not end with the mere enumeration. After that we need to be sure of their relevance and be able to communicate them properly in time and form.

I would like to recommend two books that can help you to develop your differentiating factor – the value propositions – with the maximum efficiency. Bibliography:

Business Model You. T. Clark, A. Osterwalder [2012] John Wiley & Sons. In print and e-book.

Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. A. Osterwalder [2014] John Wiley & Sons. In print and e-book.

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