ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Knowing and keeping promises

If you don’t know what you’re promising, how do you know if you’re keeping your promises? Kirsten Gibbs, Process Expert, asks.

July 2020

In an ideal world, before starting a business, we’d identify an ideal client and a profitable gap in the market, then build a product or service for them.

Most of us don’t do that – we make our product or service, then run around every possible market searching for a gap that fits.

That’s a terrible way to build a business – looking for ‘anyone’ and ‘everyone’ that might conceivably be interested in our offer, and as a result finding that the only thing to compete on is price.

Much better to invest in clearly articulating your unique Promise of Value.

What is a promise of value

Your Promise of Value is what makes a prospect buy from you, and what keeps a client loyal to you.   It's the unique ‘what you do’ and ‘how you do it’ they can’t get anywhere else.

A clearly articulated and well-packaged Promise of Value helps you to:

  • attract the right prospects
  • charge the right prices for what you do
  • attract and motivate the right suppliers and staff
  • design the right processes and systems that will enable you to deliver your promise of value consistently every time
  • allocate your marketing budget to yield the best results

Articulating your Promise of Value

To serve your ideal clients well, you need to get under their skin, empathise.

That’s really hard, because they aren’t you. They don’t know what you know, believe what you believe, want what you want.

The good news is that you can get a long way towards this by empathising with yourself.

It starts with a simple question:   What’s good about <our business>?

In answering this question with your team, you’ll not only articulate your own values and preferred behaviours, you’ll also identify values and preferred behaviours you share with at least some of your clients – those you most enjoy working with, and who most enjoy working with you.

Next, put yourself in your client’s shoes and look at yourself from their perspective.

This moves your thinking from ‘features’ (“we produce accurate accounting information”), to ‘benefits’ (“we make sure you have the information you need to run your business well”).

If you already have clients who love you, ask them why.  They’ll identify benefits you didn’t even know you delivered (“you listen to me”,”you really get to know me and my business”, “you find me suppliers I can trust”).

Finally, to really get to the bottom of your Promise, ask another, deeper question: Who do you help your ideal client to become?

At the heart of every Promise of Value is a promise of transformation, that could be expressed something like this:

“Working with us will enable you to become who you want to be, in a way that is congruent with your values, beliefs and style, so you can join the tribe that feels like home for you with the status you seek.”

Your business can offer this transformation because you share critical values, beliefs and style – because the ‘tribe that feels like home’ to your client, probably feels like home to you too.

Packaging your Promise

Your Promise of Value encapsulates what your business does for the people you serve.  That won’t change.  How you deliver it will, not only over time, but also across clients.  That’s Packaging.

Packaging formats your Promise to suit particular needs  – a litre of whisky for drinking at home or with friends; 35ml in a golf-ball shaped bottle for giving, or collecting as part of a set.

Packaging lets people try safely – free samples, test-drives or trial periods mean prospects can test your delivery.

Packaging helps you evolve in step with the people you serve – new puppy-owners won’t want dog-walking, but they will appreciate puppy visits, or training.

The foundation of your business system

A clear and explicit Promise of Value, packaged to suit the needs of your ideal clients helps them to recognise themselves, their situation and their need instantly, so they and you can confidently decide whether you are right for each other.

With that as your starting point, you’re ready to transform your business into a system for delivering it.

Kirsten Gibbs is Owner and Director of Gibbs and Partners

London Accountant

Go to London Accountant for more features, news and opinion.
Follow us on Twitter @ICAEW_London and join us on LinkedIn: LSCA and Croydon.
Subscribe to ‘regional updates’ to receive more articles.