Anyone in business, politics, or public service should be able to answer the question, “What's your value proposition?”

It is applicable to someone looking for a job, for a company in search of new customers, and for a citizen assessing new community initiatives.

For example, in September of this year, the school system in my county will attempt to pass a 1-cent sales tax increase to help fund the building of new schools and to upgrade current schools. They are just beginning to communicate their value proposition to the community at large.

With this referendum, the community should receive 20-30% of the tax revenues from people who do not live in the county, as their shopping in our county helps to pay for our schools. Additionally, the school system does not need to burden the community with additional debt by instituting a local sales tax. There are negatives as well, but a value proposition is, for the most part, intended to frame a persuasive proposition for someone to act the way you want them to.

I have been thinking about value propositions quite frequently these days as the topic comes up in my work on a routine basis. Many companies are interested in their value propositions to employees, customers, partners, and shareholders, as well as specific variations to each functional position (e.g., finance, marketing, operations).

Given the intense interest in value propositions, I want to address some of the dynamics and concepts in crafting a cogent value proposition.

Definition of Terms

One definition that the American Heritage Dictionary provides for value is “Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit.” One definition of proposition is “the act of offering” or “that which is proposed or offered.”

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Michael L. Perla is a principal consultant at a sales and marketing consulting firm. He can be reached at