What is a Value Story?

by Michael Bernstein on November 04, 2020


When someone asks me what makes good marketing, and I’m in the mood to boil it down, I usually say something like “Good marketing is authentic.” What I mean by that is that good marketing is genuine, it derives its essential principles from a core that is pure and has a real purpose. This might sound counterintuitive if you’re someone who generally believes that marketing is phony and can’t be trusted. Well, as marketers, we can tell you – sometimes it is phony. But also, like anything else, most marketing isn’t great, and can be improved. How to improve it? That’s right, make it more genuine.

Good marketing is authentic.

It’s not something you can just wave your magic wand and do – even if you do have a magic wand. Don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging – we have some specific advice on how to proceed down the path of authenticity. It all starts with you.

How to make it real

If you want to market more authentically, the first place you need to start is with your story, or the story of the individuals who were there when the product or service your’e trying to market first began. You want to document:

  • Backgrounds What were the founders doing before the product existed? What specific experiences, skills, values, and attributes did the founders have that led them to create the product?
  • Specific problems What was the specific problem that the product was created to solve?
  • Bona Fides What makes the founders the right people to solve the specific problem you documented? What makes your product unique?
  • Landmark Dates When did the product as we know it actually start? When did you first start to believe that your product could fit the market’s needs? What major events have happened since? Make a timeline.
  • Aspirations What size company do you aspire to build? In other words, how many customers do you want?
  • Your One Metric What is the ‘One Metric’ for your company? This is the singular, most-important metric that tells you if you’re doing well. Signups? Installs? ARR? Logos? Write it down and share why it’s the most important.

As you can see, to solve the problem of who to communicate to and what to say to them, you must simply answer some of the hardest questions that you’ll ever sit down to answer. These questions are designed to first discover the values of the people who started it, in order to find the value of the product to an audience that you will then go on to define. That’s why the Value Story Framework a.k.a. The Last Marketing Framework You’ll Ever Need starts with the word value.

Once you’ve gotten answers to these questions, you can start to piece together the first hints of who you should be targeting. And this works for everything from an initial market hypothesis to the positioning you’re looking for for an upmarket, downmarket, or product expansion play.

Why you should really approach marketing this way

Approaching marketing in this foundational way is harder, takes longer, and often takes several revisions to get right. On the other hand, just winging it and throwing darts when you’re coming up with your messaging and positioning is easier, faster, and also takes several revisions to get right. So why approach things the way we suggest?

Simply put, it does better and it’s the right thing to do.

When you start from the position of value and authenticity, each successive revision you make to your persona and messaging will bring you closer to being able to quickly validate or invalidate your hypotheses. When you fling darts, you start from scratch every time, and you don’t have the foundations to guide you, so that you can waste less time and test more actually relevant ideas.

Using the Value Story Framework produces messaging that is value-based, which produces messaging that is more authentic and resonates better. We’ve used this approach with dozens of clients since we started Reify and though we’re still refining, we’re convinced that in order to be the best marketers possible, you need to go back and start from where it counts: the value.

Want to check out the VSF? Chat marketing? Or anything else? Book some time with us!