Randi Korn on value propositions

List member Randi Korn, Founding Director of RK&A and author of Intentional Practice for Museums: A Guide for Maximizing Impact, responded to my earlier emails about value propositions for museums (shared with permission):

Museum websites are often put together by the museum’s marketing department, and marketers may not think that value proposition as a thing to sell or as a thing others might want to buy …

A value proposition isn’t something you can sell — at least not directly. You can’t purchase admission to a value proposition, which means its impact is harder (but not impossible) to measure.

The fact that many marketers might not devote resources to developing a value proposition may say something about the incentives in place at so many organizations, including museums.

If you’re in an environment where your work is evaluated based on how much you produce, the idea of slowing down to research and develop a value proposition sounds risky. You’re taking time away from creating countable content items (tweets, newsletters, web pages, etc.), and instead you’re talking with patrons and collecting evidence to shape the character of the organization’s identity and its relationship to key audiences.

To develop a value proposition, you’d have to spend less time on inputs and more time defining outcomes.

Randi continues:

… If the marketers, curators, and educators collaborated when conceptualizing a website, I think websites might look different and function differently. Marketing people are expert at applying marketing strategies. Curators and educators are subject matter experts with a love for the object …

Each of those departments and roles have their own incentives and motivations, as well as their own expertise and languages. Design research studies the audience, translates that internal knowledge into a language that resonates with the audience, and measures the results.

Without design research, the organization is constantly placing risky bets on the content and design systems it produces. (Though it may not feel risky because reactive, direct marketing may be the norm.) Marketers are more likely to bet a little bit on every horse in the race because they don’t understand what activities will generate the most return. Much of the unique value the organization has to offer remains locked inside subject matter experts’ heads — curators and educators, in the case of museums.

Back to Randi:

… The museum (and its website) might benefit if they all worked together to create the museum’s online image. Sometimes when people in an organization don’t combine their unique qualities into one big amazing asset, the result might not represent the whole museum.

I think one of the most exciting things about design research is the way it can bring people within an organization together. What other work brings together audiences, subject matter experts, technologists, designers, marketers, fundraisers, and executives?

Is the degree to which an organization can successfully deliver valuable content and design systems to its audiences a measure of the health of that organization?

Thanks for reading,

Kyle