Making the most out of the Value Proposition Canvas

From time to time client’s intrapreneurs and internal innovation coaches ask me how to use the Value Proposition Canvas. They might’ve seen it somewhere, or someone told them it is a good tool, and now they want some advice on how to proceed. Although all of them have their unique context, the bulk of my response is quite standard.

And now I’m sharing that generic part of the response with you.

Begin by watching Strategyzers Value Proposition Canvas Explained and studying the canvas itself. If you will use it with others, share it with them beforehand, so they can prepare as well.

Building blocks explained

There is a fair amount of confusion regarding the building blocks, which is perplexing to me since Strategyzer provides detailed explanations for each one of them on their support website. Descriptions below are extracted from there.

Customer Profile or Customer Segment

Customer Jobs

Types of Jobs

Social jobs: Trying to look good or gaining power and status are social jobs. These jobs describe how a customer wants to be perceived by others.

Emotional jobs: Your customers may seek a specific feeling, such as feeling good or feeling secure. This is a social job they are trying to get done.

Supporting jobs: Besides trying to get a core job done, your customer performs ancillary jobs in different roles. These can be divided into three categories:

Buyer: In this role, your customer performs jobs related to buying, such as comparing offers, deciding which products to buy, performing a purchase, or taking delivery of a product or service.

Co-Creator: In this role, your customer performs jobs related to co-creating value with you as an organization, such as co-designing a product or solution or even creating part of the value proposition.

Transferrer: In this role, your customer performs jobs related to the end of the lifecycle of a value proposition. This could be, for example, how customers dispose of a product, transfer it to others, or resell it.



Customer Pains


Questions to ask

  • What does your customer find too costly? E.g. does it take them a lot of time, cost them too much money, or require substantial efforts?
  • What makes your customer feel bad? E.g. what are their frustrations, annoyances, or the things that give them a headache?
  • How are current solutions underperforming for your customer? E.g. which features are they missing, are there performance issues that annoy them, or malfunctions they mention?
  • What are the main difficulties and challenges your customers encounter? E.g. do they understand how things work, do they have difficulties getting certain things done, or do they resist certain jobs for specific reasons?
  • What negative social consequences do your customers encounter or fear? E.g. Are they afraid of a loss of face, power, trust, or status?
  • What risks do your customers fear? E.g. Are they afraid of financial, social, or technical risks, or are they asking themselves what could go awfully wrong?
  • What’s keeping your customer awake at night? E.g. What are their big issues, concerns, and worries?
  • What common mistakes do your customers make? E.g. Are they using a solution the wrong way?
  • What are barriers keeping your customers from adopting a solution? E.g. Are there upfront investment costs, a steep learning curve, or are there other obstacles preventing adoption?

Customer Gains

Types of Outcomes & Benefits

Expected gains: These are relatively basic gains that we expect from a solution, even if it could work without them. For example, since Apple launched the iPhone, we expect phones to be well designed and look good.

Desired gains: These are gains that go beyond what we expect from a solution but would love to have if we could. These are usually gains that customers would come up with if you asked them. For example, we desire smartphones to be seamlessly integrated with our other devices.

Unexpected gains: These are gains that go beyond customer expectations and desires. They wouldn’t even come up with them if you asked them. Before Apple brought touch screens and the app store to the mainstream, nobody really expected them to be part of a phone.


Questions to ask

  • Which savings would make your customers happy? E.g. which savings in terms of time, money and effort would they value?
  • What outcomes do your customers expect and what would go beyond their expectations? E.g. What quality levels do they expect and what could you offer more or less of?
  • How do current solutions delight your customers? E.g. Which specific features do they enjoy, what performance and quality do they expect?
  • What would make your customers’ jobs or life easier? E.g. Could there be a flatter learning curve, more services, or lower costs of ownership?
  • What positive social consequences do your customers desire? E.g. what makes them look good, increase their power or their status?
  • What are customers looking for most? Are they searching for good design, guarantees, specific or more features?
  • What do customers dream about? E.g. What do they aspire to achieve or what would be a big relief to them?
  • How do your customers measure success and failure? E.g. How do they measure performance or cost?
  • What would increase your customers’ likelihood of adopting a solution? E.g. do they desire lower cost, fewer investments, lower risk, or better quality?

Value Map or Value Proposition

Products and Services

Types of Products & Services

Physical/Tangible: Goods, such as manufactured products.

Intangible: Products, like copyrights, or services, such as after sales assistance.

Digital: Products, like music downloads, or services like online recommendations.

Financial: Products like investment funds or services like the financing of a purchase.


Pain Relievers

Questions to ask

  • Produce savings? E.g. in terms of time, money, or efforts.
  • Make your customers feel better? E.g. by killing frustrations, annoyances, things that give customers a headache.
  • Fix underperforming solutions? E.g. by introducing new features, better performance, or better quality.
  • Put an end to difficulties and challenges your customers encounter? E.g. by making things easier or eliminating obstacles.
  • Wipe out negative social consequences your customers encounter or fear? E.g. in terms of loss of face, lost power, trust, or status.
  • Eliminate risks your customers fear? E.g. financial, social, technical risks, or what could go awfully wrong.
  • Help your customers better sleep at night? E.g. by helping with big issues, by diminishing concerns, or eliminating worries.
  • Limit or eradicate common mistakes customers make? E.g. by helping use a solution the right way.
  • Get rid of barriers that are keeping your customer from adopting solutions? E.g. lower or no upfront investment costs, flatter learning curve, or the elimination of other obstacles preventing adoption.


Gain Creators

Questions to ask

  • Create savings that make your customers happy? E.g. in terms of time, money and effort, …)
  • Produce outcomes your customers expect or that go beyond their expectations? E.g. better quality levels, more of something, or less of something.
  • Outperform current solutions and delight your customers? E.g. regarding specific features, performance, or quality.
  • Make your customers’ work or life easier? E.g. via better usability, accessibility, more services, or lower cost of ownership.
  • Create positive social consequences? E.g. makes them look good, or produces an increase in power, status.
  • Do something specific that customers are looking for? E.g. good design, guarantees, specific or more features.
  • Fulfill something customers are dreaming about? E.g. by helping them achieve their aspirations or getting a relief from a big issue?
  • Produce positive outcomes matching your customers’ success and failure criteria? E.g. better performance, or lower cost)
  • Help make adoption easier? E.g. lower cost, fewer investments, lower risk, better quality, performance, or design.


How to use the value proposition canvas?

It is highly unlikely that you are starting from a blank slate, or in other words, you probably already have some ideas about who do you want to serve and what do you want to serve them with. Start by writing them down in the appropriate parts of the value proposition canvas.

Congratulations, now you have a bunch of assumptions on your canvas. Grab a colleague and ask them if what you put down makes any sense at all. Take their feedback with an open heart. Rewrite so it makes more sense. Look at your customer profile, select a few jobs, pains, and gains that you want to focus on. Remember, these are still assumptions, so now you need to test them with actual customers.

Once you’ve done that move to the value map. Does what you have there fit with what you found out about customer needs? Test it. No fit? Pivot or persevere. Fit? Great, continue with developing the rest of the business model.

For more examples read How To Fill In A Value Proposition Canvas by Isaac Jeffries and How to really understand your customer with the value proposition canvas by Patrick van der Pijl. There are also around 400 blog posts including the value proposition canvas term at the Strategyzer blog. But if you are going that route then you might as well read the book Value Proposition Design, which has the most detailed explanations and examples.

Remember, it’s all about the speed of learning.

Value proposition design is covered in the hospitality scenario which comes with Playing Lean 2.

Originally published at

The Lean Startup methodology gamified