This toolbox section is part of the toolbox: Women's Access to Markets

WAtM 3 - Building relationships with markets

This stage involves:

1. Understanding value propositions

Value propositions are a description of what motivates buyers or end consumers to purchase a product or service. Why do they consider that product or service worth paying for? 

Value propositions often tend to focus on short-term profitability, leading buyers to exploit people, places, and nature in damaging and unsustainable ways. Examples include, use of women’s and children’s unpaid or low-paid labour, environmental pollution, toxins in the workplace and in products, taking of land and resources without compensation, and more. Large buyers have controlled markets, keeping smaller players out and setting prices that are artificially low. However, increasing access to information is making it harder for large buyers to keep unethical practices hidden. Consumers are demanding more information about where their products come from, how they are made, and what they contain. 

Value propositions can be shaped by education, policies, ethics and innovation as well as by personal experience. Producers may be able to introduce buyers and consumers to value propositions that they had not previously considered. Sometimes buyers and end consumers have value propositions that are not being fulfilled by the market. For instance, suppose a buyer has customers looking for blue scarves to match school uniforms but the only scarves available are yellow. If the buyer could work with a group of producers to make such scarves, he or she could expand into new markets. Once the buyer understands the market potential, they may be willing to invest time, materials, equipment, and even money in enabling producers to make the scarves. Once the buyer and the producers establish a relationship, they can work together to grow the market. 

Value propositions are the “glue” that connects producers and buyers. If producers can develop and deliver products or services that help buyers solve a problem or capture an opportunity, then there is a basis for a win-win relationship. Often in corporate supply chains, this shared value proposition is not found, leading to exploitation of the weaker actors in the supply chain. 

Participatory tool:

  • Matching Value Propositions with Customer Profiles

2. Improving market access through relationship building

Listening is the key to understanding value propositions and understanding value propositions is the key to market access in which producers are valued partners. This requires a nonconventional approach to buyers in which producers are not trying to sell what they already produce, but are instead seeking to understand what the buyers really want or need. One area producers can explore with buyers is gender sensitivity. Is the buyer gender sensitive? Does the buyer see value in new or expanded roles for women?

Participatory tool:

  • Role play

3. Understanding the market demands of specific buyers

Once producers understand what a value proposition is and the different kinds of value propositions buyers and end consumers may have, and they have practiced having conversations to better understand the value propositions of buyers and end consumers, they are ready to meet with real buyers (or end consumers) to assess market demand for specific products or services. The results of research in Section Two should suggest a number of possible buyers (or end consumers) with whom to have conversations. Conversations with actual buyers (or end consumers) will give producers the information they need to decide who they want to work with and how. 

Participatory tools:

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