Writing an Awesome Value Proposition

In a day and age of short attention spans and jam packed schedules, it is becoming harder and harder to catch the attention of our customers. The ability to quickly and effectively answer your customer’s ‘why should I care what you have to say‘ question can be the difference between a successful sale or a lost opportunity.

The value proposition statement is a streamlined and concise tool for developing this messaging in order to create a competitive advantage. In this article we will look into why a strong value proposition is important, what a value proposition is (and isn’t), what a good one looks like, and provide a step-by-step process for creating one of your very own.

We have a lot to cover so let’s get started…

Why is a strong Value Proposition so dang important?

So what then is the value, of a strong Value Proposition (see what we did there)? 

According to website analytics data, your website has 15 seconds or less to attract the attention of a visitor and clearly communicate two things to them:

  1. Why they are in the right place
  2. That what you have to share with them is important.

If you aren’t able to do this quickly and concisely, any of the work you have put into the remainder of your site has little to no value. You will have lost the visitor to the infamous bounce rate statistic as they jump back to search results to find another option.

Not only is this negative to your current opportunity for connecting to a potential customer but it can also have a long term effect on your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. When search engine providers like Google notice that people leave your site quickly after they arrive, their algorithm assumes that visitors aren’t able to find quality information on your site and will downgrade the score they have aggregated on your website and its pages.

Conversely, a longer site visit with multiple page interactions tells these search providers that visitors are finding value in what your site provides and will make them more prone to show it for similar search queries. Just like our sites, search providers succeed when they provide valuable and useful search engine result pages (SERPs) to their searchers, and their rankings are developed to do just that. This is a helpful article for those interested in learning more about how search engines crawl, index, and rank websites.

A well-crafted Value Proposition is designed specifically to clearly answer the what and why questions needed to capture attention, build intrigue, and encourage the visitor to continue down the path with you. With the visitor hooked, all of the hard work you have put into the rest of the site, including the features and benefits of your offering, are now exposed and the visitor is primed to engage with what you have to share.

While we have focused here on a Value Proposition as part of an online or website experience, the same really holds true for any marketing channel (print, email, social, traditional, or direct sales).

Next, let’s take a closer look at what a Value Proposition does and the components they comprise.

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What is a Value Proposition?

As we learned in the previous section, a value proposition is a statement that captures your captive audience’s attention before they lose interest and leave you. By capturing their attention you are able to continue engaging with them through the rest of your marketing, advertising, or website content. The ultimate goal is that in the end, they have taken some meaningful action (often called conversion) that allows you to nurture and derive value from the relationship.

At its core, the value proposition describes the overarching promise your product, service, or company provides to the marketplace. It should be short, concise, and super clear. Remember that you don’t get a lot of time to hold their attention. It is often good to call out the one thing that you do differently or better than others they consider. Without it, left to choosing you or option B, it becomes a 50/50 split and no better than a flip of a coin. Do what you can to tip the scales in your favor!

Some of the important questions it helps a viewer to answer quickly include:

  • What do you offer that people buy?
  • How do you solve the customer’s problem or improve their situation?
  • What outcomes can they expect?
  • Why should someone pick you over the others they are considering?
  • (in some cases) What’s the cost benefit?

The value proposition is not:

  • A long list of features
  • A complicated description
  • Overly general…remember that you want to stand out
  • Filled with industry jargon or with alphabet soup (acronyms)

While the value proposition is not the place for a list of features or detailed benefits, it does serve as a smooth transition into these types of sections. As Simon Sinek shares in his wildly popular TedTalk video Start With Why with nearly 14 million views; 

Every single person and every organization knows ‘What’ they do. These are the features, specs, and deliverables they create. Very few know how to communicate ‘How’ and ‘Why’ they do what they do. The trouble with this is that people don’t buy What we do. Instead they buy Why and How we do it.

Simon Sinek
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What does a good Value Proposition look like?

Whether we want to believe it or not, humans make decisions (including buying decisions) based on an emotional response. This was proven in evidence discovered by psychological researchers studying patients who suffered damage to the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls emotions. What they found is that these patients struggled to make even the most routine decisions

Our brains, through the earliest fight or flight response, are wired to respond quickly to our emotional queues. After an emotional que sparks a decision priority, the remainder of our brain looks to justify the decision using rational thought/logic to prove the initial assessment we made. A great book that looks deeper into this dichotomy of the brain is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.

Knowing this, here are 9 of the most popular emotional triggers that can be leveraged in your value proposition to create a response:

  • fear
  • time 
  • trust 
  • value
  • belonging
  • guilt
  • instant gratification
  • leadership
  • competition

Components of a Value Proposition

The best value propositions have the following things in common.

1) They are Valuable

They answer the ‘What’s in it for me’ question that the viewer is looking to solve.

2) Solve an ongoing problem

People look to purchase products or services that help them solve their problems. If what you offer can solve a problem faced by a niche within a market, you will catch the eye of potential customers and prove your value.

3) Captures the main benefit

Clearly articulate what it is you do to solve this problem. What outcomes can the customer expect? How will they feel or what emotions will be triggered when they pick you? Remember, we start our purchasing decisions with an emotional response.

4) Call out what makes you unique

Unless what you offer is extremely (and yes I mean extremely) innovative, the customer is probably considering other alternatives to solve this same problem. What is it that makes your’s unique or special? What should they know that tips the scale in your favor?

5) Keep it clear & simple

Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. The goal here is to capture attention. If they’re interested, you’ll have their ear and can share the nitty gritty details. No one has time or interest in reading a two page thesis to answer the ‘should I care’ question. Try cutting your initial draft down as much as you can.

Adding Boosters

Sometimes it helps to add ‘boosters’ to the end or next to your value proposition. These small additions can make your message more enticing than the others in the consideration set.

A few examples of boosters include;

  • Free shipping
  • Fast shipping/Next-day shipping
  • Free bonus with a purchase
  • Free setup/installation
  • No setup fee
  • No long-term contract, cancel any time
  • License for multiple computers (vs. 1)
  • (Better than) money-back guarantee
  • A discounted price (for a product)
  • Customizable

Here is an example of how Netflix uses a booster of ‘Cancel Anytime’ to reduce the decision friction and influence the customer to take the next step. Knowing that I’m not locked into a long term contract makes the decision I’m making less scary.

example of value proposition booster from netflix
example of value proposition booster from Netflix website
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Steps to creating a killer Value Proposition

While there are many methods and templates to generate a solid value proposition statement, I like that the following process is concrete and builds on the work done in each step leading to the overall completed result.

Step 1: Know what you are promoting

Start by listing clearly what it is your statement is promoting. It is important to be clear on whether you are promoting an entire business, a single product, and event, a career opportunity, or something completely different.

Constantly ask yourself ‘what is being promoted here’? You may find that you need multiple, different, statements for each item or situation. Write down now your answer to this question.

Step 2: List the benefits

Create a list of all of the benefits that may come from what you’re promoting in Step 1. This might include physical benefits, emotional benefits, social benefits, and/or financial benefits.

This is a time to capture everything. In typical brainstorming fashion, don’t find yourself second guessing at this point. Questioning causes the natural creative paths within your brain to shut down and may cause you to miss out on capturing the ‘golden ticket’ that was right behind it. 

Write every idea down!

Step 3: List the user problems related to this offer

Again create a list, but this time switch perspectives and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Even better yet, you might get out and ask the customer. The goal here is to identify every problem they face that you might be able to help them solve. 

You might have to go deep here. When I say that the problem I’m trying to solve is to ‘find a plumber,’ what I’m really trying to do is find someone who will show up on time or not make a mess and damage my place which are the true problems I’ve experienced from previous plumbing jobs. There are the same problems you might be able to solve.

After you have exhausted your list of problems, next rank the problems from most to least important in the eye of the customer.

Step 4: Match your benefits to their problems

For customer problem #1, review the list of benefits you recorded in step 2 and pick the ones that are most relevant to this problem. From this list rank the benefits you selected from highest to least impactful.

Do the same thing for problems #2 and #3. Give most of your focus and attention on these first three problems as they should be the ones most important to your customer.

Step 5: Condense the benefits into your Value Statement

Now that you are clear on the problems you help a customer solve and the strongest benefits your product/service offers to tackle these problems…it is time to summarize these into an overall statement.

You can use a template like the following to help hone in this statement. Remember that the goal here is to grab attention so make sure you pick language that stands out from the crowd. This is a place where you can get bold.

Value Statement Template

[Summary of User Problem] * Attention getter

[Benefits] [Emotional Outcome]

Examples using this template

Tired of plumbers making a mess of your home?

We are too! Pick a plumber who will leave your place cleaner than when we arrived. Or we’ll hire a cleaning company to make it right.

** This one almost creates the visual itself. I could picture an image of a plumber with a vacuum cleaner picking up after themself. Now that would get attention. Also, notice how it used a booster to make a guarantee that if you’re not happy, we’ll pay to have a professional cleaner make it right.

Focus on your business. We’ll focus on the rest.

Payroll, benefits, and HR – all in one place. Justworks simplifies your business’s back office, so you can work fearlessly.

** Work FEARLESSLY, now that is a bold and unique word that demands attention.

Every iPhone should be more than a collection of features.

It should be absolutely simple, beautiful, and magical to use.

** Magical to use, now I want to learn more about what that means.

Step 6: Take these babies on a test drive

With a handful of options now created, it is time to take them out for a spin to learn which has the strongest legs. Use small groups or A/B testing to present an audience with your different variations to see which resonates the most with them. This removes the guesswork and provides you real data on which storyline is stickiest. 

At this early stage, focus on variations with major concept differences. Don’t get caught up in single word changes or various punctuation. These may have small impacts but not to the same level as primary problem/benefit messaging.

Also, don’t be afraid to make cuts and edits at this stage. Don’t be too proud of your first drafts. This is the time to learn and adjust. We all get it wrong early on. It is being open to learning from misdirections that garnishes the best results!

Conclusion

In conclusion, remember the age old saying, ‘seldom do you get a second chance to make a great first impression.’ A strong value proposition statement demands attention in a clear/concise manner by outlining how you solve the customer’s problem through a set of unique and memorable benefits/solutions.

Articulate this beyond a reasonable doubt and show them that what you offer is the best choice for solving their known (or unknown) problem. In return they will gift you the most important resource of all: their time, consideration…and hopefully business.

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Brad Chancellor

Brad Chancellor

I'm excited to help our partners find new ways to leverage their online web presence to meet their goals. When not at the office, you will catch me running, cycling or spending time with my dog Mira.

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