These 10 Templates Will Make You Rethink How You Write Value Propositions

The cheat sheet for minimum viable marketing

Writing matters in business, design, and life alike—it is fundamental to moving your ideas forward. Yet, writing short, meaningful sentences that grab your users’ attention can be painful. Ernest Hemingway knew. When he had difficulties writing, he reminded himself:

Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest’s one-sentence technique can be useful whether you are writing copy for UX, advertising, company presentations or more generally pitching ideas face-to-face. So to get you a head start, I put together a collection of ten value proposition templates from previous posts here and here.

Here’s the round-up.

1. Geoff Moore’s Value Positioning Statement

Probably the best known to date. In his seminal book Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore provides a Mad Libs-style template for outlining your market positioning. In addition to the below part, Moore also introduces a second statement focused on competitive positioning.

Template

For ____________ (target customer)

who ____________ (statement of the need or opportunity)

our (product/service name) is ____________ (product category)

that (statement of benefit) ____________ .

Sample(s)

For non-technical marketers

who struggle to find return on investment in social media

our product is a web-based analytics software that translates engagement metrics into actionable revenue metrics.


2. Venture Hacks’ High-Concept Pitch

In their book Made to Stick Dan and Chip Heath point to how high-concept pitches such as ‘Jaws on a spaceship’ (Alien) and ‘Die Hard on a bus’ (Speed) convinced movie executives to invest vast sums of money on the basis of almost no information. In Pitching Hacks Nivi and Navel from AngelList build on the Heath brothers’ idea and share examples of how this technique can be applied to startups.

Template

[Proven industry example] for/of [new domain].

Sample(s)

Flickr for video.

Friendster for dogs.

The Firefox of media players.


3. Steve Blank’s XYZ

Lean Startup and Customer development guru Steve Blank refers to the value proposition as a ‘ten-dollar phrase’ describing a company’s product or service; the ‘what are you building and selling?’ Blank suggests using the following form for creating a value proposition statement that people truly can understand.

Template

“We help X do Y doing Z”.

Sample(s)

We help non-technical marketers discover return on investment in social media by turning engagement metrics into revenue metrics.


4. Vlaskovits & Cooper’s Customer-Problem-Solution

In their Cheat Guide to Customer Development booklet, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits applied what they call a Customer-Problem-Solution presentation. Here’s their system.

Template

Customer: ____________ (who your customer is).

Problem: ____________(what problem you’re solving for the customer).

Solution: ____________ (what is your solution for the problem).

Sample(s)

Customer: I believe my best customers are small and medium-sized business (SMB) markets.

Problem: Who cannot easily measure campaign ROI because existing solutions are too expensive, complicated to deploy, display a dizzying array of non-actionable charts.

Solution: Low cost, easy to deploy analytics system designed for non-technical marketers who need actionable metrics.


5. Dave McClure’s Elevator Ride

In his How to Pitch a VC presentation, investor and founder of startup accelerator 500 Startups Dave McClure presents a 3-step check list for creating positioning statements.

Template

  • Short, simple, memorable; what, how, why.
  • 3 keywords or phrases
  • KISS (no expert jargon)

Sample(s)

  • “Mint.com is the free, easy way to manage your money online.”

6. David Cowan’s Pitchcraft

Although more elaborative than the above templates, David Cowan shares some useful guidelines in his Practicing the Art of Pitchcraft piece. I put together a summary.

Template

  1. Highlight the enormity of the problem you are tackling.
  2. Tell the audience up front what your company sells.
  3. Distill the differentiation down to one, easy-to-comprehend sentence.
  4. Establish credibility by sharing the pedigree of the entrepreneurs, customers, or the investors.

Sample(s)

One person dies of melanoma every 62 minutes.

We offer a dermatoscope app for iPhone that enables people to easily diagnose their skin,

leveraging patented pattern recognition technology trusted by the World Health Organization.


7. Eric Sink’s Value Positioning

Eric Sink writes that your value proposition is somewhat like your marketing iceberg; the part sticking out of the water is highly visible. Sink suggests using the following format for crafting value positioning statements.

Template

Superlative (“why choose this product”).

Label (“what is this product”).

Qualifiers (“who should choose this product”).

Sample(s)

The easiest operating system for netbook PC’s.

The most secure payment gateway for mobile e-commerce.


8. Clay Christensen’s Jobs-to-be-done Statement

According to HBS Professor Clay Christensen, designing an innovative customer value proposition begins with genuinely understanding the customer’s jobs-to-be-done (JTBD). Its premise is that customers don’t really buy products. Instead, they hire them to do a situational job. That is, instead of asking what products customers want to buy, JTBD asks what fundamental problems they hope to address. In a MIT SLOAN Management Review article, Ulwick and Bettencourt suggest using a “job statement”.

Template

Action verb: _________

Object of action: _________

Contextual identifier: _________.

Sample(s)

“Manage [action verb] personal finances [object of action] at home [contextual identifier]”. (Mint.com)

“Preserving fun memories.” (Kodak’s Funsaver)

“Listen to music while jogging.” (iPod)


9. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

According to Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” Sinek’s Golden Circle framework shows you how to turn an idea into a social movement by leading a focus on your Why—before drilling into the how and what of your solution. This step-by-step process teaches you to clarify your Why, articulate your Hows, and the importance of being consistent in What you do.

Template

Why: ___________

How: ___________

What: ___________

Sample(s)

Why: In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.

How: The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.

What: We just happen to make computers.


10. The Minto Pyramid aka SCQA

The SCQA (Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer) framework by Barbara Minto, also known as The Minto Pyramid, helps you organize your ideas to write compelling business documents. It be memos, presentations, emails, blog posts or — key to all the former — value propositions.

Template

Situation — describe what is the current situation

Complication — describe the issue in the situation

Question — describe the question in response to the issue

Answer — suggest answer to ease out or mitigate the issue

Sample(s)

With the rise of smartphones and online video the use of data has exploded.

Consequently, wireless networks become congested and slow.

How can mobile operators increase their quality of service?

Our patented routing algorithm helps mobile operators radically increase throughput.


Bonus: The VAD approach

In a previous blog post on value propositions I set out to learn from Guy Kawasaki’s evangelism approaches. On his blog I found that he tends to take something like a verb-application-differentiator approach when describing the startups that he’s working with.

Template

[verb; application; differentiator]

Sample(s)

Share PowerPoint and Keynote slides including audio (Slideshare).

Create and write blogs via email (Posterous).

Make VOIP calls easily and cheaply (JaJah).


Often one size doesn’t fit all. So pick the template that fits your project or remix two or more to make it your own. Once you have ‘prototyped’ your value proposition, use A/B testing or run experiments with it on your web site, in ads, social media or face-to-face meetings to see what sticks.

Feel free to reach out and let me know your thoughts on Twitter @tor