In journalism, they say ‘Don’t bury the lead’. Put the most important information front and center. The same goes for selling services.
Your Value Proposition
Human beings may have complex reasoning and deductive abilities.
But we are still primordial creatures. We are hardwired to survive and thrive. The average person only has one concern: What’s in it for me (WIIFM.)
Instinctively, most people won’t be all that interested in hearing about you, your history and how great you are. We want to hear what’s in it for us. If we have to wade through a lot of irrelevant words, you’ve lost us.
In journalism they say ‘Don’t bury the lead’. Put the most important information front and center.
What is a Value Proposition?
A promise of value to be delivered
Your Value Proposition is what you propose will be delivered to your customer if they conduct a ‘value exchange’. This usually means paying money for goods or services. It is one of the single most important elements of a marketing strategy for any business, startup, or nonprofit.
It is the one concrete benefit for the niche target customer. That benefit could be functional, emotional, or transformational.
Unlike the positioning statement (which is internal), the value proposition is very public. While it isn’t the same as a tagline, you do see them used interchangeably at times. If it works as both, use it.
Why Have a Value Proposition?
The goal of the value proposition is to give meaning to everyone (customers, staff, suppliers) and be very quick and easy to understand.
It is also a way of differentiating yourself and standing out. If you can work on creating a value proposition, you will be doing better than most other organizations and businesses.
The goal of the value proposition is to give meaning to everyone and be very quick and easy to understand.
For some reason, a lot of businesses don’t know what value they offer, struggle to articulate it, or muddle the message so it is just not clear why anyone should do business with them.
Create Your Value Proposition as a Website Homepage
This is a handy template for the value proposition. It also makes a good guide for building out your website homepage to make the most sense to a customer and have the maximum impact.
First, credit where credit is due. I’ve been reading and thinking about vision, mission and value propositions for much of my adult life. Recently I have enjoyed learning from Donald Miller of StoryBrand. The website example is loosely based on his.
• End-Benefit (Headline) with strong aspirational image (one or two sentences).
• Expanded explanation (what, for who, why) (another oneor two sentences)
• Features and benefits (more detailed attributes) (no more than fivel ideally one to three).
One short sentence or fragment about the END-BENEFIT to the customer. The headline is WIIFM (what’s in it for me).
It’s the end benefit, the one key reason or result that your company promises to deliver to your customer. For a website, advertisement or brochure, use an aspirational, positive image.
This is a longer description of what it is, for whom it is for, and why it is better or different. This could be one or more sentences, but keep it as short and clear as possible. Make it focused on your customers. It’s WIIFM as well. Use a couple of sentences if you need to.
What are Your Top Features and Benefits
Again, keep it short. Use strong words. Stick to a few only. If you mention too many features it doesn’t necessarily make for a stronger case, it might just bamboozle.
Do you have different complicated options? Forget them for the time being. Choice can cripple. Forget all the different options and packages and permutations when you are introducing yourself to the customer.
Keep it simple.
Physical benefits ladder into emotional ones
Have you noticed how insurance companies never sell insurance? They will sell ‘peace of mind’. Funeral plans are sold on features and then ‘not being a burden’ on the family. Beds are sold on the comfort of the chiropractic moldings, and then the profound happiness you feel when waking up well-rested.
Toothpaste is partly sold on the clinically proven ability to fight plaque, but really sold the attractiveness of our smile to our partner. All of these are using an actual or logical benefit, and then laddering into emotional territory. This is where the impact really is.
Every product or service has a practical benefit and an emotional one.
Selecting the right emotional benefit is about knowing how your customer ticks and what will hit the mark for them.
Mention the features, then ladder into the emotional and personal benefits the customer can get. When we say ‘emotional’, the benefit could be felt or something similarly personal. For example, it could be related to their sense of self-identity, and how they like to be seen by other people. But it is up to you whether it’s right for your product or service to go ‘deep’ or not. Sometimes it’s not.
Is Lego sold as ‘handy building blocks to develop children’s fine motor skills?’ No, but it could. That would be a functional benefit.
Lego’s value proposition, instead, is transformational. It is about developing creative minds that can ‘rebuild the world’.
It appeals directly to kids, but also the chief purchasing officer, mom. Because who doesn’t want a creative, engineering kid who’s going to transform the world?
The Value Proposition should:
• Be Jargon-free
• Very clear
• Not use ‘hype’ or clichés
Examples of Strong Value Propositions
(Bitly is a link shortener that makes an appeal to the busy professional for a performance advantage.)
“Powerful, recognizable links”
- Get the edge you need with links you can trust
- Bitly helps you maximize the impact of every digital initiative with industry-leading features and tools.
Features and Benefits:
• Link shortening: share and short powerful links
• Branded links: increase exposure and engagement
• Mobile links: create a seamless user experience
• Campaign management and analytics: Track and optimize every touchpoint
(World Vision is a nonprofit organization lifting people out of poverty. It makes a Compassion appeal.)
“Sponsor a child.”
As a child sponsor, you can help change a child’s world. For $48 per month, you partner with us as we work with communities to give children brighter futures.
Features and Benefits
• Sponsor a child before 30 June and pay for 12 months to s to claim a tax deduction this year.
- Images and profiles of children in need.
(This enterprise makes an ethical appeal, not a financial one. )
“Responsible banking.” is the tagline
The bank with clean money is the bank Australia needs.
Features & Benefits
• Align your banking with your values.
• What we don’t invest in
• What we do invest in
- Do you know what your bank does with your money?
Sometimes it can be helpful to do this in the reverse order. Ladder up to the one core reason at the top.
- WHAT DO YOU DO?
- FOR WHO?
2. YOUR TOP FEATURES & BENEFITS (x3 and ladder into emo benefits)
3. What is your END-BENEFIT? (1 sentence or fragment) Remember this could be a functional benefit, an emotional one, or transformational. You’ll need to look deep into the heart and mind of your customer to nail this one.
High Five Time.
Congratulations! You are already doing better than most other businesses. Your mission, vision and value proposition are important elements of your strategy to nail down. It may evolve over time.
You can keep coming back to this basic advice to guide you.
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