Quick Executive Briefing: The 4 Questions an Effective Value Proposition Must Answer
Writing ain’t magic.
Sure, copywriters can craft a compelling narrative about your product. But, we need something to write about. We can handle the “well told” part, but marketers need to identify the essential “truth” of their products.
That truth is a value proposition.
What Is Your Company’s Value Proposition?
Try this. Write down your company’s value proposition. Now email five people – colleagues, business leaders, vendors, partners – and ask them what your company’s value proposition is.
How aligned are you?
And if you’re not aligned internally, how can your agency effectively communicate your company’s value prop? How can customers possibly understand it?
If you’re not aligned, take heart. Many firms struggle to state their value proposition.
To help get you started and your leaders aligned, here is a quick read for the busy executive – a very brief overview of MECLABS Institute’s value proposition methodology.
This methodology is based on a review of 1,100 articles, books and academic papers on competitive advantage, differentiation, unique selling points, and value proposition combined with almost 20 years of experimentation with brands’ real products and actual customers.
Appeal – How Much do Your Ideal Customers Desire What Your Company Offers?
No business leader wants SEO, web design, or web development services, for example. They want a resulting experience. That’s where the real appeal lies.
So how do your services give them what is actually appealing to them? In this example, that might be more traffic, more leads, more sales, etc.
As economist Theodore Levitt famously said, “People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”
Exclusivity – Where Else Can Your Ideal Customers Get What Your Company Offers?
There is a spectrum of value exclusivity. On the left side are pure commodities like oil, gold, and silver. These purchase decisions are made solely on cost.
On the right side are rare and custom products like luxury box seats at a Jacksonville Jaguars playoff game, a painting by Pablo Picasso, or a custom home.
Your company is somewhere between these extremes.
The less differentiation you offer, the lower your margins will be and the more you must compete on price. The more differentiation you offer, the higher your margins will be and the more you can compete on value.
For example, Apple has more value exclusivity than Dell. Its products are also usually more expensive.
Clarity – Do Your Ideal Customers Understand What You Are Actually Offering?
I’m a huge Jerry Seinfeld fan. Huge.
With one exception. The Microsoft commercial Jerry did with Bill Gates.
From watching those ads, I have no idea what they were supposed to be selling. Upon further research, somehow they were promoting Microsoft Vista software.
As a former copywriter myself, I can tell you, us ad creatives love, LOVE, a creative idea.
But that creative idea cannot exist for creativity’s sake alone. The concept must serve the value proposition. Creativity in advertising and marketing exists to break through the clutter and give the ideal customer a clear understanding of the value prop.
On the flip side, another impediment to clarity is what I call blandvertising. There is copy, but it just kind of washes over you without having any meaning.
Here’s a great example: “Our cloud-based software suite is reliable and scalable…”
Does that give you any greater clarity about the company’s unique value? There are thousands of companies that can have similar copy on their homepage.
Credibility – Will Your Ideal Customers Believe Your Claims?
Every press release I’ve gotten for a book is “best-selling.” There are no average-selling books apparently.
Every golf course I’ve read about is a “championship” golf course.
There is usually more than just one platform that claims to be the #1 platform for whatever it does.
And every conference is the “leading” conference in that industry. I guess no one wants to promote a “laggard” conference.
Sometimes marketing words have no power because they aren’t clear, as mentioned above. But sometimes marketing copy isn’t forceful because the ideal customer simply doesn’t believe it.
In my earlier software consulting days I did some work with a startup that told me, “OK, not that you’re on board, you have to wholeheartedly buy into a simple notion — that we are the most amazing product in our industry and will change the world.”
I responded, “No, it’s my role to think — who cares? Because that’s what your ideal investors and customers think at this very moment. They have no reason to believe the statement you just told me. We have to communicate credible reasons for them to be as bought into the product as you are.”
Startups — and really every business person and marketer — should have passion and an abiding belief in their product. But don’t let it blind you to the fact that customers won’t believe you if you don’t give them a reason to.
Value Proposition Workshop
At MECLABS Institute, we bring key business decision makers into the same room in a value proposition workshop to get aligned on and answer essential questions like the ones I mentioned.
And then score their answers using a rigorous methodology to help identify potential value propositions that can be tested. Below is an example of what a score might look like based on a submission from our audience.
At the end of the day, the big question you’re trying to answer is: “If I am your ideal customer, why should I do business with your company instead of any of your competitors?”
When you are able to communicate a clear, appealing, exclusive, and credible answer to that question, you will improve margins, increase sales, and make sure everyone in your organization is on the same page to better serve customers.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.