Creating a Value Proposition

Communicating the Benefits of Your Product, Service or Idea, Simply and Clearly

Messages must be consistent.

© iStockphoto/jacus

Imagine a world where everyone is in sales. Well, the fact is, everyone is in sales, in some fashion. It's not just the salesman at the car lot or computer reseller who qualifies: Maybe you are trying to sell your spouse your ideas for the next holiday; Maybe you're pitching a new project to your boss; Maybe you are headhunting someone to join your firm. It's all selling, and, whatever your offer (product, idea, project or job) it's important to have a really strong value proposition.

A value proposition is a short statement that clearly communicates the benefits that your potential client gets by using your product, service or idea. It "boils down" all the complexity of your sales pitch into something that your client can easily grasp and remember.

It needs to be very specific: Simply describing the features or capabilities of your offer is not enough. Your value proposition must focus closely on what your customer really wants and values. Your customer wants to solve problems, to improve on existing solutions, to have a better life, build a better business or do more, better, faster. and so on.

Creating a value proposition is a useful marketing technique that had wider application than product marketing. Whatever you are 'selling' and to whom, a value proposition is useful, if not essential, tool. Whether your 'customers' are external customers, employees, co-workers or even your family, the idea is to help them see the specific value your offer brings to them. And by doing so, you will grab their attention in such a way that they know: "Yes, that's right for me".

Creating a Great Value Proposition

"Why should I buy this specific product or idea?" asks your customer: And your value proposition must answer this, in a compelling way. In creating a good value proposition, the trick is to know your product or idea well, know how it compares with those of your competitors and, very importantly, put yourself in your customer's shoes to find the answers.

Your value proposition can be created step-by-step, by answering a series of questions. Once you answer these, you have the ingredients to create a value proposition that answers your customer's question: "Why should I buy this specific product or idea?"

Step 1: Know your customer

Thinking from the perspective of your customer, ask the following:

  • Who is he or she? What does s/he do and need?
  • What problems does s/he need to solve?
  • What improvements does s/he look for?
  • What does s/he value?

Tip: If you don't know, ask!

It's easy to try to second guess what your customers want. And very easy to get it wrong.

So do some market research: This could be a simple matter of asking customers directly, or organizing a focus group or surveys. 'Market research' is not just for external customers, it works for other 'markets' too: Depending on your product or idea, your 'market' could be employees, colleagues, or even your spouse.

Step 2: Know your product, service or idea

From your customer view point:

  • How does the product, service or idea solve the problem or offer improvement?
  • What value and hard results does it offer the customer?

Tip: Include numbers and percentages

To grab your customer's attention even faster in this financially-oriented world, your value proposition should also speak percentages and numbers: How much will your customer gain, save or improve? How much more efficient will he or she become? How much safer, smarter, faster, brighter will the solution be? And so on.

Step 3: Know your competitors

Keep on thinking from the perspective of your customer, and ask:

  • How does your product or idea create more value than competing ones?

Tip:

This can be quite difficult. See our articles on USP Analysis  , Core Competence Analysis   and SWOT Analysis   for useful tools for doing this.

Step 4: Distill the customer-oriented proposition

The final step is to pull it all together and answer, in 2 or 3 sentence: "Why should I buy this specific product or idea?"

Try writing from the customer viewpoint by completing the following, (and don't forget to include the numbers and percentages that matter!):

  • "I want to buy this product or idea because it will..."
  • "The things I value most about the offer are..."
  • "It is better than competing products or ideas because..."

Step 5: Pull it all together

Now, turn around your customers 'answer' from step 4 into a value proposition statement.

Example

Here's a simple example. Let's say that you sell lawn mowers, and your customer is someone with a large back yard.

Step 1: Know your customer

Your customer is a businessman with quite a large house, who likes the "meditative feeling" of cutting his own lawn, but gets bored by the job when it takes too long.

He's looking for a good quality of cut, for the job to be done quickly and enjoyably.

Step 2: Know your product or idea

The product is a ride-on mower with a 25 horsepower (powerful) engine and 45 inch (wide) cutting blades.

Step 3: Know your competitors

The mower goes faster and cuts wider than the competition.

Step 4: Distill the customer-oriented proposition

"Our mower cuts your grass in 50% of the time of 'big brand' mowers in its class. And it leaves the lawn looking beautiful too!"

If you haven't already looked at our USP Analysis   article, do so now – it will show you how, with a little research, you can identify how your product or service is unique. It's also worth understanding the various strategic positioning options that will underpin your value statement: our article on Porter's Generic Strategies   explains these.

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