We are pleased to present you with this exclusive guest article by Glenn Bartlett from Step Change.

There are some things in life that a business can live without — a value proposition is not one of them.

In a world of fierce competition where your audience has a limited attention span, a value proposition is the tool that you need to succinctly break the ice, define what you will do for your customer, and highlight how you are better than your competitors.

While this might seem like a tall order and you might be tempted to ramble on in a five-minute elevator pitch, remember that the key word is succinctly.

What Are the Essential Ingredients to an Effective Value Proposition?

An effective value proposition defines you. It’s the Bonnie to your Clyde, the mint sauce to your roast lamb, and the good tunes to your road trip. Whatever metaphor you use, creating an effective value proposition is made easier when you have the right four key ingredients.

1. Your purpose and ambition.

Your purpose is the reason you’re in business. It’s the reason you wake up each day and go to work.

Your ambition is what you (by you, I mean your business) aspire to be. It’s the defining path that you choose to take so that you can end up in exactly the right place.

Together, these two entities should inspire you, your staff, and your customers. Without purpose and ambition, you won’t be able to create a business strategy. And, to use the clichéd expression, without a business strategy you’re up a certain creek without a paddle.

As such, purpose and ambition are the first two ingredients that you need to create an effective value proposition.

Together they should:

  • Guide strategy
  • Create a big, bold, and inspirational message
  • Address geographic (and other) boundaries
  • Provide value for you, staff, and customers
  • Remain short, simple, and inline with your communication cadence

2. Your understanding of your customers.

You’ve probably read a lot of posts about understanding your customers. But did you ever stop to think that perhaps you should walk a mile in their shoes or take a minute to understand their world?

One of the biggest mistakes a business can make is to speak to too many potential customers. You’re not standing at a podium addressing a random group of people. You’re not a singer on a stage who’s using a brief moment between songs to make a statement.

You’re a business that needs to speak to the right group of people.

Leave the one-size-fits-all mentality for trying to pack a week’s worth of clothes into an overnight bag, and instead choose to understand a tightly defined customer audience.

The more relevant you can be to your audience, the easier it will be for you to create a value proposition that they actually act upon.

3. Your features, benefits, and implications.

The key ingredients of an effective value proposition are your features, benefits, and the implications of doing business with your company. Identifying these ingredients starts by focusing on what makes you different.

Once you’ve answered this question, step back and look at your competitors. Do they say the same exact types of things? If so, try again.

You can only create an effective value proposition when you have identified what truly makes your business unique and, most importantly, why people should care and what your uniqueness will do for them.

Once you have established the features and subsequent benefit or value that your customers will get, you’ll need to think about the implication. The implication is the outcome that your customers will experience when they use your business’s products or services. Your customers are buying the benefit; it’s your job to succinctly convince them that they can’t live without it.

4. Your brand personality.

It’s no secret that people buy from the people they like. However, everyone likes people for different reasons.

As a business it’s important that you stand for something and consistently act upon it. Your brand personality is the way that you connect with people who will like what you stand for and offer.

Use your brand personality as a guide for how you should communicate with and build a relationship with your customers.

Take a Page from the Best

With these four ingredients at the ready, it’s time to learn from the best. The following companies clearly understand the importance of an effective value proposition.

  • Mint— On the company’s home page, you can clearly understand what they sell, what the benefit is to you, who their target audience is, and why they are different from the competitors. This knowledge is achieved in under 10 seconds. After which, it is up to you (the potential customer) to decide if the benefit is worth investigating further.
  • SoundCloud — In a highly competitive industry that goes toe-to-toe with billion-dollar organisations (I’m looking at you, Apple iTunes), SoundCloud has created a personable approach that invites customers to immediately engage. Like Mint, it instantly provides the quintessential ingredients of an effective value proposition via the “who, what, how, where, and why”. As an added bonus, they immediately offer a value by showing trending new music.
  • Jump Property Management— With a tongue-in-cheek tone that clearly defines their brand personality, Jump Property Management doesn’t just show how they are uniquely different, they separate themselves from the entire industry. The company uses an open and honest approach to address the all too common issues that people experience when they deal with incompetent property managers. What’s more, the company truly understands the importance of tightly defining the ideal customer audience. Their services might not be for everyone, but the customers who are attracted by their value proposition will be loyal brand ambassadors.

The moral of the story is clear: If you want to create an effective value proposition, then you need to take a page from the best examples and start by clearly defining your purpose and ambition. Next, you need to target your specific customers, craft your value-driven statements, and identify your brand’s unique personality. Through these four ingredients, you can and will create a value proposition that inspires people to buy.

 

Written by Glenn Bartlett, Head of Strategy at Step Change

Glenn graduated with a commerce degree in 1998 and, like most Kiwis, bought a one-way ticket to London. He began his career as a 21-year-old at Saatchi & Saatchi managing strategy for Procter & Gamble business across Europe. He later moved client side and has worked for three of the most strategic organisations on the planet — Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola.

 

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