A mere 17% of all visitors to your website will stay there more than 4 seconds. What do the other 83% do during the 10 seconds they’re on the site?

Well, headlines are the most-read text on the Internet. Four out of five web visitors will read a headline, while only one in five will read more than that.

These sobering statistics illustrate just how quickly you need to capture your audience’s attention if you want to engage them further. That’s why value propositions (VPs) are so important.

What Is a Value Proposition?

A value proposition is a specific, concise statement about what you have to offer your clients or customers. Nothing more, nothing less.

It tells the people who visit your website or landing page exactly what it is you do and why you’re doing it better – or differently – from others. It sounds fairly simple and straightforward, but boiling down what differentiates your business from others like yours is often a difficult process. While marketers usually know what that is, they just don’t know how to put it into words.

What a Value Proposition Is Not

VPs are not slogans. They don’t have to be catchy or funny, although it certainly doesn’t matter if they are. The most important thing is that they tell the whole story. “Because I’m worth it” and “I’m lovin’ it” don’t say anything about what company people are dealing with, and thus are not VPs (or just really horrible ones if they were!).

Figure1

Slogans, which are NOT the same as value propositions.

Value propositions are also not positioning statements. Positioning statements are more specific about which audience they target; they’re also longer and often highlight specific products. Positioning statements are more like subsets of value propositions.

Take this Miller positioning statement, for example: “The only beer with superior taste and low caloric content”. This is obviously not a value proposition for the Miller brand as a whole – we doubt most beer drinkers care about caloric content – but it is a positioning statement for Miller Lite.

Why a Value Proposition is Important

A great value proposition informs customers about what you’re offering and why they need it, all in just a few seconds. Considering how little time people spend on web pages and how little they actually read, having a prominent value proposition on your home page can make all the difference in the world when it comes to standing out and being remembered.

Value propositions have a big influence on bounce rates (the amount of visitors that leave your page instead of staying on your site), so in other words a good VP will keep visitors on your site longer. On top of that, a good value proposition can really increase conversion rate (whether that means buying something, making an enquiry or signing up to an email marketing list), and thus greatly influence profits.

How to Create a Strong Value Proposition

Good value propositions are clear, concise, specific, and relevant. Therefore, creating a good VP usually consists of a lot of trimming – cutting out unnecessary words and information and getting down to the very essence of your business.

Three Elements All Value Propositions Should Have

A good value proposition has three crucial elements:

1. Offering: What exactly is it that your company offers? What products or services? Specificity is important here. For example, instead of “catering,” use “gourmet catering” or “Mediterranean catering”.

2. Benefits: Why do people need your product or service? How will it make their life better? If it’s possible, quantify the benefits. This can have a huge impact on conversion. Think of the time of delivery or competitive price. What does it mean for the customer? The Dollar Shave Club is a great example: “A great shave for a few bucks a month”. “A great shave” says it all. See below for more examples of benefits.

3. Differentiation: This is the hardest one. What makes your business different from others that offer the same products or services? Why do you stand out from your competition? Think of specific people your business caters to or your competitive pricing or special service. Often the differentiation comes from the specificity in point one or the quantified benefit in point two.

Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Value Proposition

There are a couple of common mistakes you should absolutely avoid when writing a value proposition. These are:

1. Embellished language: Fancy words and phrases can be fine in slogans, but they don’t belong in value propositions. Try to stay away from adjectives (e.g. “leading”, “extremely”, “premier”) unless they add relevant and unique information.

2. Jargon: A value proposition should be easy for your target audience to understand, so leave out industry-specific jargon. An example of this might be: “Contingent and retained recruitment of high potentials”. While people in the HR and recruitment market will know these terms, their customers (companies looking for skilled staff) might not.

3. Unproven statements: Don’t use unproven terms like “best” or “most popular” in your value proposition. Even if you won awards that back such statements, these claims are better featured elsewhere on the page.

4. Blandvertising: Blandvertising includes marketing jargon and empty statements that really don’t tell you anything specific or add any value. Example: “Innovative solutions for improving ROI”.

How to Design a Value Proposition

Perhaps equally as important as writing a value proposition is designing it. Yes – designing it! (And you thought this was all about writing, didn’t you?)

You want your value proposition to be highly visible on your landing page; ideally, it’s the first thing people see. This can be achieved by giving it a prominent place and adequate size. Lots of infinite scroll websites these days even have nothing but the value proposition on their landing page, sometimes supported by a video or image, which leads us to the next point…

Value propositions don’t have to be just a headline, they can also be a title accompanied by a subtitle, bullet points or a short explanation. A photo or illustration can also be a pivotal part of your VP; just look at the Square Up example below.

Examples of Good Value Propositions

Square Up

This two-part VP is clear both in design and wording, and the accompanying picture says everything you need to know.

Square Up

Evernote

The headline itself isn’t very specific, though the benefits are made crystal clear. But it’s the three “bullet points” with accompanying pictures and subtitles that really sell the differentiation of the product.

Evernote

Dollar Shave Club

Do you really have any questions about what this service is? Although this VP does use the word “great”, it goes with the vibe of the slogan, and in this context it works because it’s simple and easy to understand.

Dollar Shave Club

Examples of Bad VPs

Frontier Communications

Possibly one of the most common and costly mistakes made on home pages: welcoming people. It’s unnecessary, doesn’t inform in any way and takes up space that could be otherwise used for copy that moves the visitor along the path to conversion.

Frontier-Communications

CloudFlare

A classic example of blandvertising. What does “supercharge” mean? When people look at this page, they will have no idea what’s on offer, and on top of that the image is merely an enlarged version of the logo, which also doesn’t relate to the business offering.

The use of “us” and “we’ll” means that this VP also makes the mistake of focusing more on the business rather than on the benefits to reader.

Cloudfare

Bitcoin

Bitcoin actually has a decent value proposition in their official website title: “Open Source P2P Money”. The jargon in this case isn’t too disturbing because Bitcoin’s target audience are people who know what those things mean. But unfortunately they chose for their main landing page a VP that’s not specific (“a new kind of money”) and uses blandvertising (“innovative”).

Bitcoin

Wrap Up

Creating strong value propositions is a craft that businesses and marketers should really invest a fair amount of time and effort in. After all, a VP will be read by four times as many people as those who go on to read your body copy.

A good VP doesn’t just make it clear to your audience what you’re selling; it also helps you boil things down to their essence, making the value proposition a benchmark for all other branding and marketing initiatives.

What’s your take on value propositions? Let us know in the comment section below.