A value proposition is the #1 thing that determines whether people will bother reading more about your product or hit the back button. It’s also the main thing you need to test – if you get it right, it will be a huge boost.
The less known your company is, the better value proposition you need. When I reviewed a bunch of websites, the conclusion was that missing or poor value proposition is one of the most common shortcomings.
What exactly is a value proposition?
A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you.
In a nutshell, a value proposition is a clear statement that
- explains how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (relevancy),
- delivers specific benefits (quantified value),
- tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (unique differentiation).
You have to present your value proposition as the first thing the visitors see on your homepage but should be visible in all major entry points of the site.
It’s not just for aesthetics, or to placate a CEO or copywriter, but ultimately, to improve your customer lifetime value.
It’s for people to read and understand
A value proposition is something real humans are supposed to understand. It’s for people to read. Here’s an example of what a value proposition is NOT supposed to be like:
Revenue-focused marketing automation & sales effectiveness solutions unleash collaboration throughout the revenue cycle
Would you be able to explain to your friend what the offer is and how they’d benefit? Didn’t think so. Unfortunately, it’s no joke. Such meaningless jargon-propositions are abundant. Avoid blandvertising at all costs.
Use the right language
Your value proposition needs to be in the language of the customer. It should join the conversation that is already going on in the customer’s mind. In order to do that you need to know the language, your customers use to describe your offering and how they benefit from it.
You cannot guess what that language is. The way YOU speak about your services is often very different from how your customers describe it. The answers are outside your office. You have to interview your customers to find it out, or use social media.
What the value proposition is NOT
It’s not a slogan or a catch phrase. This is not a value proposition:
L’Oréal. Because we’re worth it.
It’s not a positioning statement. This is not a value proposition:
America’s #1 Bandage Brand. Heals the wound fast, heals the hurt faster.
A positioning statement is a subset of a value proposition, but it’s not the same thing.
What the value proposition consists of
The value proposition is usually a block of text (a headline, sub-headline and one paragraph of text) with a visual (photo, hero shot, graphics).
There is no one right way to go about it, but I suggest you start with the following formula:
- Headline. What is the end-benefit you’re offering, in 1 short sentence. Can mention the product and/or the customer. Attention grabber.
- Sub-headline or a 2-3 sentence paragraph. A specific explanation of what you do/offer, for whom and why is it useful.
- 3 bullet points. List the key benefits or features.
- Visual. Images communicate much faster than words. Show the product, the hero shot or an image reinforcing your main message.
Evaluate your current value proposition by checking whether it answers the questions below:
- What product or service is your company selling?
- What is the end-benefit of using it?
- Who is your target customer for this product or service?
- What makes your offering unique and different?
Use the headline-paragraph-bullets-visual formula to structure the answers.
How to create a winning value proposition?
The best value proposition is clear: what is it, for whom and how is it useful? If those questions are answered, you’re on the right path. Always strive for clarity first.
If your value proposition makes people go “hmph?”, you’re doing it wrong. If they have to read a lot of text to understand your offering, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, sufficient amount of information is crucial for conversions, but you need to draw them in with a clear, compelling value proposition first.
Research by MarketingExperiments says that the key challenge companies have is identifying an effective value proposition, followed by communicating it clearly.
What makes a good value proposition:
- Clarity! It’s easy to understand.
- It communicates the concrete results a customer will get from purchasing and using your products and/or services.
- It says how it’s different or better than the competitor’s offer.
- It avoids hype (like ‘never seen before amazing miracle product’), superlatives (‘best’) and business jargon (‘value-added interactions’).
- It can be read and understood in about 5 seconds.
Also, in most cases there is a difference between the value proposition for your company and your product. You must address both.
Presentation of your value proposition matters
Original research by CXL Institute showed that users
- noticed the value proposition more quickly when it had more text (took up more real estate on the page).
- spent longer on a value proposition as opposed to elsewhere on the page when there was more to read.
- recalled more services offered by the site when more services were listed.
- described more website advantages when there were more features and benefits available to read about
- preferred information in the form of bulleted lists, and preference for page design was influenced by which variation was originally seen.
How to craft a unique value proposition
A key role for the value proposition is to set you apart from the competition. Most people check out 4-5 different options / service providers before they decide. You want your offering to stand out in this important research phase.
So how do you make your offer unique? Often it’s hard to spot anything unique about your offering. It requires deep self-reflection and discussion.
If you can’t find anything, you better create something. Of course the unique part needs to be something customers actually care about. No point being unique for the sake of being unique (“the ball bearings inside our bicycles are blue”). Click here to learn how to come up with a value proposition when what you sell ISN’T unique.
Here are two articles that can help you with finding a “theme” or an angle for your value proposition:
- Value Propositions That Work
- The Five Propositions that Help Companies Create Value for their Customers
The key thing to remember is that you don’t need to be unique in the whole world, just in the customer’s mind. The closing of a sale takes place in a customer’s mind, not out in the marketplace among the competition.
Boosters for your value proposition
Sometimes it’s the little things that tip the decision in your favor. If all major things are pretty much the same between your and your competitors’ offer, you can win by offering small value-adds. I call them boosters.
These things work well against competitors who do not offer them. Boosters can be things like
- Free shipping
- Fast shipping / Next day shipping
- Free bonus with a purchase
- Free setup / installation
- No setup fee
- No long-term contract, cancel any time
- License for multiple computers (vs 1)
- (Better than) Money-back guarantee
- A discounted price (for a product)
You get the idea. Think what small things you could add that wouldn’t cost you much, but could be attractive to some buyers.
Make sure the booster is visible with the rest of the value proposition.
Notice the “free shipping” signs on the left and top right? Those are boosters.
Good value proposition examples
It’s tough to find perfect value proposition examples. Probably because it’s hard to create a great one. I find flaws or room for improvement with most value propositions I came across.
I’m also fully aware that I’m not the ideal customer for many of the examples shown below, and all my critique is, is an educated hypothesis (that should be tested).
Here are some good examples along with my comments:
- Very clear what it is and for whom
- Specific lead paragraph
- Key features outlined above the fold
- A relevant image
- Features a booster – “100% rebrandable”
- It’s clear what it is and for whom
- Specific benefit oriented sub-headline
- Relevant visuals
- Smooth transition into features and benefits
- Clear statement about what it is and for whom
- List of benefits
- Relevant image
- A different kind of layout, but well done. It tells a story of ‘what’ and ‘how’ . Easy to follow.
- Key features / benefits listed along with relevant imagery
- ‘Remember everything’ is a good slogan, but I’d add a specific sub-headline underneath it for improved clarity.
- Very clear headline
- Benefit and action oriented sub-headline
- Key benefits clearly listed
- Relevant image
- Missing: comparison with the competition
- The headline is very clear
- The text paragraph is decent, but shouldn’t start with a call to action
- Comparison with the competition done (5x faster, free, mention of unique features)
- I would definitely list the key benefits / features in bullets for improved readability
- The headline does communicate an emotional benefit, but its not clear enough and should be better. It’s the first thing people read. Clarity would get an instant boost if the headline would be something like “Keep track of your laptop, phone or tablet. Get it back when it gets stolen or lost. “
- The following paragraph does a good job explaining what it is.
- I would use an actual screenshot of the product to better demonstrate what it does.
- It uses boosters like social media proof and respected logos.
Extra note: last week my laptop was stolen. 5 days later I got it back because I had Prey installed on the laptop and I could track its location. I passed the info to the cops, who retrieved it. It’s awesome – install it on all your devices.
Poor value proposition examples
Some lessons from the department of “don’t do this”.
I use this service myself and think it’s great, but they really need to do a better job.
- Don’t rely on just the video to do the job. Your value proposition has to be in words people can read. Video is extra, supplemental information.
- Awful clarity: “we’ll supercharge your website”? Nobody will understand what that means.
- No proper value proposition in place at all. The readability is extremely poor. The text is for reading, it should be minimum 14px.
- Don’t ever waste precious attention on useless headlines like “Welcome to our website”. Have you ever seen a website where the visitors are not welcome?
- The text is all about “them”. We are, we offer, we have. It should be about the customer.
- Image is relevant, but kind of cheesy stock photo. Use a more authentic image.
Testing value propositions
You definitely have to test your value proposition. How?
1. A/B testing
The best way is to craft 2 candidates (or more, if you have tons of traffic) and split test them. Ideally you would measure sales conversions (for most accurate results), but if that is not possible lead conversions or even clickthroughs will do.
2. Pay per click advertising
A fast and cheap way to go about it is using Google AdWords or Facebook ads.
Basically you would split test ads with different value propositions, targeting the same customer. The ad with higher CTR (clickthrough rate) is obviously a better attention grabber and interest generator, although it doesn’t necessarily mean higher sales conversions.
Send the traffic to a corresponding landing page and test conversions too.
You need to have a value proposition and you need to communicate it clearly on all the main entry pages: home page, product pages, category pages. If you don’t state why users should buy from you, you will lost most of them.
What are some of the better value propositions you have come across?