Regardless of what product or service your startup offers, you will have competition. For example, if you open a restaurant in New York City, you will be competing with 23,650 other businesses for customers. If you decide to launch a shoe brand in the U.S., then expect to compete for customers alongside another 921 stores.
In order to successfully cut through the competition, your brand will need a well-crafted value proposition. In this article, I will discuss what a value proposition is, how to create one and why it is a crucial component for every brand looking to scale its business.
What is a value proposition?
In basic terms, a value proposition is a promise that you make to your customers about the benefit that you will deliver with your product or service. It provides the information that customers can use to sort through all of their options — including your competitors — meaning it needs to tell them why your brand deserves their business.
Grammarly provides an example of a value proposition that, while on the short side, gives potential customers the information that they need to make a decision. It starts with a heading that reads, “Great writing, simplified.” This heading is then followed by a promise that reads, “Compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly’s new AI-powered desktop app.” Finally, it provides a call to action button that reads, “Get Grammarly. It’s free.”
From these few simple sentences, potential customers know that using Grammarly will improve their writing with a simple desktop interface, make it bold, clear and free of mistakes by leveraging AI, and it will do all of this for free. This clear, concise messaging arms customers with helpful information as they attempt to select between the dozens of AI-powered writing assistant apps that they can download.
A value proposition provides the information that customers can use to sort through all of their options — including your competitors — meaning it needs to tell them why your brand deserves their business.
How does a value proposition help a business?
For the shopper, value propositions are more important than ever before. The rising popularity of e-commerce means there is a virtually endless number of options to choose from, regardless of the product. If a customer shops for a hairbrush on Amazon, they will find more than 9,000 separate products to choose from. Searching for a home security camera on the same platform will generate over 10,000 options for them.
Shoppers who are looking for something other than the cheapest option need other differentiators to make the best, most-informed decision for their wants and needs. They need to know what makes a product unique, and they need to know what value they can expect from it — your product’s value proposition must provide them with that information.
Shoppers face the same challenge when it comes to services. Thanks to ratings sites like Yelp and Trustpilot, there are a number of online resources that can help customers identify the options available to them. Ratings provide a good starting point for knowing which businesses have proven to be reliable. Still, ratings can be confusing, especially when there is no strong consensus. Providing a value proposition on a ratings site can show a potential customer that your brand has the exact service they need.
For the business, a value proposition can also help to streamline decision-making. Developing a value proposition requires that you make some choices about who you will serve and what you will provide, as defining your brand’s target customer will help guide marketing efforts. As your business grows, this will likewise help to keep any new products or services you release aligned with your brand.
How do you develop a value proposition?
Crafting your value proposition begins with defining your target audience. Until you do this, you will not be able to understand their needs, nor communicate how your product or service meets those needs. Defining your audience can include demographic data such as gender, age, and family status, but it should go beyond those to focus on a “customer avatar” that is more specific. Identify what the target market is trying to accomplish, the challenges they face, and how your brand will help.
A key step in crafting a value proposition is identifying your customers’ pain points. For example, imagine you are launching a business that sells baby care products. The target market’s gender, age, and family status will be fairly easy to determine. Going beyond those, however, you should determine what segment of that market your brand will target so that you can most effectively and accurately determine their pain points.
For instance, are you focused on moms who want to save time? Moms who want to save money? Moms who want to save the planet? Each of these customer groups has different pain points. By focusing on one, you can understand those pain points more clearly and draft a value proposition that directly addresses them. Failing to address your target market’s pain points all but eliminates your chances of earning their business.
Keep in mind that a good value proposition does more than explain what your product is — it explains what problem your product solves. When you read Grammarly’s value proposition, you learn that it is a tool for improving your writing. You also learn that it is a “simple” tool that does it for “free.”
Based on its value proposition, I would assume that Grammarly is not targeting techies, nor is it targeting customers who like to work with costly or exclusive tools. Rather, it has determined that its target market wants help with writing that is easy and affordable. Therefore, its value proposition focuses on those pain points.
Once you start to determine the details of your value proposition, you can gather them into a concise statement. It should be longer than a tagline, but not longer than a paragraph. Use only what you need to make it clear what you are providing, why it is unique, who it will serve, and how it fixes the pain points. Including a picture or motion graphic that helps to illustrate can also add value.
Where do you share your value proposition?
In short, share your value proposition as often as you can. Because it is central to your branding and marketing efforts, it should drive your messaging across the board. It expresses the reason your brand is the best option, so incorporate it into marketing efforts as often as possible.
Most importantly, your value proposition should be prominent on your website. Grammarly’s value proposition is the first thing you see on their site. The same is true for Bitly and Vimeo. There is nothing wrong with including it on other pages as well, such as your “About Us” page or product pages. Putting it close to your call to action buttons can help to drive conversions.
Beyond the website, your value proposition can be used for your social media posts, both paid and unpaid. If you have a physical product, you can include the value proposition in the packaging. You want people to come to associate your value proposition with your brand; the more often they see it, the better.
Developing a value proposition is important work that every startup should do. If you can’t identify how your product or service alleviates your target customer’s pain points, they won’t be able to either. Communicating that you have a quality product is not enough. There are plenty of quality products competing with you, so you must communicate that you have a solution for a specific problem that will serve a specific market.