Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Your brand’s value proposition should be the framework for everything you do in your marketing efforts— period. It provides structure, focus, direction and clarity, which are required traits for businesses to succeed. Ideally, it should be finalized before you create your website or perform a website makeover. In this article, I’ll explain my definition of the value proposition, why I believe it’s the most powerful approach, how to put it to work immediately and some pitfalls to watch out for when creating your own.
What Is a Value Proposition?
You may be thinking, “Really, he’s going to explain what it is?” Yes, I am, because if you ask five different marketing professionals what a value proposition is, you’ll typically get five different answers. The following is of course my opinion, but it’s backed up by the satisfaction of many happy clients.
My definition of a value proposition is simple. It’s what you do differently and better than your competition. If you get it right, marketing is a thing of beauty, it’s a lot easier and a lot less expensive. If you don’t get it right, you’re just another company slugging it out with your competition. Let’s look at why what you do differently and better should be the cornerstone of your value proposition.
Your Competition Is Much Bigger Than You Think
Your competition is anything and everything that distracts people from your offerings. If you sell educational toys for toddlers, your competition is everything going on in the lives of those busy parents, not just your direct competitors. Everything from after-school soccer practice to a day at the beach is your competition. Focusing on what you do differently and better allows you to shine like a lighthouse in a sea of competitors.
Your Value Proposition Can Be Uncontestable
Do you have a proven statistic that makes you stand out? Putting that fact front and center and being able to back it up is a huge differentiator.
“We provide the best educational toys for toddlers” is not a good value proposition. How would I know you provide the best educational toys for toddlers? But if Good Housekeeping puts you at the top of their list for educational toys, for example, that is something you can proudly shout to the world.
You Have a Single Message for Everyone
Focusing on what you do differently and better provides clarity and simplicity. Done correctly, it works for anyone you are targeting.
Let’s say you have multiple audiences to convince. For instance, a new cancer treatment organization may need to convince investors, CEOs and chief scientists at larger pharmaceutical companies, patients who are interested in being part of the clinical trials and more.
Focusing on what you do differently and better provides one compelling message that works for all your audiences. Of course, you may have group-specific messaging refinements to back up the value proposition, but the key message all starts with what you do differently and better.
Putting what you do differently and better first on your website, LinkedIn profile, social pages, brochures, business cards, recruiting ads and even on the signage at trade shows projects your unique value with a single message.
Some Mistakes to Avoid
Your value proposition is not a description of what you do — it’s what you do differently and better. I’ve had clients attempt to turn the value proposition into a Wikipedia page about their business or make it too glamorous or pretentious. Don’t overcomplicate this. Your value proposition is intended to grab and keep attention. Only when you do that will your audience be interested in the deeper story.
A bold headline on your website is not meant to convert; It’s meant to be riveting and interesting to keep people engaged with (of course) what you do differently and better.
Your value proposition shouldn’t be bogged down with a lot of industry jargon. The message should work for any and all of your audiences. Get their attention and keep it, then gradually bring in the deeper details. Have you heard anyone complain that a website message, brochure or company profile was too easy to understand? Probably not. Make it clear and simple, focused on your unique value.
Few Companies Have a Great Value Proposition
If you still aren’t convinced to take on this task, browse the websites of your competitors and look for value propositions about what they do differently and better. Chances are you won’t find many that are compelling. So, imagine how impactful your efforts will be with a fantastic message about how you are different and better.
It’s Not Easy
The thing that is most important for your business is also the hardest part of marketing. You can stand out and get results by working hard to create your value proposition and revisiting it over time for adjustments as your organization grows. It takes time to get it right. Be patient and keep at it. Simply by creating and using a great value proposition, you are one step ahead of your competitors — a very big step indeed.
Be diligent and don’t give up. Challenge yourself and your team, and the results could very well be worth the efforts.