Senior marketer and brand enthusiast This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. leverages years of experience in....more

What's Your Value Proposition?

Things seem to happen in threes for me. Someone in my life will get a new job, and then within a short period of time, I find that two other people have changed their careers as well. Or they will sell their homes, get sick, or lose pets. It just seems that when something happens to one person I know, I brace myself for two more to come. Recently I experienced this phenomenon when three different marketing engagements had issues with their “Unique Value Proposition,” which is a clear statement about a company’s brand or product that separates them from the competition. Of course, the solution wasn’t obvious at the beginning, but once these organizations tightened their value proposition, their communications strategy was much stronger.

Working on the fundamentals of a value proposition caused me to think that maybe others in our industry may also overlook the importance of it. I implore all of you reading this to take a few minutes to pull up (or even write down) the value propositions for your company, products, and services, and check them against the following questions:

  1. Does your value proposition demonstrate a contrast in what your customer may currently have to what they will experience by purchasing what you offer?
  2. If your value proposition was read immediately after a competitor’s value proposition, would it clearly demonstrate that your offer is unique? Will it have a strong enough impact to be the one your customer would choose?
  3. Is your value proposition written in a way that your target customer will want to take action and purchase your product?

If you think you need to tweak your value propositions, I’ll give you some tips.

  1. Be as descriptive as you can by focusing on what your target (80% of your market) would see as unique. Most value propositions are so general or claim such self-importance that I don’t see what value is being proposed to the customer. For example, “top quality solutions with the best customer service in the printing and converting industry” are words from a value proposition that would fall flat. Using “Printing and Converting Industry” is good because it is descriptive. The word “solutions” describes nothing… consider replacing this term with the exact product name. And though customer service is a huge value to retain customers, it isn’t something customers typically value at the onset of a sale, so keep these words out of it.
  2. Use words that will draw your customer to take action. Words that address your customer’s business requirements such as “optimize throughput with the strongest motors available” or “streamline the maintenance services with automated notifications from smart sensors” will help paint the picture for your customer. When your words are more specific, it helps your customer see how things will be different when they purchase from you.
  3. Write your value proposition in the language of the person that will be purchasing your product. Use their industry words (though not acronyms) and the business needs they would be addressing in selecting your products/services. You provide a bonus to the reader if your words include the role your target plays such as "engineer" or "operator."
  4. Keep it simple. You don’t get much time to boast about what you have to offer, so don't waste it. Write your words as clear and concise as possible and focus specifically on how you will help them.
  5. Test it. Show it to a handful of acquaintances in your industry, and ask them if they understand what the product/company does and for whom. If you can remain open to feedback, this will help you fine-tune the words to better impress targeted customers with your proposed value.

I've encountered the often repeated marketing adage: "Value lies in the contrast between the pain and the gain." And that "value"—like beauty—is "often in the eye of the beholder." Keep your focus on your beholder (customer), and drive them to visualize your taking away their pain by making a purchase.

You may find that one of your existing value propositions isn’t getting customers to take action. By clearly honing in on how you differentiate from your customer’s perspective you will bring some action to the mix to help reinforce your sales team.

And if one salesperson grasps it, perhaps you can prepare for two more. After all, things often come in threes!

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