Evaluating your business proposition might seem like something you don’t need to do, but it is important. Your proposition refers to the value you promise to deliver to your customers. It’s exuded in your brand, your communication, and every touchpoint you have with a potential user or buyer.

Building off our previous exercises in building user personas, evaluating purchase behavior, and understanding brand drivers, we’ll now take a look into how this declaration of value is core to your messaging and branding.

The Proposition Itself

A great way to think of your business proposition is that of a statement or summary of why those in your market should become users. We’ll be talking about users as opposed to buyers because the proposition should flow into every communication channel, whether towards those that interact with your brand, buy from your company, or collaborate on other initiatives.

This statement needs to be compelling. It is what conveys that you are better than the competition — whether it is related to solving a problem better, being easier to use, more reliable, more cost-effective etc.

An effective business proposition should define:

  1. How your product fills a need
  2. Communicate the specifics of its benefits
  3. Why it’s better than the competition (or the best out there)

Keep in mind that this also needs to be simple, direct, and all-encompassing. Your company or product might do a million different things, but what is the core problem that is solving for your market segment?

Templates:

The following have been provided by the OptinMonster via their article OptinMonster’s 32 of the BEST Value Propositions. It's a great place to start so I summarized the ones I feel are helpful below.

Geoff Moore’s Value Positioning Statement

This is a bit of a long template, but it encompasses everything your business or value prop should be.

For [target customer] who [statement of the need or opportunity], our [product/service name] is [product category] that [statement of benefit].

Example: “For non-technical marketers who struggle to find a return on investment in social media, our product is a web-based analytics software that translates engagement metrics into actionable revenue metrics.”

Steve Blank’s XYZ

Simple and to the point, regardless of how your value prop ends up looking you should be able to communicate this with ease.

We help [X] to [Y] by [Z].

Example: “We help parents spend more quality time with their kids by providing parent-friendly play areas.”

Venture Hacks’ High-Concept Pitch

I would like to note that I’m not a huge fan of this actually being your business or value prop, but I do think coming up a few of these is a healthy way of understanding how someone might view your product for the first time as they tend to equate it to things they already know and understand.

[Proven industry example] for/of [new domain].

Example: “Flickr for video.”

Customer-Problem-Solution

Vlaskovits and Cooper use what they call a Customer-Problem-Solution value proposition template. this is also great for building a basic explainer deck.

Customer: [who your target audience is] Problem: [what problem you’re solving for the customer] Solution: [what is your solution to the problem]

Example: “Customer: I believe my best customers are small and medium-sized business (SMB) markets. Problem: Who cannot easily measure campaign ROI because existing solutions are too expensive, complicated to deploy, display a dizzying array of non-actionable charts. Solution: Low cost, easy to deploy analytics system designed for non-technical marketers who need actionable metrics.”

Walkthrough Examples

This post by WordStream goes through some in-depth examples of companies and products we already know and love. Below is one of the examples used in Unbounce:

Unbounce

A/B Testing Without Tech Headaches

Unbounce’s value proposition, offering ease of use

“As you might expect from a company specializing in conversion rate optimization, Unbounce’s value proposition is abundantly clear from the moment you arrive on the homepage, namely the ability to build, publish, and test landing pages without any I.T. support. For many small businesses (and even larger companies), the perceived technical overhead of A/B testing is a major barrier to entry, making Unbounce’s value proposition particularly appealing.”

If you are looking for additional examples to help point you in the right direction you can check out Impact’s 31 Best Value Proposition Examples You Wish You Had and OptinMonster’s 32 of the BEST Value Propositions.

Revising Your Proposition

So now that we understand what the proposition is and how it should look, there are a few things we can do now and periodically to make sure that it is staying aligned with our core business activity. First I would start by answering the following questions, and keep in mind that these are things you should be revisiting over time:

  1. How do you define the core offering of your business?
  2. Is your business currently credibly delivering on this promise?
  3. How strong is this promise versus your competitors?
  4. Where would you ideally like to see the company in the next 5 to 10 years?
  5. What are the steps that should be taken to achieve this vision?
  6. Where do you think the organization’s growth will come from? (What do you see as future revenue streams?)

Next, are a few tips and things you can think about to hone your business proposition.

  1. Declare why specific benefits in your proposition are ‘beneficial’ - From MadeSimpleGroup "if you say ‘reinforced stitching’ on your product page for the line of hats that you design, you should actually say ‘reinforced stitching that never breaks’. The difference is subtle but undeniable. Always ask yourself why a benefit is beneficial and put that clearly on your site for a stronger proposition."
  2. Emphasize individuality  - Also from from MadeSimpleGroup "Are the hats you design made from an unusual material? If so, that could be your angle for emphasizing uniqueness and individuality. No matter what you do – telling customers exactly why you are special is essential for your business proposition."
  3. Avoid fluff and ambiguity - "Tell them exactly what they get. Sign up for X and get Y. Be blunt, don’t say ‘Buy now and discover wonders you’d never imagine’ or something flowery like that. It’s just not what the customer wants."

The following are examples where company value propositions can fail:

  1. Not Having Proof - This one is pretty easy understand.  If you are claiming your product is the best at X, or the fastest way to y, than you need to be able to back it up.
  2. Addressing too many customers and pain points - From Strategyser "it’s important to recognize that the best value propositions are focused primarily on resolving only those jobs, pains, and gains that are highest priority to customers. You must make deliberate tradeoffs as to which jobs, pains, and gains you will address and which you will forgo."
  3. Not Testing - Your messaging and value proposition always need to be tested. You won't know what resonates best with your audience unless you actually test it. You can also find which language resonates with your potential customers by using PPC ads, surveys, social media listening etc.

Going through these exercises are a great way to start understanding your brand as a startup, or realigning it as you grow. All of these things evolve over time, so make this an exercise you go through periodically to stay on the right path. By honing your value proposition you'll be able convey more value to your users, communicate effectively to potential buyers, and ideally grow your audience.

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