“What’s in it for me?” That, in essence, is the first question in any buyer’s mind. In fact, it’s often the only question.
For their part, businesses tend to use their content and communications to answer the question they wished customers asked: What do you do? This assumes that customers care. It’s a fatal mistake. They don’t.
Customers also ask questions such as: How can you make our work easier? How can you save us money or time? How can you increase our profits, or give us an edge over our competitors?
Again, it’s all about them (not you). Once you understand this, it opens up big opportunities for marketing.
Of course, you won’t usually get the chance to verbally respond to these questions: B2B buyers today are increasingly independent— over half (53%) would prefer to buy without any interaction with your sales folks at all.
Answering these questions means being crystal clear about what really is in it for your customers. And this is where a value proposition comes in.
What’s a value proposition?
In short, a value proposition defines the core business you are in and the real-world value you offer, stripped down to a couple of sentences. This is not normally seen outside the company, but it will inform your positioning—the space you want to own in your customers’ heads—which informs your messaging. In other words, it is how you communicate your value to your market.
You’d be amazed how many businesses get this wrong. The three most common errors are:
1. Viewing your product or service from an entirely internal viewpoint, leaving buyers unable to make the connection between their own pain points and your brand.
2. Explaining what you do in a way that’s too complex or filled with too much jargon, making it difficult for outsiders to understand.
3. Trying to appeal to anyone and everyone, losing focus and wasting time and money.
The golden rules of value propositions
A strong value proposition will define the category you’re in, the target customer you serve, and the real value you deliver. It will be ruthlessly edited.
On the face of it, a value proposition seems like it would be easy to formulate. Any business should be able to succinctly articulate exactly what it does for its customers, right? But crafting a compelling value proposition is deceivingly tricky. There’s a saying that when you’re inside the jar it’s hard to read the label. It can be very hard to distill your value when you can see so much to value.
The goal is to alienate poor-fit or no-fit customers—those you don’t want to work with—and to be a much more attractive prospect to the ideal customers you hope to work with.
What about when there’s more than one customer involved in a purchase? This is very often the case for B2B sales. It simply means you may well need to come up with more than one value proposition for each of the main decision-makers involved in the buying process.
When it comes to determining the value you provide, make sure you’re putting yourself firmly in your customers’ shoes. What are the main challenges and problems they are experiencing? Don’t confuse what you think is important with what they think is important. And be careful to keep it about them, not you. Yes, you might be proud of the impact you’re making on society, but stop and ask yourself, is this relevant to the customers' needs? At the end of the day, do they care?
How to write a value proposition
1. Try this template
As a first step, you’ll need to do a fair bit of brainstorming to get to the heart of both your business’s offering and your customers’ needs. There are lots of different models out there you can draw on to help prompt you. My favorite one, and the one I use with my clients, is based on a framework proposed by Geoffrey Moore in his book Crossing The Chasm. It goes like this:
For [target market] who want to [key customer need], [brand] is a [category descriptor] that [key benefit].
Applying this framework to a real example, let's look at how Asana, a workplace management solution, has marketed its services:
Are silos making teamwork more painful? Asana helps you manage projects, focus on what’s important, and organize work in one place for seamless collaboration.
The first sentence addresses the customers’ problem: teams today aren’t sitting side by side in the same office. This means that without the right software (the company's software), it’s difficult to collaborate; details about Asana's tools are not needed as we can quickly deduce their tech helps busy teams work together easily on projects. Asana's value proposition, therefore, might read:
For businesses with remote employees and that want to make teamwork less painful, Asana is a workplace management platform that helps you collaborate seamlessly so you can focus on what’s really important.
2. Talk to your customers
The key to an effective value proposition is having a thorough understanding of your customers. How best to figure out their main challenges and issues? Ask them. Find out why they chose your business over your competitors. What is the issue you have helped them with the most?
3. Don’t overdo it
It takes restraint to resist listing all the numerous benefits your business can provide. You may feel you are doing yourself a disservice by cutting your list short, but believe me, it pays to limit how much is on your list. Rather than reel off all the many ways you can help, think carefully about the ways in which you truly provide the most value—the reason customers spend their budgets with you. It will give you a more interesting space to play in.
Think, too, about the emotional impact of your offering: will it make things easier, smoother, safer, more aesthetically pleasing? Business buyers are not rational robots.
4. Test multiple options
Don’t go with the very first value proposition you land on; take the time to consider different options. Debate them with different members of your team and ask for feedback. You can even test them out with your target audience to see how well they are received.
5. Consider your competitors
Using the framework suggested earlier in the article, try to identify the value propositions of your competitors and see how your message compares or contrasts with theirs. This can help you figure out exactly how you can differentiate your business from other companies and ensure it stands out from the crowd.
Ultimate goal of your value proposition
Ultimately, nailing down your value proposition will prove to your customers just how relevant you are when they are comparing brands. It will show that you are focused on what matters to buyers and will offer a compelling answer to the question: “What’s in it for me?”
Image Credit: Depositphotos
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