Most business owners can clearly describe what their company does. But how many can clearly describe what they do for their customers? These are two very different statements, and the latter is far more valuable than the former — and in marketing circles, that statement is called a “value prop,” which in plain English translates to “what’s in it for me?”
The purpose of a value prop.
A value prop’s main purpose is to elicit the following response: “Yeah, I want that for me!” And more specifically, “Hmm, if I hire/engage/partner with this company, this will be the end result.”
It’s important to keep this construct front and centre as you’re working through your value prop because it’s all too easy to fall back into what you do versus what your customer or client is going to get.
Why does your company need a value prop?
Because a potential customer doesn’t care about what you’ve done, who you’ve worked for or all the capital investment you’ve put into your company to make it cutting-edge, profitable or viable. None of that has anything to do with them, so why should they care?
What they really care about is what all that means for them.
Imagine two wedding photographers sitting down to talk with prospective customers. The first one says:
“I’ve been a wedding photographer for 15 years. I use a top-of-the-line camera and I have a top-of-the-line retouching studio. I’ve shot weddings all over Canada. And I was trained by Hudson Taylor, the foremost wedding photographer in the city.”
And the second one says:
“You’re going to remember your wedding day for the rest of your life. When you look at your pictures, you’ll feel the love you and your husband shared that day and if you ever feel like the spark is fading, the pictures I give you will reignite the flame.”
Which is more compelling? Clearly the second one is because it’s about the value you’re going to get from the photographs.
You don’t know anything about photography or cameras so you don’t care what kind of camera he uses. You don’t know anything about studios so you don’t care about how top-of-the-line his studio is. You don’t know who Hudson Taylor is so that means nothing to you. And your wedding is happening in your backyard so the fact that he’s shot weddings in Banff National Park means nothing to you.
But what is important (and valuable) to you isn’t what happens on your wedding day, but what happens the days, months, years and decades after the wedding. What is important to you is how those pictures will make you feel and how those pictures will make your life better.
We call that the “happy future state.” And THAT’S what your value prop should be conveying.
How to write a compelling value prop.
Step 1: Write it simply. It’s easy to overwrite a value prop, weaving in big phrases and clauses that make you look amazing. But remember: it’s not about you. It’s about them. And remember also that they’ll want to understand it quickly. So put yourself in the mind of your customers or clients. What’s their pain point and what does their happy future state look like? It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it shouldn’t be complicated. Because it’s too easy for someone to click back on their browser or phone and choose the next option. And if someone gets to your site, gets confused and leaves, the chances of them returning are slim to none.
Step 2: Keep it real. Don’t overpromise something you can’t or won’t deliver. This requires a deep understanding of your capabilities as a business (which we’re sure you have). Our second wedding photographer from the example above would never say that your photos will be so good that they’ll appear on Page 6. And while that might be a compelling value prop for some people, unless he works for Page 6, he can’t guarantee that. The worst thing you can do with a compelling value prop is not make good on your claims.
Step 3: Make it unique. This requires a bit of competitive analysis, but it’s well worth the extra legwork. A well-crafted value prop will set you apart as offering something that no one else is. So in the case of our wedding photographer above, while everyone else in his industry is talking about the gorgeousness of the wedding day, he’s taking about the longevity and health of the marriage. No one else is saying/selling that.
A last point about value props.
Having a compelling value prop will make any future marketing communications you put together so much easier because your value prop is like your North Star. In a perfect world, every blog post, every ad, every direct mail, every presentation and every microsite will ladder back up to that value prop. Which means every time you reach out to clients, customers, prospects, investors, employees or anyone else, the value you bring comes shining through.
Then all you have to do is deliver. And if you’re good at what you do, that should be no problem.
5 value props we dig.
As you can see, they’re all written simply, they’re easy to understand, and most importantly, they paint the picture of the happy future state.