Why You Should Rethink Your Brand’s Value Proposition
Your company’s value proposition (or “value prop” if you love shorthand) is the single most important piece in your marketing puzzle.
Why? Your value proposition forms the foundation (or at least it should) for everything you do. It answers one fundamental question: Why should your customers buy from you instead of your competitors?
Some examples? At Atomicdust, we solve business problems. Workplace messaging tool Slack promises that people will be “More productive at work with less effort.” Uber hails that it’s the “Smartest way to get around,” a message that speaks to both its drivers and its customers.
Hubspot reports that 69% of B2B firms have value propositions, but a majority don’t do anything to optimize them or even properly use them to measure what they’re doing. While it’s unclear how this second fact is, well, tested or optimized, it’s clear that many value props need help – maybe even yours.
The truth is, a solid value proposition makes every other aspect of your business easier. It informs how your employees talk to each other, and how they talk to your customers. It drives your core marketing messages, and even the products you choose to bring to market.
If you feel like your value prop is falling short, there’s a ton of help out there. A quick Google search will reveal an endless supply of blog posts (how very meta), business books and videos on crafting our value proposition. If you have enough time (which of course you do), you’ll find yourself lost in a maze of proprietary formulas and swimming in an alphabet soup of clever-but-meaningless acronyms.
Or you might end up like one of our clients years ago, whose core promise was, “to exceed customer expectations.” We noted this was a lofty but vague promise that sparked more questions than it answered in our minds. What does it mean? What do customers expect? How do you know you’re doing more? And what’s the value in doing more?
First up: function over form.
People often ask us how long a value prop should be. What form should it take? Should it be a couple of sentences, a paragraph, a bunch of bullets? This might seem like a strange answer, but… yes!
Generally, value propositions are one or two concise sentences. But they don’t have to be. It can be longer or shorter. Especially in the early stages, don’t worry about form – but gather ideas and go on from there.
Here are some ways to get started.
Think like your customers.
Remember, your value proposition isn’t about you. It’s about your customers and your prospects, and how your company can solve their problems – making their jobs easier and lives better.
So as you look to write or revise your value proposition, put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. Use language they’d use. Be practical. And promise to solve challenges they’re actually facing.
It all sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often overlooked. The best way to find out what your prospects need, and why they hire you, is to ask them. It could be through surveys, through direct conversations or even on social media – but making that connection is the first step.
The most important thing to remember about your customer? Most of the time, your customer is not as into your product as you are. The nuances that keep you up at night are lost on most. That’s not to say they’re not important – but it’s critical to remember who they’re important to.
Look beyond products or services.
Take a moment and think about your company’s value proposition. Does it mention specific products or services by name? If so, it might be time for a refresh.
Why? Because when you mention products or industries, you’re instantly limiting yourself.
Even if you only offer one product to one specific audience, the promise does not lie in exactly what you do, but instead in what it means for your prospects and customers. Apple doesn’t make phones or computers, they create better experiences. Remember – Slack doesn’t make a workplace chat app. They promise to make people make more productive.
The core idea is to make a promise that speaks to the benefits you deliver – the outcome of a customer working with you – to make a stronger personal connection right out of the gate.
Listen to a range of voices.
Your product team is passionate about certain details. Manufacturing, others. The executive team, still others. Marketing might be looking in an entirely different direction, as they often do. The role of a value proposition is to bring these passions and perspectives into alignment. The only way to do that is to listen to everyone.
Who else should be on that list? Customers and prospects, of course. Even former customers. What do they want? Why would they call you? These are the core questions to answer.
That’s why a value proposition can’t be dictated from on high by the C-suite. The sales team shouldn’t do it by themselves. And it can’t be crafted by the marketing team in isolation. Everyone should have a hand it.
Here at Atomicdust, we take a similar approach in our branding program. We talk to people throughout our client’s organization to capture the essence of its personality and find a single, unifying message.
Beyond helping us craft a stronger, more accurate statement, we’ve found that people love it when their voices are heard. They’re more likely to embrace new messaging, or even entirely new approaches, because they know they had input. And, perhaps more importantly, they know that any solution or direction is founded in reality.
Nurture it internally.
Lastly (and can you believe you’re reading this on a marketing agency’s blog?) you really do have to do some of the heavy lifting internally. After all, the real value you create (and possibly even the expression of it) has to come from your own team.
An outside team can help lead you through the process, either as a multi-step project or a workshop. A consultant or agency can help you fine-tune the words. But no agency can invent what makes you different. That has to come from you and your team.
And when you’ve found the perfect words and pictures to put around your refreshed value proposition, share it with your team. Give everyone the tools to put it into action, and do everything you can to recognize those who do so. Remember that even though you’ve been working it for a while, it might be brand-new to some people. And yes, change is hard.
The value of your value proposition.
This short statement, when it’s right, will sit at the very center of everything you do. Your products (current and future), your marketing, your customer service, even your invoicing process should be an expression of your value proposition.
Again, it’s not about any specific number of words or sentences. It’s about making your company’s core promise relevant and relatable – for today and for the years to come.