You know you’re better than the competition.
So what’s the most effective way to help prospects and customers see that, too?
A solid value proposition.
Your value proposition is often the first thing prospects see or hear that differentiates you from the competition. It should also be the one consistent message throughout the buying journey that propels prospects to loyal customers.
What a value proposition is NOT
Your value proposition is your unique identifier.
It’s not a tagline, slogan, vision or mission statement (although it could be borne of those).
The tagline is form; a value proposition is function. A slogan is figurative; a value proposition is literal.
Take for example, these taglines and slogans:
- Just do it – Nike
- The World on Time – FedEx
- Real Service. Real Savings – Geico
- Think Different – Apple
Note the language that creates form and figure.
Now take for example these value propositions:
- To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world – Nike
- When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight – FedEx
- 15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance – Geico
- Apple combines the role of innovator, aggregator, and experience provider. Its computers, tablets, and smartphones form the hub of a single digital system enabling consumers to easily manage media production, consumption, and communication – Apple
Note the actual function and literal meaning.
The anatomy of the value proposition
Your value proposition is a promise to prospects and customers that:
- makes it easy for customers and prospects to understand and see how it translates to their needs.
- explains how your product or service solves a problem or improves a situation.
- explains how you deliver a quantifiable benefit.
- tells prospects and customers why they should buy from you and not your competitors.
The best value propositions are one or two concise sentences – ideally no more than 30 words. In those brief words, you want to tell prospects:
- What your product or service provides
- Who your customers are
- Why your product or service is unique, and
- The benefit or improvement they can expect.
Best practices for value propositions
You can have several value propositions – perhaps one for the company, one for a flagship product or type of services, then others for particular lines, specific products or services.
Regardless of having one or many value propositions, follow these best practices in creating them:
- Use the voice of the customer. You can intrigue new customers by using current customers’ exact words to create or finesse a value proposition. Listen to customers to hear how they describe your products and/or company. Ask them why they choose your company or products to understand what makes you unique in their eyes instead of what you think makes you stand apart.
- Keep it hype-free. Value propositions should focus on benefits, not hype. Words that hype – such as “top of the line,” “incredible” or “groundbreaking”– might belong in advertising, but not in value propositions.
- Spread the word. Your value proposition isn’t something that gets buried in the employee handbook, sales literature and annual report. It can be an employee mantra, so everyone understands what they’re doing and why. It should be on some (if not all) website landing pages. It should be first thing on and consistently throughout your buyer enablement tools.
- Build a (small) library. Mission or value statements are all encompassing. But value propositions can be narrow – perhaps for individual products or services, platforms or lines. You might start with a company value proposition that is the mother of all others. It would be your ethos – how you want to talk about your brand and how you want it to be talked about. It’s the one prospects see, hear and (hopefully) know most. It’s a big, bold statement that lays out your value. From there, you can create a value proposition for a product or service line, then a more specific value proposition for each item in the line (which often helps with SEO if each product has its own page).
- Evolve. Value propositions can (and likely should) evolve over time. What was important to an organization and its prospects and customers 10 years ago aren’t likely as important as they are today. Although your mission and values stay lock-tight, value propositions should evolve with products, services, industries and customers’ needs.
Common mistakes to avoid in a value proposition
As straightforward as a value proposition might seem, there are plenty of potential mistakes in building and believing in a great one. Here are four mistakes you want to avoid.
- Exaggerating the truth. You know you’re the best in the industry. And you want prospects and customers to know it, too. But you don’t want to say that in a value proposition without proof. Avoid phrases such as “No. 1,” “best” and “top” unless 1) you’ve been named any one of those in independent or industry analysis or 2) customers give testimonials and/or rate you as such.
- Using stilted language. Sometimes when people write a description they get caught up in the “right” words and terminology for their industry, products or organization. Unfortunately, that language often sounds stilted. Choose words that customers use.
- Communicating without clarity. Your value proposition needs to tell customers and prospects what you do and why they should care. Many value propositions leave out that second part – and then prospects might not see what makes one product or service so different from others.
- Relying solely on your ideas. Like products, services and marketing messages, a value proposition should be tested. But many organizations don’t test value propositions because they figure their ideas are clear and exactly what customers need. At least two versions of value propositions – with the same core message – should be tested to find what resonates best with customers.
Value propositions that hit target
Here are 39 of the most effective value propositions and why they hit the target:
Move up in your career – The Ladders
Why it works: This captures the value of the product/website (helping six-figure salary professionals find the right, new job opportunities) and hits on the emotional goal of the customers who want more (money, recognition, challenge, etc.)
Music for everyone – Spotify
Why it works: Simple. Powerful. Tells you what they do: Music. Who can benefit from using it: Everyone.
Send better email – Mailchimp
Why it works: This tells us exactly what the company does (send email), and why Mailchimp is unique (better email) in just three words.
Learn a language for free. Forever – DuoLingo
Why it works: This company believes deeply in its value proposition. The value proposition is just about all you see on the home page. It clearly states what the company does, what customers can gain and the benefit (it’s free!)
The easiest way to communicate with images – Awesome Screenshot
Why it works: This tells you what the product does and why people use the tool: It’s easy.
Tap your phone. Get where you’re headed – Uber
Why it works: As a customer, that’s pretty much what you want when you look for a service like Uber offers (ride share). This value proposition quickly builds a simple relationship. Uber is also an organization that uses more than one value proposition. The company has another geared toward its “other” customers – drivers …
Drive when you want. Find opportunities around you – Uber
Why it works: This also speaks to the simplicity in the relationship between company and “customer.”
A ride in minutes – Lyft
Why it works: Not to be outdone, Lyft does the same thing with similar effectiveness. One value proposition geared at riders (their end users) speaks to their uniqueness: “minutes” means fast. Lyft also uses another value proposition to speak to its “other” customers – the drivers …
Turn miles into money – Lyft
Why it works: This value proposition makes it simple for their other customer to see the benefit: money in their pockets.
Make your website better. Instantly – Crazy Egg
Why it works: In just a few words, this clearly tells customers what Crazy Egg does and offers a double benefit: Improve what you have. Make it happen fast.
Another winning move: Just below the value proposition, Crazy Egg backs up its words, putting a number (300,000) on the websites it supports.
Watch anywhere. Cancel anytime – Netflix
Why it works: Who would guess that telling customers they can dump you is a value proposition? Netflix did, and it works because “cancel anytime” is a convenience only second to “watch anywhere” that customers value.
Web and mobile payments built for developers – Stripe
Why it works: No one has to wonder what Stripe does or who their ideal customer is.
A great shave for a few bucks a month – Dollar Shave Club
Why it works: This value proposition works well because it clearly highlights the benefits (a great shave, small investment), without even mentioning the product (which is relatively obvious from the company name anyway).
We help the world’s biggest brands scale and secure WordPress – Pagely
Why it works: Pagely doesn’t waste any time adding credibility to what it does. Its value proposition tells us that big brands believe in what they do (scale and secure), and so should others.
Light. Years ahead – Apple MacBook
Why it works: This is a favorite value proposition among marketing experts – and with reason. It’s practical (it tells you the product is light, which answers a common consumer complaint about devices) and it hints to its technological advances. It delivers that in just three catchy words, linked with a uniquely placed period.
Small business accounting software designed for you, the non-accountant – Freshbooks
Why it works: Do you have any questions about who Freshbooks is and what it does? You shouldn’t because they make it clear what they sell (accounting software), for whom (non-accountants) and the benefit (made just for people like you).
The easiest way to make a website – Weebly
Why it works: This value proposition focuses strongly on the benefit. Customers who know what they want to do (create or improve some kind of web presence) clearly see the benefit of using Weebly: It’s the easiest.
Professional translation within hours – Gengo
Why it works: We don’t have to wonder what Gengo does (translates) and the benefit (quickly). And because its target customer is relatively obvious (people or organizations needing translation services), it smartly builds credibility with them in a line that follows the value proposition: 97.6% customer satisfaction, 65,000+ customers, 1 billion words translated.
Find local professionals for pretty much anything – Thumbtack
Why it works: It’s broad and targeted at the same time. Pretty much anything means pretty much anything. But it’s targeted at customers by their locality.
Find trusted home improvement pros – HomeAdvisor
Why it works: Similar to Thumbtack, HomeAdvisor is clearly targeted by need (home improvement help), customer (people needing work done) and, most importantly, emotion (concern for a trustworthy professional).
Find the perfect pet sitter near you – Dog Vacay
Why it works: Like Thumbtack and HomeAdvisor, this company offers a benefit (perfect sitter) to a well-defined customer (pet owner) that’s clear in just seven words.
Watch Live TV. Enjoy Streaming. Get Rewards – Viggle
Why it works: It’s clear what customers can do (watch TV and stream). And if that isn’t enough benefit, Viggle throws in one more benefit (rewards).
The eCommerce platform made for you – Shopify
Why it works: Shopify makes a personal connection with prospects (“for you”) and explains what it does (builds eCommerce platforms) in just six words that carry across the brand.
Raise money for anything – Fundly
Why it works: While the value proposition is all-encompassing (most of the population wants to raise money for something at some point), the smaller print below speaks volumes about why the company is unique and the benefits to customer: Fundly is fast, easy, and has no raise requirements or start up fees.
Invest for free – Robinhood
Why it works: This company is clear about what it does and the benefit. Robinhood’s target customer might be a little more elusive, but the company is to-the-point with its value proposition.
Bring everything you need without checking a bag – Tortuga Backpacks
Why it works: This value proposition responds to a common complaint among its ideal customers: Travelers want to pack everything they need without having to check their luggage. In just a few words, Tortuga relates to its target customers and fixes the problem.
Remember everything – Evernote
Why it works: Common human problem: We struggle to remember a lot of what we want or have to do. Evernote’s value proposition speaks to all of us common humans with the ideal solution – help in remembering. And it’s done in just two words.
Skype keeps the world talking, for free. Share, message and call – now with group video or with mobile and tablet too – Skype
Why it works: Skype tells you what they do (keeps the world talking), how (sharing, calling, messaging), and offers options/extra benefits (group video, mobile, tablet). Although it’s a longer value proposition, there are no questions about the company and its benefits after reading the value proposition.
Open the door to a new kind of dinner – Plated
Why it works: Plated uses witty language to tell you what it does (delivers dinner to your door) and why it’s unique (a new kind).
Let’s optimize digital experiences for your customers – Optimizely
Why it works: Optimizely takes a unique approach to its value proposition by using collaborative language (Let’s, your customers). From there, it clearly explains what it does (optimizes digital experiences).
The most flexible fitness membership ever – ClassPass
Why it works: This value proposition talks to a pain point: rigid gym memberships. It offers the solution: flexibility. Pun intended for its target customers: exercisers.
Scientifically optimized music to help you focus – Focus@Will
Why it works: Focus@Will is a niche service. But like its name, its value proposition is well-focused. It’s not just music, it’s “scientifically optimized music” and it feeds a real need: get us on track to get more done.
Sell your old stuff. Get new stuff your love – Listia
Why it works: It’s clear what Listia does (helps you sell), a benefit (get new stuff), and an emotional connection (stuff you love).
Your credit scores should be free. And now they are – CreditKarma
Why it works: This one hits hard on emotion. CreditKarma’s value proposition targets customers who are frustrated with hassle and fees.
Simplify the business of life – Intuit
Why it works: Intuit hits a chord whether you have a business or not. Nearly everyone wants to simplify, and when a value proposition promises that, it gets attention.
Payroll and benefits designed for modern businesses – Gusto
Why it works: We know who the target customer is (modern businesses) and what they’ll get from this company (payroll and benefits services). What’s unique? The value proposition implies that the benefits are designed specifically for you.
Learn a new skill each day – SkillShare
Why it works: It’s clear what SkillShare offers without needing an entire sentence to explain that it’s bite-size lessons anyone can use and benefit from.
More fashion choices that are good for people, the planet
and your wallet – H & M
Why it works: It screams benefits. Three, to be exact. You know what you get: more fashion choices. By choosing H & M, you benefit yourself, the planet and your wallet.
Quiet luxury. Crafted experiences. Intuitive service – Marriott
Why it works: This value proposition plays to many senses – hearing, seeing, experiencing. Those are important to Marriott’s targeted customers: travelers. So the message hits home.
Craft beer, delivered to your office – DeskBeers
Why it works: No one has any questions about what DeskBeers does. And the benefit – well, we don’t need to explain it either!