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Why Most Value Propositions Are Terrible

 

What is a value proposition? 

The value proposition. It’s that short, snappy statement that effortlessly conveys your business’ unique edge. You put it on your homepage, maybe plaster it onto a few billboards, and probably hope to share it with a billionaire in a lift someday. 

The term might sound a bit derivative. We’ve had USP (Unique Selling Point), KSP (Key Selling Point) and the Brand Promise. But a value proposition uses a more data-driven and psychological approach.

The average visitor to your site doesn’t know the term ‘value proposition’. Yet it has a huge impact on them:

  • Whether they think they’re the kind of person who should use your business
  • Whether they buy into your message
  • Whether they scroll … or bounce

Businesses spend months crafting their value proposition. They put it in font size 48 on the most visible section of their website and pay thousands or millions to get it out into the world. Yet they’re often just not very good.

Here’s why.

 

1. They’re vague

So many businesses struggle to articulate their unique selling point. They settle for samey language and overblown claims. But specificity is key to an attention-grabbing value proposition, even if the statement doesn’t convey the big picture of your company.

Reed's value proposition, 'Love Mondays', on a tablet screen.

Recruitment company Reed have gone incredibly specific with their value proposition: ‘Love Mondays.’ By using their service to ‘find a job you’ll love’, you can genuinely enjoy Mondays again. It’s a powerful, emotive idea. You don’t need to hear the word ‘jobs’ – you’re invested in the invitation.

 

2. They’re long-winded

In an effort to make a brand sound unique, many marketers try to stuff multiple ideas into their value proposition. ‘We offer value by doing this and this, all while maintaining this.’ But when you provide multiple reasons for someone to use your business, they’re less likely to remember even one of them.

Patch's value proposition, 'Plants made easy', on a tablet screen.

Patch Plants could have mentioned the quality or diversity of their plant offering. They could have said there’s a plant doctor on call for all customers. But instead, they focused on one thing: ‘Plants made easy.’

These three words make a much stronger statement, one few of Patch’s competitors can claim. Within seconds, you’re imagining the ease of a low-maintenance potted plant delivered straight to your door … or your friend’s door. All the pain points in the standard purchase process disappear.

 

3. They lack personality

The most obvious problem with many value propositions is that they’re real snoozefests. So many industries have convinced themselves that what they offer is boring. 

The insurance industry, for example.

But newcomers Lemonade have managed to exude a distinctive personality with their statement: ‘Forget everything you know about insurance. Instant everything. Incredible prices. Big heart.’ 

Lemonade value proposition, 'Forget everything you know about insurance', on a tablet screen.

Lemonade’s value is in the ways they’re different to their competitors. The insurer is swapping long processes for ‘instant everything’, inflated quotes for ‘incredible prices’ and disinterested profiteering for ‘big heart’. It’s backed up by the friendly cartoon background and even the name of the business. You believe it.

 

4. They’re stuffed with adjectives

Best. Trusted. Amazing. Affordable. Top. Quality. Really, really.

It’s tempting to use lots of adjectives to explain the value of your brand. But it can scream of insecurity. Confident statements tend to comprise of verbs and nouns.

Airtasker's value proposition, 'Post any task. Pick the best person. Get it done', on a tablet screen.

Airtasker’s value proposition doubles up as a CTA (call to action). ‘Post any task. Pick the best person. Get it done.’ In telling you what to do, they get across the simplicity of the service and demonstrate their value.

When you brainstorm, don’t ask the room to describe what the company is like. Ask them what the company does.

 

5. They’re speaking to the wrong person

Your value proposition might convey a lot of value … but to the wrong audience. You need to communicate to the people most likely to bite in a way that speaks to them directly.

Hotjar's value proposition, 'Everything you ever wanted to know about your website but your analytics never told you', on a tablet screen.

Hotjar is a website that helps you carry out user research. Naturally, their own value proposition demonstrates that they’ve done some! 

Their target user is a marketer or business owner who can’t find the insights they need from Google Analytics alone. Hotjar address this pain point directly to show the possibilities their service opens up. ‘Everything you ever wanted to know about your website … but your analytics never told you.’ 

The target user feels seen. 

 

So, why are most value propositions terrible?

It can be a combination of things:

  • You’re struggling to nail down your USP (unique selling point)
  • You haven’t done any user research
  • You’re trying too hard
  • You don’t have a solid brand identity to work from
  • You need a new copywriter

 

But we’ll help you write a good one!

How to write a value proposition

  1. Clarify your brand identity: Do you have a Brand Bible containing your logos, colour codes and verbal identity? If not, you should speak to our lead creative strategist, Nick. Once the whole team is clear on your brand’s personality and tone of voice, move to step 2.
  2. Create user personas: User personas contain details about representative (fictional) target users. Name, age, relationship status, family, interests, values, pain points, etc. These help you target your proposition effectively and draw in loyal customers.
  3. Define your mission and vision: You need to be clear on your mission (the present purpose and activities of your brand) and your vision (your brand’s future aspirations and long-term goals) in order to get customers or clients on board. Articulate these with your key stakeholders before progressing.
  4. Have a brainstorm: You’re all prepared. It’s time to get in a room with your key people and brainstorm the value proposition. Use a whiteboard or virtual mindmap and jot down whatever comes up. Ask the group: What do we offer? What differentiates us from competitors? What images arise when you think of our business? 
  5. Get writing: Choose one standout idea from the brainstorm and condense it into as few words as possible. Play around with the phrasing until it sounds like you.
  6. Test the value proposition: You could hold a focus group or practice A/B Testing through Paid Ads or your website. Just make sure you receive feedback before you officially put it out into the world.

If you’re not sure how to successfully complete any of these steps, you might like to explore our digital marketing services. We can support you through the branding and research phases, then deliver a selection of power statements perfect for your brand.

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Article by

Tess O'Bamber

Tess entered the world of marketing as a content manager, focusing on social and blog content. She now has over four years of experience writing on-brand copy for websites, emails, whitepapers and more. Tess has a Master's in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia – she takes a creative approach to copywriting, whatever that looks like for each unique client. You'll still find her working on her first novel at the weekends, between DIY sessions and long walks.
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