What’s your business’ value proposition? Is it to be the “best” at something? Is it to serve your customers better than your competitors? Is it my favorite value proposition faux-pas, just an explanation of what you do that’s full of 3-Dollar business words like: maximum impact, advisory services, creating synergy, problem-solving, solution ideation, increasing efficiency and allocating resources efficiently?
Value propositions are supposed to appeal to the people that you are trying to serve that reaches them at their core. If your value proposition is good enough it will make it through all the noise and advertisements that your customers are bombarded with daily and sit right at the top of the feel good parts of their brain. That’s what a good value proposition does.
A value proposition is not just your mission (missions are super important for strategy to work though). It’s not a catchy tag-line. Well I mean, bad value propositions are. Bad value propositions talk about capabilities, features, and generic accolades.
When you use jargon and fuzzy words to convey your values (or just what you do) you are making it hard for your customers to engage with you. You aren’t pushing the buttons hard enough to move your customers in either a rational or an irrational way. Borrowing some concepts from the economics courses I teach; when you don’t do a good job of aligning what you offer with the tastes and expectations of your customers, you are making yourself substitutable.
Ahhh price elasticity of demand, you are a heartless but fair judge.
Customers are always measuring the value of something against the dollars they have to trade for that something. A good value proposition lets your customers know that they are getting their money’s worth. The real question behind a great value proposition is - How do you communicate the real benefits of what you do and why someone should do business with you?
A good starting point to framing your value proposition is to make a choice. You are choosing to either operate at the lowest possible cost or sell something for more. Sounds simple and probably a little cliche but there are some caveats here that most people don’t think about.
Let’s start with selling for more. When you charge a higher price you are communicating to your customers that you are offering a higher quality product. Your solution is more expensive because it solves your problem better than your competitors. The value you are providing when you are selling for more has to be measurable and meaningful to people. These are two traps you need to avoid to successfully charge higher prices:
1. Meaningless Differentiation.
You are charging a higher price for a reason right?! You need to do your best to make sure it’s a reason that matters to your customers. Seriously, charging a higher price because of some input that your customers don’t really care about or that doesn’t really affect them is not a good way to differentiate. It has to be customer focused!
2. Unsustainable Differentiation.
You have to do your best keep what makes you special for as long as possible. If people are working with you because they like what you are doing, your goal is to grow those connections as wide and as deep as you can. If your competitors start to imitate what you do you’ll risk losing your customer base to lower prices. When they buy from you make sure YOU are part of that value.
On to low cost. Competing for low cost producer is not my favorite way to build a business but in some models it works great. The value you are communicating to your customers here is that they get to have everything they want and keep more money in their pockets. Easiest example to think about is Wal-Mart. To have a successful value proposition in this space the value you communicate has to be extremely specific. There are some traps here too to watch out for as well:
1. Maintaining your lowest cost status.
As a small business or an entrepreneur there’s a lot of pressure to innovate. The problem is that lowest cost producer is a title that’s really hard to keep. Don’t fall into the trap of offering low prices with hopes of that you’ll steal market share away from your competitors and keep them. When you raise your prices, customers who are seeking for low cost will move on to the next lowest price points.
When you enter the low cost/low price game you’re dealing with customers that are looking for the most bang for their buck. Think personal finance tracking apps for smartphones and tablets. There is a lot of competition and a lot of very close substitutes. It can be really challenging to communicate with customers about the value of what you offer when you are trying to scream over everyone else in your marketplace.
As you can see there’s no guarantee of success when it comes to choosing selling at higher prices or trying to compete as a low cost producer. Success comes from the heart of your value proposition. Your value proposition has to resonate with people so that they feel like buying from you matters, be different enough to stand out among your competitors and provide measurable substance.
When you are building your copy talk to people like people.