“Uh, well, you see…”
You stumble, feel around, but come up dry.
Which is weird, because you do good work, your products are great, and your clients love you. Obviously, you deliver value. You just haven’t figured out yet how to express that value—and it shows.
The trouble is, value propositions are notoriously hard to create. (That’s probably why so many companies either don’t have one or don’t have a good one.) So let’s look at what it takes to create a winning value proposition, review some examples, and look at 3 frameworks that will help you create one for your brand.
5 Ingredients of a Powerful Value Proposition
A recipe is only as good as the ingredients you use.
1. What You Do
Have you ever visited a website, browsed around, read their blog, and still walked away wondering what they do?
Don’t make that mistake. Nail down what you do and try to express it in one simple phrase.
Tip: Make sure it’s concrete and easy to understand. Something like:
- Provide training and coaching
- Create inspirational and entertaining media
- Sell shoes
2. The Problem You Solve
Even if you sell clothes or shoes, you solve a problem. Maybe your customers can’t get fit anywhere else. Maybe they can’t find styles that express their personality. Maybe they need outfits look great the moment you pull them out of the dryer or suitcase.
If you aren’t sure what problem you solve, talk to your customers. What do they appreciate most about you? Figure out the exact problems you solve, then express it as concisely as you can.
3. The End Result People Walk Away With
This is the real value you offer. After doing business with you, what do your customers get? You want to shape this into a promise that’s:
- Relevant—growing out of the exact problems you solve
- Specific—itemizing measurable benefits in a specified time frame
- Unique—differentiating you from every other option available to your customers
Always remember your product isn’t the actual takeaway. Dig deep to find the true value you offer. Then for bonus points, look for the emotional benefits of buying from you. Something like:
- Peace of mind
- The best vacation of your life
- True love
The emotional benefits may not go into your value proposition, but they will certainly be helpful when you’re writing your sales copy.
4. Your Target Market
Who is your best customer? It needs to be a group of people who self-identify by the term you use. Ideally, there are magazines and blogs aimed at this group, and they have lots of subscribers and traffic.
This group should have an urgent pain that your product/service resolves. Even more importantly, they must care enough about removing that pain that they’d gladly pay to get the solution.
This group needs to be large enough to support you and your competitors. And they should have enough money to pay your asking price. If they don’t have money for whatever you offer or aren’t willing to spend that money, you need another market.
Make sure your market does have competitors. If it doesn’t, the market doesn’t actually exist.
5. Your Mission Statement
To be honest, a mission statement isn’t essential to your value proposition. But it does help.
- In general, people like buying from a company with a classy, selfless mission.
- If you know what your mission is, you can build it into your value proposition.
- If your product generates a specific outcome, you can use that to craft a compelling mission that makes people want to do business with you.
All too often, a business’s goal (if they’re honest) is simply to provide the best [whatever] on the planet. There’s no real mission other than to be good at what they do.
But today, people appreciate a business having more of a raison d’être than merely to sell a product. What does the business care about? What lasting impact are they trying to make? What impulse guides them as they move forward?
Your customers care!
Your mission statement tells people clearly and concisely what you care about, how it makes a difference, and why everything else you do matters.
And that’s precisely why you need one for your business. Combined with your value proposition, your mission creates a strong impression about the quality of your work and the impact you have on your customers and the world.
To give you an idea of what’s possible, let’s look at 10 mission/value statements from a variety of businesses.
Through your purchases, TOMS helps provide shoes, sight, water, safe birth and bullying prevention services to people in need.
Toms is a retail store with a reputation for caring. What they do is a given. They sell shoes. But their mission isn’t to sell more shoes, better shoes, or even to treat their customers right—though they probably care about those things too.
Their mission is to give back, to provide much needed resources for people in need.
This is a great example of a mission statement having little to do with your product or service. If you care about something, you can make it your mission. And people don’t mind paying extra if they care about it too.
To say Starbucks purchases and roasts high-quality whole bean coffees is very true. That’s the essence of what we do – but it hardly tells the whole story.
Every day, we go to work hoping to do two things: share great coffee with our friends and help make the world a little better. It was true when the first Starbucks opened in 1971, and it’s just as true today.
Starbucks opens with their value proposition (high-quality whole bean coffees) and follows with their mission. Notice how well these two statements go together.
Ideally, your mission statement will integrate with your products and brand personality. Coffee is warm and nurturing. We drink it when we need inspiration. And it’s a drink we share with friends and family. So Starbuck’s mission to “inspire and nurture” feels like a good fit.
Words like “inspire” and “nurture” can feel a little woo-woo, but if it’s genuine and fits your products or services, go with it.
We’re a mother-daughter team leading a movement that empowers people to accept and express their true selves.
This value proposition is simple and short. It tells us who they are (a mother-daughter team) and what they’re trying to do (empower people “to accept and express their true selves”). If you’re a media company, you may struggle with your value proposition. But this is a good example of how you can do it.
The details about the type of content they produce and their mission are on their About page:
Six years ago we created StyleLikeU as alternative to this unconscious self-hate [created by the fashion and beauty marketing machine]. Home to a series of radically honest docu-style video portraits that redefine our culture’s notion of beauty, each piece of our content is driving public engagement around the reversal of the fashion and beauty industry’s crippling status quo.
This is the real reason StyleLikeU exists, and it’s a powerful mission for their audience.
Think about the type of content you create and, more importantly, why you create it. What impact do you hope to make on your visitors? What change or impression are you trying to make? Put it together to create a value proposition and mission that truly resonate.
Whether it’s providing tools to put a purple octopus on the moon, or enabling teachers to bring arts-infused learning into the classroom, Crayola is passionate about helping parents and educators raise creatively alive children who we believe will grow to be inspired, original adults.
The mission here? “Helping parents and educators raise creatively alive children” who grow into “inspired, original adults.”
This mission perfectly aligns with the product, and the “how to” part of this statement—“providing tools to put a purple octopus on the moon, or enabling teachers to bring arts-infused learning into the classroom”—alludes to the way we actually use crayons.
This mission statement is as creative and colorful as their products. If you can, infuse yours with words that bring your product to mind.
Some final thoughts about these examples
As you can see from the examples above, you have a lot of options for creating a mission statement. The best are the ones that seamlessly integrate with the products being sold, making the product more interesting or meaningful.
Notice that the bigger and better known the brand, the less compelling the value proposition. If you’re already one of the top brands in your niche, you don’t need to a value proposition to explain what you do or win a place in people’s minds.
That said, a value proposition that says you want to become the best at what you do is lame, no matter how big and prosperous you are. It’s all about you, and no one buys a product to make you more prosperous.
Your value proposition should be a promise of specific value your customers get when they buy or use your products. Make it about them, not you.
Guidelines for your Mission Statement
Notice that the examples above blend their mission into their value proposition or “what we do” statement. The two go hand in hand, and rightly so. These 4 guidelines will help you create a mission that supports and integrates with your value proposition.
1. It ought to matter.
There’s a formula for value props that I’ve seen recently, and it goes like this:
“Stamping out bad [whatever you produce]”
While this approach does express how much you care about what you do, it doesn’t impact the world or help your clients. And it isn’t very realistic, if you think about it.
I mean, what does it really promise? If you’re a social media agency, will you hack people’s Twitter streams and replace their bad tweets with your improvements? If you create printers, will you sneak into people’s offices and remove their old, out-of-date printers? How exactly do you propose to stamp out the bad stuff in your industry?
This type of statement is akin to a “be the best” promise. It expresses your desire, but it’s all about you. It essentially says you think you’re better than the competition, but it doesn’t tell your prospects what you’ll do for them.
“Helping ## businesses double in size” is better. It can easily get your prospects excited about working with you. But whatever you promise, it needs to be realistic. Can you indeed 2x people’s business with your product? If not, craft something that’s believable.
“Leading a movement” or “providing water and shoes for the needy” is impactful and incredibly attractive. While it doesn’t necessarily align with your product, it says a lot about the type of business you are. If your ideal customers care about a particular charity or movement, by all means, adopt a mission like this.
Ideally, aim for a mission that’s emotional and bigger than you or your customers.
2. It should be user-focused, not all about you.
Make your mission about helping your audience in a tangible way. Quality should be a given. Try to avoid a “be the best” mission. No one really cares.
3. It should align with your products and services.
Unless you’re donating half of your profits to a pet charity, your mission should integrate with your brand’s offer. In the examples above, look again at Starbucks and Crayola. They both did an outstanding job of creating a mission that aligns with their products. Notice that it doesn’t have to be earth shattering. It just needs to have an impact outside your own profits.
4. It should express your brand’s personality.
You want to express your mission clearly, but you don’t need to be stuffy about it. Your mission statement isn’t a contract. It’s part of your brand. So infuse it with your brand personality (and slap the hands of executives or lawyers who want to “tweak” it).
Craft Your (Stunning) Value Proposition
People pay for value, and your success depends on your ability to provide a great outcome consistently and well. But just providing value isn’t enough.
You also need to communicate it in advance, so prospects understand why your offer is better than your competitors’.
What you’re aiming for is 1-2 sentences using one of the following frameworks.
Simple Value Proposition
We [what you do] for [your target market] to help them [problem you solve].
Expanded Value Proposition
Our mission is [end result] for [target market].
We achieve that by [what you do].
Eye-catching Value Proposition
On your homepage or a landing page, you may need more than a simple statement. You want something truly eye-catching and persuasive. For that, try this framework.[Headline] Name the end result of using your product. [Simple Value Proposition] You may rephrase it, but make sure it includes what you do and who you do it for. [Bullets] List 3 to 5 key benefits, features, or reasons your visitor should care.
Don’t forget to make it visual. Use a hero image of your product or a key spokesperson. Consider testing an oversized image or (non-distracting) video behind the headline.
Now Evaluate It
The litmus test is this: Is it really user-centric?
A strong value proposition, while sharing what you do and how it’s better than other options, says it without being too me-focused.
Challenging, I know.
Read through your value proposition from the perspective of a first-time visitor who’s never heard of you.
- Does it, in fact, clearly communicate what you do?
- Does it also get them excited at the prospect of you doing it for them?
If yes, great! You’re ready to share your value proposition with the world. If not, keep tweaking.
Communicating Your Value Proposition
Once you can express the value you deliver to your customers (and the world), you need to share it in all your communications.
Now, you don’t have to state your value proposition directly in every communication. But you do need to build every communication from the perspective of your value proposition.
In other words, no landing page, blog post, ad, or webinar should contain a message that contradicts your value proposition. It should run through, support, and provide a foundation for everything you do.
On Your Website
Your value proposition needs to be clearly stated on your home page, your About page, and any entry page on your website.
When people visit your homepage, they want to know immediately what you do. State that clearly, along with the value of your products/services. Use the eye-catching value proposition for maximum effect.
On your About page, you can elaborate, explaining why it matters or why you care. Use the expanded value proposition, and share stories or testimonials to underscore the value.
On every page, make it clear what you do and how it benefits your customers. People want to know who you are before they buy something from you, and your value proposition makes that crystal clear.
When brainstorming for content ideas, make sure your ideas support your value proposition.
If you say you want to provide resources for the needy but write hate-filled, angry content, you create a disconnect. You value proposition won’t come off as authentic.
If your mission is to train and help people succeed, then demonstrate it in your content. Freely share information that provides value in advance, even if people don’t buy your product. That supports your promise and makes people want to buy when you do make an offer.
In Sales Copy
I once worked with a company that tried to work a simple value proposition into the headline of every sales page—regardless of the product or offer. After a while, every headline sounded alike.
That’s not how you do it!
If every product is perfectly aligned with your value proposition (as it should be), then you can easily allude to your brand promise within your copy:
- When listing promises and proof
- When talking about the benefits of using your product
- In a “who we are” section of your landing page
In general, you want to be sure the language and sales logic supports your value statement. Sure, you’re trying to be persuasive, but you should also stay true to your brand’s personality and the value you’ve promised in your value proposition.