A value proposition is your answer to the question, “what value do you deliver to your customers?”
A strong value proposition is not necessarily the messaging you’ll use in your marketing. Rather it’s a tool for you to use internally to create powerful messaging that will resonate with your buyers.
A lot of people know exactly what they do, but they don’t articulate the real value to their buyer. If your buyer has to work out the value for themselves then that makes it harder for them to buy from you.
My definition of marketing is simply making it as easy as possible for people to buy from you. So if your customers have to work out for themselves what value they’re going to get from buying your product or service then you’re not making it easy for them.
It’s important to tell your customers not just WHAT you deliver but also HOW you deliver it and WHY it is important.
So how do you create a value proposition?
In my last two blogs I’ve been taking you through the buyer’s journey, looking at how excellent marketing needs to support our buyers at every step.
If you missed part 1 and part 2, read them here:
Encouraging the first purchase
To reduce the perceived risk at this point in the buyer journey, your customer needs to feel what it’s like to be a customer before they buy.
A product ladder is a series of offers and products that lead from one to the next so people can build a relationship with you and get a sense for what it’d be like to be a customer before they commit to something big. It’s all about reducing perceived risk.
In my previous blog I explained how we all go through a number of stages when we make a buying decision.
Excellent marketing supports our buyers at every stage of their decision-making process so they can move forward.
To do this, you need to have mapped out your customer’s buying journey because it’ll be different for different markets and products. Once you’ve mapped out your customer’s buying journey, you can then look at how you can reduce the perceived risk at every stage and build trust throughout the journey. By reducing risk and building trust at every stage, it becomes easy for customers to decide to choose you. And if it’s easy for people to buy from you then sales will inevitably increase.
If you haven’t read part 1 yet, where we covered the first stages of the buying journey, click here: Part 1
Building buyer’s interest
Once your buyer is aware of you, you need to let them get to know you in their own time. Build trust by providing regular, quality, short-form content such as;
The aim of marketing and sales is to take people on a journey from never having heard of you to being raving fans who buy loyally and tell all their friends. So if you want to understand what marketing excellence looks like then you need to understand how your customers make that journey. And the journey will be different depending on your business, your product and your market.
Some buying journeys are quite short and buyers make their decision quite quickly. Others are longer, involve more stages, and require more support from marketing and sales.
Marketing excellence supports buyers at every stage of their buying decision, all the while building trust and reducing the perceived risk of moving forward.
Is it better to heavily promote your business via one channel (e.g. do loads of digital advertising on one platform) or is it better to spread your budget across a number of different channels?
To answer this question, we need to understand the psychology behind how people buy things. Specifically, we need to understand how people become convinced that a company or product is a legitimate option and worthy of consideration.
We all have different mental strategies for deciding whether something is “OK”. Some people don’t need much evidence to be convinced of something. Other people need a lot of evidence before they believe something is true.
If you’re only promoting yourself in one place then you will only attract those who only need one source of evidence. Anyone who needs more than one source will probably not be convinced to take action and you’ll miss out on a big chunk of your market.
On average, people need three sources of evidence before they’re convinced something is true. We see this evidenced in academia when research has to be replicated three times before it is accepted as true.
How do we apply this to marketing?
In today’s crowded world of content, it can be difficult for small businesses to stand out.
We all know a powerful headline when we see it because it grabs our attention. Powerful headlines compel us to read more. Powerful messages will resonate with the kind of people who'll get most value from the product or service offered.
The best headlines are the ones that make me realise I have a problem I didn’t know about before. And this product or service will solve that problem for me – how can I go on living without that product in my life! These headlines stop me in my tracks and compel me to find out more about what is on offer.
And powerful headlines are not universal. A headline that makes one person take notice might not interest someone else, because the message isn't relevant to them.
So where do these powerful messages come from? Do advertising agencies have a magic elixir that gives them divine inspiration?
No. Powerful headlines are created using a systematic process that starts with deeply understanding what is important to your audience.
So many people in marketing talk about finding your "Unique Selling Point" or USP. That thing that makes your business different to everyone else out there. I understand the reason for this because if you look the same as everyone else then it's difficult for buyers to decide why they should pick you instead of your competitors.
The problem with USPs
The only way to find out what makes you "unique" is to look outward at your competitors and compare what you offer, and how you offer it, to them and what they offer. Then you end up changing your marketing to fit around what they're doing. And what do you do if someone else does something similar to you? Suddenly you're not "unique"!
I've seen businesses get into a real state about their USP, especially in industries where (on the surface) businesses can seem pretty similar such as professional services. I hear marketing that starts with, "We're different to other [professional service companies] because..."
If you have to tell people you're different, then the rest of your marketing is not working.
I used to think marketing was fluff. A “dark art”. Creative nonsense with no structure or logic behind it.
In fact, I believed this so strongly that, as a young Design Engineer, when my boss said “Ros I think you’d be good in marketing”, I wanted to say “no I don’t think so”.
As I started working in sales and marketing I began to realise that, yes, bad marketing is fluff. We’ve all seen it! But good marketing is structured and methodical. It’s based on solid research. It’s carefully planned, designed, executed and project managed. Good marketing has a lot in common with engineering, it turns out.
Here’s how you can apply an engineering design process to create a marketing machine that’ll power your business growth.
As a young Marketing Manager I used to hate setting marketing objectives. I felt like I was setting myself up to fail if I planned a marketing activity and explicitly stated "this needs to deliver X to be successful".
I lived in fear of failing to meet those objectives. I also didn't understand that the first time you run a marketing activity, you have to make a lot of assumptions, some of which may turn out to be incorrect. If you're not aware of the assumptions you're making then the only conclusion you can come to is that the activity didn't work and can never be made to work. If you know your assumptions then, afterwards, you can review them based on what happened and see which ones are incorrect.
Now I think about objectives (and assumptions and marketing!) differently.
Objectives are not a stick you use to beat yourself up with. They're a tool to make your marketing more effective. Here's how to use them.
Most people jump to this stage of the process first. This is the equivalent of placing a first order of 100,000 widgets based on a design on the back of a napkin. Yes, there's a chance they might do the job but you're risking losing a lot of money in the process. (Read 'Turning your marketing upside down' for a more detailed explanation)
First, you need a robust marketing function in your business that leads your customers comfortably through their buying process. You need to make sure you've designed your marketing to be effective and you've tested it out and are confident that it is converting customers with a good return on investment.
The process of doing this will almost always result in an upturn in sales, but if your sights are set higher and you want to grow your business more, you have two choices:
The order of these is important: it is far easier and more efficient to increase sales from existing, proven marketing activities. People often shy away from doing this because they're not confident their activities are delivering ROI. If that's the case, go back and put measures in place so you know whether they're working or not.
Get strategic advice, tips and ideas straight into your inbox every fortnight.