Your brand’s value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you.
It’s also the #1 thing that determines whether people will bother reading more about your product or hit the back button. On your site, your value proposition is the main thing you need to test—if you get it right, it will be a huge boost.
In fact, if I could give you only one piece of conversion optimization advice, “test your value proposition” would be it.
The less known your company is, the better your value proposition needs to be.
Table of contents
- What is a unique value proposition (UVP)?
- The structure of a unique value proposition
- What makes a great value proposition
- 7 great unique value propositions examples
- Poor value proposition examples, and their updates
- How to write a unique value proposition
- How to test your value proposition
What is a unique value proposition (UVP)?
Value proposition definition: In marketing, a unique value proposition is a clear statement that explains the benefits of your product, how it solves customers’ problems, why it is different from the rest, and why customers should buy it.
In marketing, an ideal unique value proposition must provide the following:
- Relevancy. Explain how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation.
- Quantified value. Deliver specific benefits.
- Differentiation. Tell the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition.
Your value proposition has to be the first thing visitors see on your homepage, but it should also be visible at all major entry points to the site.
It’s not just for aesthetics or to placate a CEO or copywriter. Ultimately, it can improve your customer lifetime value. When I reviewed a bunch of websites, a missing or poor value proposition was one of the most common shortcomings. The value propositioning definition includes 3 important factors; make sure you cover all of them in yours.
You can also check out the Pe:p Show discussing value propositions.
People should read and understand your unique value proposition.
A value proposition is something real humans are supposed to understand. It’s for people to read. Here’s an example of what a value proposition is not supposed to be like:
Revenue-focused marketing automation & sales effectiveness solutions unleash collaboration throughout the revenue cycle
Would you be able to explain the offer to your friend or how they’d benefit? Didn’t think so. Unfortunately, it’s no joke. Such meaningless “jargon propositions” are abundant. Avoid blandvertising at all costs.
Use the right language for your unique value proposition.
Your value proposition needs to be in the language of the customer (informed by customer research and buyer intelligence). It should join the conversation that’s already going on in the customer’s mind. To do that, you need to know the language your customers use to describe your offering and how they benefit from it.
You cannot guess what the right language is. The way you speak about your services is often very different from how your customers describe them. The answers are outside your office. You have to interview your customers to find it out, or use a messaging research tool like Wynter.
What the value proposition is not
It’s not a slogan or a catch phrase. This is not a value proposition:
L’Oréal. Because we’re worth it.
It’s not a positioning statement. This is not a value proposition:
America’s #1 Bandage Brand. Heals the wound fast, heals the hurt faster.
A positioning statement is a subset of a value proposition, but it’s not the same thing.
The structure of a unique value proposition
The value proposition is usually a block of text (a headline, sub-headline, and one paragraph of text) with a visual (photo, hero image, graphics).
There is no one right way to go about it. I suggest you start with the following formula:
- Headline. What is the end-benefit you’re offering in one short sentence? It can mention the product and/or customer. Make it an attention grabber.
- Sub-headline or a 2–3 sentence paragraph. A specific explanation of what you do/offer, for whom, and why it’s useful.
- 3 bullet points. List the key benefits or features.
- Visual. Images communicate much faster than words. Show the product image, the hero shot, or an image reinforcing your main message.
Note: Having solid product images are just one piece of the ecommerce pie. You’ll find 247 ecommerce guidelines in this research-based report.
Evaluate your current value proposition by checking whether it answers the questions below:
- What product or service is your company selling?
- What is the end-benefit of using it?
- Who is your target customer for this product or service?
- What makes your offering unique and different?
Use the headline/paragraph/bullets/visual formula to structure the answers. (Here’s a value proposition worksheet you might find useful.)
What makes a great value proposition
The best value proposition is clear: What is it? For whom? How is it useful? If those questions are answered, you’re on the right path. Always strive for clarity first.
If your value proposition makes people go “hmph?”, you’re doing it wrong. If they have to read a lot of text to understand your offering, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, a sufficient amount of information is crucial for conversions, but you need to draw them in with a clear, compelling value proposition first.
Research about value propositions in marketing says that the key challenge companies have is identifying an effective value proposition, followed by communicating it clearly.
What makes a good value proposition?
- Clarity! It’s easy to understand.
- It communicates the concrete results a customer will get from purchasing and using your products and/or services.
- It says how it’s different or better than the competitor’s offer.
- It avoids hype (like “Never seen before!” or “Amazing miracle product!”), superlatives (“best”) and business jargon (“value-added interactions”).
- It can be read and understood in about 5 seconds.
Also, in most cases, there’s a difference between the value proposition for your company and your product. You must address both.
Why the presentation of your value proposition matters
Original value proposition research by CXL showed that users:
- Noticed the value proposition more quickly when it had more text (i.e. took up more real estate on the page).
- Spent longer on a value proposition as opposed to elsewhere on the page when there was more to read.
- Recalled more services offered by the site when more services were listed.
- Described more website advantages when there were more features and benefits available to read.
- Preferred information in the form of bulleted lists.
- Preference for page design was influenced by which variation was originally seen.
A key role for the value proposition is to set you apart from the competition. Most people check out 4–5 different options/service providers before they decide. You want your offering to stand out in this important research phase.
7 great unique value propositions examples
It’s tough to find perfect value proposition examples. Probably because it’s hard to create a great one. I find flaws or room for improvement with most value propositions I come across.
I’m also fully aware that I’m not the ideal customer for many of the examples shown below, and my critiques are educated hypotheses that should be tested.
Here are some good examples along with my comments:
1. Campaign Monitor
- Very clear what Campaign Monitor does (email marketing).
- Includes the benefits to using it in the heading.
- Paragraph expands on the benefits of using the product.
- Relevant images that support text-based claims.
- It’s clear what Stripe is and for whom.
- Specific benefit-oriented paragraph.
- Relevant visuals.
- Clear statement about what Trello does for you in the heading.
- Elaboration in the subheading.
- Relevant images that show collaboration in action.
- Heading speaks to larger benefits for your life.
- Subheading takes you into how Evernote delivers those benefits.
- Clear call to action.
- Headline promises that Square will underpin your entire business.
- Lead paragraph expands on the features offered.
- Relevant image.
- Clear and succinct heading that explains what Zoom does for you.
- Lead paragraph supports the heading’s premise.
- The headline is okay, but it could be clearer (i.e. “Keep track of your laptop, phone or tablet. Get it back when it gets stolen or lost.”)
- The following paragraph does a good job explaining how Prey is useful.
- Offers an immediate test option (up the top).
Poor value proposition examples, and their updates
Some lessons from the department of “Don’t do this!”
Here’s Cloudflare‘s evolution…
- Awful clarity: “Helping Build a Better Internet”? Nobody will understand what that means—nor does that solve anyone’s problem.
- Subheading offers some clarity and detail, but that info should be in the headinng.
- Image looks like a stock photo.
- Still lacking clarity in the heading as to what benefits it’s offering.
- Subheading is a lot more benefit-focused than the previous version.
- Image is at least custom and applicable, but the placement of text around it is odd and doesn’t really fit.
2. Continuum Financial
Here’s Continuum Financial‘s evolution…
- No proper value proposition in place at all—the headline congratulates themselves on a five-year anniversary.
- Awkward phrasing if not flat-out incorrect (“…we look forward continuing to deliver…” and “What stage of your financial journey are you at?”
- No imagery above the fold; those below are stock photos.
- The heading at least refers to value the company can offer: financial happiness.
- The subheading expands on the heading: the company offers trustworthy, simplified financial assistance.
- Background image might not seem immediately applicable, but it alludes to the results people often hope for when reaching their financial goals.
So how do you make your offer unique? Often, it’s hard to spot anything unique about your offering. It requires deep self-reflection and discussion.
How to write a unique value proposition
If you can’t find anything, you’d better create something. Of course, the unique part needs to be something customers actually care about. There’s no point being unique for the sake of being unique (e.g. “the ball bearings inside our bicycles are blue”). Even if what you sell isn’t unique, you can still come up with a great value proposition.
Here are two articles that can help you find a “theme” or angle for your value proposition:
- Value Propositions That Work
- The Five Propositions that Help Companies Create Value for their Customers
Remember: You don’t need to be unique to the whole world, just in the customer’s mind. The closing of a sale takes place in a customer’s mind, not out in the marketplace among the competition.
Use “boosters” for your value proposition
Sometimes, little things tip the decision in your favor. If all major things are pretty much the same between you and your competitors, you can win by offering small value-adds. I call them boosters.
These things work well against competitors who don’t offer them. Boosters can be things like:
- Free shipping;
- Fast shipping/Next-day shipping;
- Free bonus with a purchase;
- Free setup/installation;
- No setup fee;
- No long-term contract, cancel any time;
- License for multiple computers (vs. 1);
- (Better than) money-back guarantee;
- A discounted price (for a product);
You get the idea. Think what small things you could add that wouldn’t cost you much but could be attractive to some buyers.
Make sure the booster is visible with the rest of the value proposition.
Example of a value proposition “booster”
Notice the “Free Shipping” sign in the top left? That’s a booster.
How to test your value proposition
You definitely have to test your value proposition. How? There are three main ways.
1. Message testing
By far the best way to test your value proposition is to put it in front of the very people you’re trying to market to, and get their perception on it. This is what message testing is for. It tells you exactly what your ideal target customers think:
- Do they find it clear?
- Is it relevant to them? Do they get it’s for them?
- Most importantly: do they want the value promised? Does it make them go “I want that”?
- And finally, is it differentiated? Is it clear why choose you over alternatives?
You will get rich qualitative information on how/where it’s falling short, so you can improve it.
The best way to conduct message testing is with a tool like Wynter.
2. A/B testing
Another good way to test your value prop is to craft two candidates (or more, if you have tons of traffic) and split test them. This will take at least 4 weeks on most sites, and requires a minimum of 500 signups/conversions per month. (You need to do proper sample size calculations upfront to know exactly how many).
The limitation here is that A/B testing will only be able to tell you if B is better than A, and by how much. It tells you nothing about the ‘why’. It offers no insight into how to improve your value proposition (unlike message testing).
3. Pay-per-click advertising
Split test ads with different value propositions that target the same customer. The ad with a higher click-through rate signals a possibly better attention grabber and interest generator, but on the downside, it doesn’t necessarily mean higher sales conversions.
Send the traffic to a corresponding landing page and test conversions, too.
You need a value proposition and you need to communicate it clearly on all the main entry pages: homepage, product pages, category pages, etc.
If you don’t state why users should buy from you, you will lose most of them. To craft a great value proposition:
- Focus on clarity above all else.
- Use the headline, sub-headline, bullets, and image formula.
- Test, test, test.
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