The value proposition of a product provides one of the most important meeting points for user experience design and marketing. Although it deals mainly not with serving the customer but selling, it involves matching their needs with your product. Also, it usually gets better conversions and comes with additional benefits as well. It can set a common goal for your company, something easy to refer to when you have doubts on which feature to develop and much more.
What makes up the value proposition?
A value proposition promises value you’ll deliver. It gives the primary reason a prospect should buy from you. It defines the first step of telling users what you offer. Your landing page offers the most trivial example of using the value proposition, but it can appear anywhere you need to convince your customer quickly: in an advertisement, the App Store, whatever.
Example App Store
We can easily confuse the value proposition with other marketing related tools. Most commonly we mistake it for a single sentence, like a slogan or tagline:
“Just do it”
Although Nike’s tagline expresses some values about the product (in its simplicity), it mainly aims for memorability. A value proposition involves more. You need to answer the following questions.
1) What do you do?
It may sound trivial to answer, but landing pages often lack it. Do you offer a service or an app? For businesses or regular customers? Imagine someone comes out of the blue with no background knowledge or context. Will they understand what you do in five seconds?
I love Slack and use it daily for my work, but I don’t think their site fulfills this purpose. It has nice people in nice images and a dreamy headline: “Imagine what you’ll accomplish together”. These could apply to any kind of service or product. However, they can afford to play to emotion and only show people as illustration above the fold, as their target audience already knows them.
Trello has the same target audience as Slack, and they answer this question better. I know they offer a productivity tool I can use collaboratively. The secondary headline explains this deeper with boards, lists and cards I can use. They illustrate this less abstractly.
2) Why would I care?
This question extends from the first, and it deals with good targeting. Maybe I understand your product or service at a glance, but why would I care? What relevance has it got to my life? How can it make my life easier?
WordPress does a really good job targeting their customers. These people need a website but don’t have time, so they want a quick solution.
3) What makes you unique?
The third question helps distinguish you from your competitors. Maybe you can clearly define what your product does. Maybe you can also target your customers’ pain points successfully. But why choose your solution instead of the dozens of other products like it? Have you got a cheaper, faster, more effective, etc solution? Stand apart from your competitors! Show customers what makes you different and give them a reason to buy from you.
Firefox doesn’t shy away from knocking the competitors. “Uses 30% less memory than Chrome” seems too direct, but it certainly works.
Waze can differentiate itself without direct comparison by simply emphasizing its distinctive feature: real-time help from other drivers.
The elements of the value proposition
You have five to fifteen seconds to answer these questions because the customer spends that much time deciding whether to use your service/product. We can answer these questions quickly in many ways. On a landing page, these elements do it the easiest:
Make the first thing your customer reads short and informative but catchy at the same time.
Grabbing their attention, the secondary headline lets you explain your offer more specifically.
Illustration or visual
Images communicate much faster than words. Show the product, the hero shot or an image reinforcing your main message. Thousand words etc.
List the key benefits or features in three bullet points or smaller sections.
How to create a value proposition?
You could simply come up with sentences and test them. If you are looking for a more practical approach or the words don’t come easy, use the following framework.
As always, think with your user’s head. But if you really want to do a good job, do user interviews. Why? To reach them, speak their language and answer their real problems. During the interviews, get answers to these questions:
- What jobs do our customers try to do in their work or life?
- What pains do they face before, during and after them, or which even completely prevent them from doing so?
- What gains do they face after getting a job done?
This kind of typical questions during a user interview help find the value proposition:
– Can you guide me through the steps the last time you wanted to book a flight?
– Do you remember any particular painful points during this process?
Ask open questions, pay attention and look for patterns.
Once you have the necessary background knowledge, start organizing your insights. We typically use the Value Proposition Canvas.
In a nutshell, this tool lets you focus on the most important jobs, pains and gains of your customer, and prioritize them. The results can work as the building blocks of your final value proposition. It works in conjunction with the Business Model Canvas developed by Strategyzer. To learn more about how to use it, check out our article about Innovation by Design.
The Value Proposition Canvas has two sides. On the right, we have a customer profile. It helps clarify your understanding of the main customer segment. On the left, we have the Value Map. This helps describe how you intend to create value for that customer. Your job here is to find the fit between the two. The pain relievers on the left should reflect on the collected pains of the customer on the right side and so on.
Organizing your insights with this framework can give you ideas for your value proposition.
At this point you should have some ideas on how to present your offer to customers. Maybe you have several good ones and can’t decide which you should go on with. This actually presents a good opportunity: Finding the best value proposition involves an iterative process which you can always fine tune. Change the copy, illustration, hierarchy of values or emphasize something else. No matter what you change, test it somehow.
We can test the value proposition in several ways. Here, I’ll show two of our favorites.
Facebook or Instagram ads
The PPC ads function of Facebook presents a perfect way to test ideas quickly. The split-test function works perfectly for A/B testing. Play with the segments and set a limit for the budget. In the end you get a clear, quantified result.
A/B testing has its own rules. Learn more about them here.
As mentioned, you have five to fifteen seconds to convince the customer to buy your product or service. We can actually simulate this situation. With this straightforward method, show the landing page to the test participant for five seconds, then hide it and ask what they remember. This perfectly tests whether customers clearly get your message. You can learn more about the five second tests here.
Finding the perfect value proposition involves a long, iterative process. We never really finish with it. It also presents a chance for the marketing department and the UX team to work together. Hopefully, this article can help you start the journey.
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