An Article published by Emma Clayton, Director of Grey Bear Consultancy.

What is a value proposition?

Part of the core offering of our work is helping clients build value propositions. I would best describe a value proposition as a unifying and motivating statement of how you can add value to your customers’ life, which all your future communications should feed off. Value propositions can be created for your brand as a whole, or for specific products and services. It is best practice to do these as an integrated offering, ensuring your corporate proposition remain congruent to your brands and products.

Why are value propositions important?

After many years of working in the same industry you’ll no doubt have a deep understanding of all the complex nuances of the product types and features that are available in your market. And you may truly believe your products and services to be the best things since sliced bread. The hard part is convincing your customers to feel the same, as not everyone is as interested in you or your brand as you are, (crazy I know!).

Defining your brand or product with a simple and clear value proposition will help customers to understand what you can do for them. After all, if you are unable to clearly explain what you do in one sentence, how do you expect your customers to understand it? An analogy to articulate this would be if I were to throw you a ball you’d probably catch it. If I was to throw you 4 balls at the same time you’d probably catch none!

A clear proposition will also help you to stand out and provide cut through in a competitive marketplace.

So how do you go about creating your value proposition

There are two different ways to undergo a proposition development process:

1. A proposition workshop – To be chaired from someone externally, like us, to avoid any feelings of internal bias. It should include key stakeholders from across the business, with breakout sessions to discuss the insights, proposition and reasons to believe. We also explore your audience pain points and needs as it is always ideal to match the pain to a solution. We then follow this up with group sessions to craft into one set of impactful statements.

2. A period of consultancy – This is a deeper and longer route. An agency or consultancy, like us, will carry out lots of insight gathering from within and outside the business i.e. employee questionnaires; employee interviews, qualitative and quantitative market research etc. This is then used to develop the proposition outputs which are presented and debated in key stakeholder sessions.

We’ve seen both approaches above work brilliantly. The right process will depend on the specific brand/product, personalities, and the timings and budgets involved.

What do you need to understand to create a strong proposition?

1. Who you are trying to reach and what they want/need – What are their pain points and issues that you are attempting to solve? What are their potential motivations and triggers for what you offer?

2. What your company/ brand capabilities are – How will interacting with your brand improve your audience’s life?

3. Understand how competitors are positioning their products and brands – What makes you a better choice than your competitors?

Top tips for developing your own value proposition statements

Customer insights should always be the driving force behind your proposition. Your reasons to believe will absolutely need to support these. But it’s also so important to make every word of your single-minded proposition count. Here’s our top tips on nailing the final articulation of your proposition statement. Ask yourself:

Is it simple? – As complex as your business might be, it’s essential to keep your brand proposition is simple as possible. Why:

  • You want your customers to remember it/you. If it’s too complex they won’t.
  • With so many distractions and noise out there, it can be difficult to get your customers to engage in what you do for even for just a few seconds so you’ve really got to make your message instantly connect with them otherwise they’ll just ‘jog on’.
  • We all love to put people and brands into simple boxes – making your proposition simple will help you take control of what you want to be known for.
  • The more single minded the message the more creative you can be delivering that message.
  • It keeps consistency and supports internal advocacy easy when you have a simple proposition.

Making your proposition a truly single-minded statement can sometimes be a brutal process. Some stakeholders may feel that certain key USPs or messages key to the decision making process are being lost. But a proposition statement doesn’t have to be chapter and verse about all you do and, that’s not realistic, it’s about the best way to get your potential customers to engage with you. Put yourselves in their shoes and think how your proposition will resonate with them.

I understand you will have different customer personas who will have different mindsets and needs and therefore different messaging stands – we’re not saying to forget these. These are crucial to brand success, and we absolutely encourage you to segment communications according to customer personas for marketing success. But it’s always good to have one unifying proposition that resonates through all communications.

Will it resonate with your customers? – Ask your self does it genuinely align with their needs and mindset. Or even better if you’ve got time consider some customer research or just ask a few friendly customers what they think of it? Avoid buzzwords and try to keep the language simple.

Does it differentiate you from competitors? – This doesn’t necessarily mean highlighting a specific unique selling point! This is more how you talk about how you can help your audience, that’s differentiated from how your competitors do it? Is your point of difference coming through? This could be your approach, your service, product or even just you! After all people buy from people.

Does it make an emotional as well as a rational connection? – We know that people make decisions based on their emotions, rather than logical thought. That’s why emotion-focused marketing is so effective. Can you really get to the motivators of your audience – if you can then you’re close to cracking it. What is driving your audience? Fear? Excitement? Wanting to be a pioneer?

Is it authentic – can it be delivered by your company? – It’s also important that your customer proposition is truly represents the company values and offering. People have to believe it internally otherwise it will never transcend into the hearts and minds of consumers. But it can be ambitious – it just needs to be credible and aligned with the businesses purpose, skills and values. For your brand proposition model to be effective, you need to be able to deliver on your promises.

Have you recently gone through a brand positioning workshop? How did it go for you? Or are you considering the process? Let us know if this is useful and if you need any further guidance.

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