By Chris Finch

Chief Strategy Officer

Sep 17, 2021

How to get the most out of your Value Proposition.

Getting your value proposition right may very well be the most important thing you can do to ensure your brand marketing efforts succeed and might possibly become the core foundation of your marketing toolkit.

It makes your current customers feel good about their decision to purchase your products or services. It is a key part of your business strategy, and a cornerstone of your marketing strategy, and getting it right is anything but easy. Simply defined, a Value Proposition is a statement used by your brand to tell consumers why they should work with or buy from you and not from your competitors. 

On the surface that sounds pretty straightforward, but identifying and clearly articulating what you do better than the competition can be tricky. Even harder, can be doing so in a way that is credible and believable, depending upon what the current perception of your brand is in the marketplace.

For some brands, it may require some adjustment over time as you work towards a desired future state, if your current reputation does not align with your vision of where you want to go and who you want to be. If you overstate your value such that it doesn’t align with your customer’s perception, then you run the risk of creating cognitive dissonance. The danger here is that appearing untruthful can wind up doing more harm than good, by causing a loss in trust, the most valuable component of a brand’s relationship with its customer.

This is a very fine line. It’s important to be aspirational and have a strong vision of where you want to take your brand. It is equally important that you only make claims that can be substantiated and that customers trust you and believe in your vision. 

What is the difference between a Value Proposition and Brand Positioning?

If a Value Proposition is about what a brand does for its customers, the Brand Positioning tends to be more about how it makes them feel. What emotions do your customers have as a result of experiencing your brand?

These “Emotional Benefits” are intangible but can be extremely powerful. There is a well known Maya Angelou quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The same holds true for your brand, and your brand positioning should speak to exactly how you want to make your customers feel, even if they don’t realize it. When you’re brushing your teeth in the morning are you thinking to yourself, “Gee, this toothpaste makes me feel more confident, more sure of myself, more attractive?” Probably not. Does it make you feel that way? It just might.

There are four ways in which a brand can deliver value to its customers through its products or services; its features, its functional benefits, its experiential benefits and its emotional benefits. 

When crafting your Value Proposition you should focus on the Features and the Functional Benefits. The Features are very specific. It’s what the product or service does. Toothpaste removes plaque. Eyeglasses correct your vision. It’s not sexy. It’s factual, and is important to your customer. The Functional Benefits are the tangible outcome of a Feature. Removing plaque helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Correcting your vision allows you to see clearly. Again, not exciting, but that’s okay. This isn’t marketing or advertising language. This is the foundation for your marketing strategy. Leave it to your copywriters to make toothpaste exciting.

If you are selling a service, vs a product, your features may be the skills of your employees and the functional benefits the impact of those skills, e.g. the features of an HVAC company could be that they employ technicians with a minimum of five years experience who will be able to fix your air conditioner or furnace. The functional benefits are that you will be able to cool or heat your house. Clearly communicating the Features and Functional Benefits that your target audience will experience, and how they will experience them in ways that are better or different, and doing so in a compelling way is the key to a great Value Proposition.

This combination of features and functional benefits are what deliver value to your customers and, thus, make up the core of your Value Proposition.

Brand Positioning is a little bit more emotive. It consists of what we call the “Experiential Benefits” and the “Emotional Benefits.” The experiential benefits are how a customer experiences your brand and the emotional benefits are how that experience makes them feel as a result. To use our toothpaste example, a customer may experience the sensation of a clean mouth or odor-free breath, leading to a sense of well-being or increased self confidence. A homeowner with a functioning furnace and AC unit will experience a more comfortable living environment, leading to feelings of relief, coziness or even accomplishment if providing that environment for others.

When crafting your Brand Positioning statement, it is critical to understand exactly how your product or service is improving your customer’s experience. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, your customers won’t remember what you said or did but they will remember how you made them feel.

How to Write a Great Value Proposition.

If your Value Prop needs to focus on the features and functional benefits of your brand that are most important to your customers, how do you figure out what these are?

You’ve likely spent a lot of time perfecting your product or service, overseeing dozens if not hundreds of iterations in an effort to get it right. Maybe you’ve even done consumer testing to see what customers like about it or what they would improve, but do you know what they value most about it? Do you know what makes them choose you over your competition or tell their friends about it? What is the best way to find out? The simplest approach is to ask. As the people who know.

Now you could start with your actual customers, and at SKIP we always recommend that we be given the opportunity to speak to a few of our clients’ customers. However, this isn’t always an option and these interviews are usually more effective at validating the information we have already gathered through other means, because customers don’t always know what’s most important to them or may not give you the most accurate responses. There are other ways to identify customer’s needs and preferences through various types of research including surveys, social listening, and reviewing secondary research but the most effective and efficient methodology for us has always been the stakeholder interview.

Stakeholders are anyone in your organization who has a stake or an interest in the success of the project, in this case, developing an effective brand strategy. Speaking to executives and project sponsors is always important to ensure that there is alignment between all interested parties but the best insight into what customers value most almost always comes from frontline employees, those that are engaging directly with customers on a regular basis. Sales people are great. They know what their customers are looking for and what information they need to make decisions. Customer service people are also a valuable resource. They know the types of issues that customers are experiencing and what sort of expectations they have for the company supporting their products. Marketing folks are also key because they’ve already spent a ton of time thinking about what’s important to customers and they know the ins and outs of their products or services. 

Getting the right input will require making sure the stakeholders are coming from a customer-centric point of view. You want to make sure your Value Proposition and Brand Positioning accurately reflect both your organization’s aspirations and your customer’s expectations and beliefs. 

Performing these stakeholder interviews should be done without any preconceived notions and with an open mind. We strongly recommend that an unbiased third party be used, especially when speaking with customers but it’s a good idea to use someone outside your organization when interviewing employees, as well. You want to ensure employees are comfortable speaking candidly and openly and are not feeling any pressure to appease or meet any expectations. When interviewing customers, it’s important to guarantee anonymity and encourage them to provide details on both the experience they had leading up to purchasing your product or services and their experience using them.

Once you have gathered and organized the information you collected through the interviews, you have to go through a distillation process where you eliminate any outliers and prioritize the attributes or characteristics that best describe your brand and its benefits, giving additional weighting to those that truly differentiate you from the competition. Combine these with evidence that supports any claims you make around specific attributes and you have the core components of your Value Prop. The other elements are important but will not serve to set you apart and create a desire to work with you. Here is a simple formula to help illustrate:

Differentiating Attributes + Reasons To Believe = Motivation To Purchase

Once you have these clearly identified components, and there is consensus among the stakeholders (sometimes easier said than done), it’s just a matter of creating the right context. You have to locate your brand within the appropriate category (e.g. toothpaste/oral care) and define the specific target audience that you are speaking to and build your Value Prop around these pieces. E.g.: 

How the Value Proposition informs your Messaging Framework

A messaging framework is a logical and structured representation of how you talk about your products and services to your various customer segments as they progress along the buying journey.

Your messaging framework provides detailed guidance on what information will be considered most valuable by each customer segment at every stage in the buying cycle, i.e. what to say to whom and when. It is a critical piece of the foundation for all your content efforts and should inform the content used in campaigns, sales enablement content, whitepapers, and your websites.

Different customer segments, or personas, have different criteria for choosing products and they seek different types of information as they move through the various stages from becoming aware of your brand to purchasing and even becoming an advocate. How you construct your message will differ based on their various interests, needs and frame of mind, but your Value Proposition should always remain consistent and be present in all your messaging. It’s the thing that makes you the best solution for the problem, that makes you a better choice than anyone else, and that delivers the most value, and that should never change.

The Strategic Messaging Framework provides direction on how to create customized messages that communicate your value proposition in a way that uniquely resonates with all of your customers segments.

Looking to Create Your Own Messaging Framework?

A Strategic Messaging Framework provides a guide for crafting customized messaging and a foundation for an enterprise-wide content strategy.

SKIP ​​uses a methodology that starts by understanding where your brand uniquely meets the needs of your customers. Then, focuses on how this creates value for your customers and, ultimately, how to most effectively communicate this to different customer segments.

Schedule a call or send an email to reserve a time to talk with us about your Brand Marketing goals. We’ll respond usually during the same business day.