The essence of your brand’s value proposition can be summed up in just two words: Why buy? It’s the reason your customers put your product in their shopping cart or sign that final contract.
In the following article, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of these foundational branding components. From the many ways they can help drive business growth to the secret sauce behind how to create them, we’ll unpack the value of value propositions.
We’ll also look at some of the world’s best value proposition examples, giving you models to develop one for your own brand.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.
- What is a Value Proposition?
- Why Does Your Business Need a Value Proposition?
- Characteristics of a Powerful Value Proposition
- A Few Great Value Proposition Examples
- How to Write a Value Proposition
- The Takeaway
What is a Value Proposition?
A value proposition is a brand’s central or overarching benefit to those it serves. A good value proposition plainly explains how a brand meets the unique needs of its target audience.
Distinct from a tagline or slogan, which are written to be catchy, recognizable hooks across marketing and advertising initiatives, a value proposition is a more straightforward declaration of the ultimate value a customer can expect to receive from your brand.
As Wikipedia notes, “a value proposition can apply to an entire organization, or parts thereof, or customer accounts, or products or services.”
Why Does Your Business Need a Value Proposition?
Beyond conveying to customers the most tangible benefits your brand provides, a well-crafted value proposition is critical to the success and growth of any business. Let’s take a look at three important ways this essential brand element can move your business forward.
1. Align Your Marketing—and Your Company
First and foremost, a value proposition ensures the central message you convey to your customers is clear, consistent, and never contradictory.
From your website to your social media feeds to billboards and radio ads, a clearly defined value proposition ensures each of your marketing initiatives supports the same central idea. The messages may be different, but the integral benefit behind them is the same.
The impact extends well beyond marketing, however. A business with a clearly articulated benefit is one where all employees—from your customer support reps to your frontline staff—are speaking the same language when it comes to the unique ways your business alleviates customer pain points.
2. Establish Competitive Differentiation
True competitive differentiation is harder and harder to find these days. Whatever market you’re in, there are likely many other brands delivering similar products or services. But an effectively communicated value proposition is one of the best ways to stand out in a crowded market.
Your primary customer benefit itself may not be all that different from other brands in the space. But the way you express it can be.
Think about the luxury auto industry. Every brand in the space has staked a claim in offering a premium driving experience. A closer look, however, reveals the distinction among each brand’s value proposition. Where Ferrari emphasizes sportiness, Audi focuses on innovation. Where BMW showcases engineering, Mercedes highlights performance.
Each of these brands offers a view of luxury through a slightly different lens; each speaks to the unique facet of the luxury experience that is most important to their target audience.
3. Increase Customer Acquisition and Retention
By putting your customers’ needs at the center of your brand story, a strong value proposition attracts better customers, as well. These are the types of buyers who are willing to pay a little more, buy a little more frequently, and become unofficial brand ambassadors by referring your products or services to friends and family.
Customers like these are also more likely to develop longstanding relationships with your brand, resulting in optimal customer lifetime value. If the benefits you claim are borne out by your customers’ experience with your brand, those customers will keep coming back for more. The trust engendered by making good on your brand messaging is the basis for brand loyalty.
Characteristics of a Powerful Value Proposition
A strong value proposition is clearly a valuable asset for any business. But not all of these essential benefits are created equal. So, what distinguishes an effective one from one that’s poorly articulated and easily overlooked?
A powerful value proposition has the following three characteristics:
1. Addresses Customers’ Needs
When it comes to value propositions, customers should always come first. They are the focus of the entire message, as well as its primary audience.
With this in mind, a solid value proposition clearly explains how a product or service will either alleviate a customer’s pain or enable a customer’s gain. Some are able to address both sides of the coin.
According to Product Coalition, the world’s largest independent product management community, there are seven core needs that span these two categories. Examples of customer pains include things like cost, time, discomfort, ambiguity, and monotony. Examples of customer gains include things like standing out among peers, feeling more confident, and a sense of ethical or moral good during the purchasing process.
You may want to hit on more than one idea, or even frame a pain as a gain (or vice versa)—“avoid time-consuming processes” vs. “get more time back in your day,” for example—but pains and/or gains are the ultimate territory of every successful value proposition.
2. Uses Clear Yet Distinct Language
As mentioned above, a value proposition is usually more direct and clear-cut than its punchier sibling, the tagline. Few things are more important when it comes to the strength of these ideas than clarity. But while value proposition marketing should avoid vague ideas and abstract language, it should still feel unique and ownable.
Finding the right balance between a statement that clearly conveys your brand’s central benefit and one that is distinctive and memorable can be a tricky proposition (like most good copywriting). One way to come at the challenge is by using more expressive phrasing.
For example, instead of saying, “Food delivery that saves you time and effort,” (a sentence that is clear, but fairly generic), DoorDash’s value proposition reads, “Restaurants and more, delivered to your door.” It’s equally as concise—and doesn’t obfuscate the brand’s unique selling proposition—but with a more dynamic structure and a bit of rhyming, it’s infinitely more memorable.
3. Is Believable and Provable
This last characteristic is indispensable; it’s where the rubber meets the road, you might say: The ultimate measure of a successful value proposition is credibility.
If a brand claims to save its customers time, but in reality, its customer service number is backlogged to the point where it takes hours to talk to a rep, the credibility of this value proposition will soon be whittled down by an onslaught of negative tweets and bad reviews.
Not unlike your brand promise, your brand’s value proposition is only as good as how reliably it is delivered on. To ensure this messaging preaches what your company actually practices, those responsible for crafting it should test it against objective, measurable evidence—including internal and external brand research—before integrating it into your marketing and communications.
A Few Great Value Proposition Examples
As with most things branding, the best way to understand the power of a strong value proposition is to take a look at a few examples in action. The following three brands represent some of the best examples of value propositions in the real world.
Among our favorite value proposition examples is project management technology brand ClickUp. With its productivity software, ClickUp has identified a huge problem in the work world: too many projects with too many disparate solutions.
ClickUp realized that workers were sick of juggling multiple project management tools across multiple ecosystems, with varying degrees of integration. The brand’s value proposition, “One app to replace them all” is a clearly articulated answer to this problem.
With just a few short words, ClickUp conveys how its singular tool creates convenience, simplicity, and efficiency. The statement is streamlined, just like the product it describes, while a snappy play on a line from The Lord of the Rings—“One ring to rule them all”—adds a dash of humor and stickiness to the equation.
A global leader in virtual health care, Teladoc’s unique benefit, “The right care when you need it most,” gets straight to the heart of what the company offers its customers. In the midst of a stubborn global pandemic, the brand speaks directly to a salient customer pain: going to a brick-and-mortar doctor’s office to get personalized treatment.
Teladoc’s value proposition speaks to its customers’ need for convenience as well as customization in a brand voice that feels personal and reassuring. The brand hits on both of these central pain points in a compact statement that immediately orients the audience to its offering.
Finally, the use of second person—a highly effective tense for these types of statements—makes Teladoc’s message feel like it comes directly from a healthcare provider with the customer’s interest in mind.
With an integrated suite of payment products, Stripe serves both Fortune 500 companies and smaller startups, helping them more effectively pay partners and receive payments from their customers.
Because it operates squarely in the B2B space, Stripe’s value proposition is centered on one goal that every business has front of mind: growth. Rather than alleviating a customer pain, Stripe addresses its customers’ gains, directly and effectively.
“A complete payments platform, engineered for growth,” Stripe’s central message encompasses both the comprehensiveness of the platform and the ultimate outcome that its customers can expect. It’s a value proposition that not only defines what the company is, but also why it matters to its customers.
How to Write a Value Proposition
By now, you know the many ways a strong value proposition can benefit your business—as well as the unique characteristics that effective examples of these statements share. Ready to get to the work of crafting one for your own business? The following three steps are key to a successful outcome:
1. Conduct Research
If you’ve read any of our previous posts, you’ll know we always recommend starting any branding initiative with research. When it comes to value propositions, it’s critical to know what drives your customers.
As we’ve seen, you’ll want to understand both your customers’ pains—the unique challenges they’re hoping your product or service will help them solve—as well as their gains—the positive outcomes they hope to achieve by using your product or service. It’s also useful to get a better understanding of the specific jobs-to-be-done that your customers are hoping to cross off their list by buying from you.
The best way to uncover these types of insights about your customers is simply to ask them. Customer research in the form of customer interviews and/or surveys will give you the data you need to craft a value proposition that speaks specifically to the unique needs and motivations of those you serve.
2. Create a Value Proposition Canvas
With the data from your customer research in hand, the next step is to map the pains, gains, and jobs-to-be-done of your customers to the pain relievers, gain creators, and products and/or services that your business offers. This is what is known as the value proposition canvas.
You can find many examples of this canvas online, including this simple template from the Business Model Analyst.
The goal is to fill out the various segments with real-world examples from your own business and customers. And then identify the unique ways your brand helps to eliminate or minimize customer pains, enhance customer gains, or solve specific tasks.
Creating clear connections from your brand benefits to your customers pains and gains will enable you to see where your brand resonates most deeply with audiences.
3. Craft Your Value Proposition Statement
The final step in the process is to put proverbial pen to paper. When writing a value proposition statement, the most important goal is focus. Analyze the canvas you’ve created and try to identify a singular idea that can serve as the basis for your statement.
Are the customer pains and gains your brand addresses centered on efficiency? Cost savings? Customization? Once you’ve landed on an idea, begin crafting statements that address the idea from a number of different angles.
Whether it’s plainly stating the central benefit, as in HubSpot’s “An easy-to-use CRM,” or playing to your customers’ aspirations with encouraging, second-person language, like Shopify’s “If you can dream it, you can sell it with Shopify,” there’s no one right way to write a value proposition.
Remember: the most important thing is to demonstrate how your brand uniquely benefits the people it serves. Once you’ve found the perfect way to express this idea, the final step is to implement it—across your branding, marketing, and organization as a whole.
“What’s in it for me?” That’s what your buyers want to know before they click “add to cart” or sign a contract. What challenge will your products solve for them? What advantages do your services bring to their lives? And are you going to deliver this value better than the other guys?
These are the types of questions your value proposition should answer. From the landing page of your website to a sales pitch for a client, these simple, straightforward statements can mean the difference between landing a customer and losing one. In just a few words, they should tell your target audience why they should choose your brand over the competition—and keep coming back.