You have a great product, a committed and energetic team, and all the world’s marketing tools at your disposal – but your business just isn’t attracting customers.
This is a very common story, and it’s normal for most businesses and start-ups to go through a period where people simply do not seem interested in their product or service. There are lots of reasons for this. You may be up against large competitors, with whom your target audiences retain a lot of brand loyalty; alternatively, your product may not fit your market at all. One author goes as far as to argue that “the only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit.” He separates the life of a company into two parts: before product/market fit (BPMF), and after product/market fit (APMF), imploring readers to “do whatever is required”, no matter how radical, “to get to product/market fit.”
Assuming you have reached product/market fit, the issue clearly becomes one of marketing and communications if customers still aren’t buying. First of all, it is important to remember that customers are not just persuaded by the perceived price of a product; they purchase a product based on its potential benefits and the changes they see it having on their life. Failure to communicate these benefits can result in a lack of customer awareness regarding the value of your product, its benefits, its accessibility, and how the product could meet their needs.
Good marketing, therefore, needs to communicate these messages as effectively as possible, and this can be accomplished through a wide variety of different means. At the base of every effective marketing strategy, though, is a strong valuable proposition. Let’s take a look at what that entails.
Developing strong value propositions
Your most successful competitors have the best value propositions. A useful definition of value propositions comes from Peter Sandeen, who argues a value proposition is “a believable collection of the most persuasive reasons people should notice you and take the action you’re asking for.” Communicating these reasons to your target market is a vital step in ensuring customers understand the value of what you’re offering to them.
Sandeen explains that the most basic value propositions involve value articulation, “the overall perceived value of your product or service.” This encompasses all of the things about your product that potential customers perceive as valuable – what makes your product unique.
You, of course, need a unique selling point (USP). It’s what makes your product a better option than a competitor’s in at least one meaningful way. This becomes the ‘core’ of your value proposition, but not its be-all, end-all. A weak value proposition would only involve value articulation and your USP; a strong value proposition, on the other hand, must be refined and supported using specific claims and promises.
You need proof of these claims, whether that’s through statistics demonstrating the effectiveness of your product or the need it fulfills. An even stronger value proposition involves a guarantee that you can follow through with your promises – so think about the ways you could demonstrate this. Free trials, sample packs, and product demonstrations are all good examples, as is the dissemination of positive customer feedback throughout your marketing materials. Finally, building a third party reference base is an invaluable tool. Many customers will only make a final purchasing decision after a referral or advice from a respected, knowledgeable third party – so getting your product into the hands of this group is vital for penetrating a wider market.
Simply put, your value proposition needs to represent a comprehensive argument, rather than just a statement or a set of slogans, as to why people should choose your brand.
There are some great examples of value propositions here, and we encourage you to take a look over them and think about what makes them work. How do they make the benefits of their products or services immediately clear? What could they do differently to demonstrate that their product is inherently valuable? Finally, think about how they work their value propositions into their wider branding – what are the connections between text value propositions and, for example, the visual design employed by these companies?