1. Many business owners are too close to their businesses to be able to honestly determine what their value proposition is and where they fit into the industry.
For instance, a business owner may tell you that they’re in the business of offering the best value products in an industry. Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with being proud of your business and believing in it wholeheartedly. However, if your pride for your business is keeping you from being honest and identifying your actual value proposition, it can very well keep you from succeeding as well. In that same example, positioning yourself as the best value in your industry isn’t going to get you very far if there are similarly priced or less expensive products that have the same (or a higher) level of quality.
2. “The business” is a somewhat vague concept for business owners to identify and understand.
If you ask a business owner to give you the value proposition behind the products that they sell, that’s usually a much easier thing for them to do. They will tell you that their products/services are high-quality, fast, innovative, stylish, soft, creative, bright, comfortable, easy to use, attractive, fun, sustainable, efficient or long lasting. But when you ask about the business, the answer you often get is something along the lines of “Well, we’re people that sell products that are high-quality, fast, innovative, stylish…” and so on. While a business can sometimes be a sum of its parts (i.e. have the same value proposition as all of the products they are selling combined), it can also be its own entity with its own value proposition.
3. Value propositions have to evolve with the market.
Businesses that have been around for a while may experience a situation where the thing that used to set them apart from their competition is just standard now, and they need to re-invent themselves to find something else to set them apart.
For example, someone much older than myself told me once that many years ago some hotels and motels used to have their cleaning staff wrap a ribbon of tape around the seat of toilets after cleaning them to show you that the toilets had been cleaned. So because cleanliness is important to most people, his family would always check for that “cleaned toilet seal” when entering their hotel room after checking-in. These days though, having a clean hotel is just expected, so touting cleanliness as a value proposition would just seem silly and not get noticed by people looking for hotels. I mean, imagine seeing an ad for a hotel that said “Toilets Cleaned Daily!” – that would certainly not get the reservations pouring in these days!
This is an especially important point in industries where there is a lot of innovation and products and ideas evolve quickly – like the tech industry.
So, what can you do to identify your true value proposition? Rely on feedback from the following sources:
• Current Customers – Ask them why they bought from you in the first place. What were they looking for and how did your business fulfill that need? The answers you get may surprise you!
• First Time Site Visitors – Solicit feedback from first time visitors through a customer experience survey or conduct a focus group.
• Colleagues – If you know other people in the business that you can trust, ask for their honest feedback.
• Friends and Family – Ask for advice, but take it with a grain of salt because they may be apt to tell you what they think you want to hear.
Once you have an idea of what your value proposition is, how can you use that?
• Reiterate Through Site Content – Boil down your value proposition to a few words and then make sure that the content on each page of your site conveys that message.
• Use Across Marketing Channels – Make sure that your value proposition is conveyed consistently across different online marketing channels to provide a unified branded experience across many different touch points for the customer.
Hopefully you have a better handle now on finding your value proposition and using your value proposition to drive your ROI!
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Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!