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Defining your value proposition can help staff be on the same page and help your business be even more customer-focused. After all, you have to have customers to be a business. A business without customers is a hobby.
What’s a value proposition?
A value equation specifies the value your business brings to the customer. Value focuses on the customer. The person who consumes your product. It doesn’t focus on why the business owner has a business (passion for it, for example), though that reason certainly could be part of the business’ story, but not necessarily its customer-focused value proposition.
Some examples that explain how to verbalize an organization’s value proposition.
Eastern Iowa News
In 2009, I launched Eastern Iowa News, a new community-based news start-up. Initially, I wanted to learn about publishing through WordPress and get caught up on running a website. (I’ve had some experience with an older non-WordPress version of The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and in the 1990s had a Geocities site, a service later bought by Yahoo, and then shut down in the United States. I also continued to run across community-newsworthy items on my commute and while out in the community. I wanted to share those and learn about WordPress publishing.
That’s a good personal reason for launching the project, but probably doesn’t sound all that interesting to potential consumers.
Traffic started to ramp up, people started buying ad space and community members started submitting news items that they found interesting. In just nine months more than 100,000 people visited and 2,700 articles were filed by more than 80 contributors. (Eastern Iowa News became inactive when I took a job at The Gazette Company to help train journalists engage with the public differently.)
The line from Caribou Coffee on my coffee cup the other day was a good example of a good value proposition.
“Life is short. Stay awake for it.”
Obviously, I had already gotten my coffee when I saw this, but it’s still a good proposition and explanation of why I should drink their coffee. Plus it’s written in a clever way.
It also gets to the bottom of why many drink coffee: To stay awake … or at least wake up or feel more awake.
Plus, don’t we all want to enjoy life – that’s where the “Life is short” works nicely.
Steps to your value proposition
In the case of Eastern Iowa News who was the customer? I would identify the customer as the visitors who stopped by to consume content, the advertisers and also the contributors. In general, none of the contributors received pay for submissions, so it’s probably fair to call them customers, too.
Identify why they are customers
Then identify why your customers are customers.
Visitors stopped by for interesting content that they hadn’t seen elsewhere.
Contributors submitted content because they had something worthwhile to share and they had nowhere else to share it where a larger and relevant audience would see it.
Advertisers bought ads – sometimes contextual – because a relevant audience started to build.
Summary of reasons (aka value proposition)
Then try to summarize the reasons into a sentence or two.
Eastern Iowa News offers a moderated place where community members as well as people trained as journalists share relevant community-level news available nowhere else that is of interest to people in Eastern Iowa.
Eastern Iowa News is online for the region what printed weekly newspapers have done for decades: Report neighborhood news.
You can find a number of templates on writing a value proposition here. There are many good ideas and one may work better for your business than another.
I also like this template from The Methodologist site:
“We help X do Y doing Z”
In the case of Eastern Iowa News this could be OPTION 3:
We help community members and people with knowledge of information connect in one place. It’s kind of like Facebook except that we check content before it’s published and add additional contextual and relevant information.
Even businesses that haven’t spelled out their value proposition probably have an implied value proposition. Spelling it out, however, can help staff and consumers understand what a business does and what makes it special.
Depending on how short your value proposition is, it could end up being used in promotional materials and even turn into a tagline.
This was written for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to share with small businesses who do not have a marketing team but would like to know more marketing their business.