As a senior marketer and entrepreneur in Silicon Wadi, talking to startup founders about their ideas, products and marketing strategies is a daily occurrence for me.
These meetings usually follow the same pattern. After talking about the problems they aim to solve, their companies and their technology/product, the conversation inevitably evolves into a marketing strategy discussion (they are talking to me after all). General questions about target audience, buyer personas, lead generation strategies and growth plans are posed and answered.
Then I hit them with it:
“What’s your value proposition for your target audience and users?”
Bewildered by the question, the vast majority of founders instinctively open their VC pitch decks to the Product section and begin to list their features and their differentiation from the competition. They simply fail to see the difference between what was asked and what they have written on the slides.
Founders are way too reliant on their pitch decks for their messaging and truly believe the messaging used to approach VCs and secure funding and the messaging used to attract users to their product are similar (or even the same).
Unfortunately, this is way too common. Many founders don’t comprehend the exact meaning of value propositions, in a marketing sense, and their crucial importance to startups, particularly early stage ones.
The inability to communicate your purpose and value to your target audience, in a clear and concise manner, is a death sentence for even the best ideas. Often times, it is one of the root causes in the failure startups.
In an effort to highlight the problem and help address it, I decided to cover some value proposition basics here.
What is a value proposition?
A value proposition is a summary of the value that your product(s)/service(s) will provide to potential users, with the purpose of generating interest, demand and awareness for your product(s)/service(s).
A value proposition should aim to:
- Acknowledge the problem and pains felt by your target audience.
- Display an understanding of the their requirements.
- Quantify the benefits of your product(s)/service(s).
- Highlight the differentiation between your solution and the competition.
Why is it so important?
Value propositions play an integral role in defining your startup’s purpose and validating ideas among your target audience. Directly correlating with the business plan, they quantify the intended market position of your startup and demonstrate the fundamental value of your product(s)/service(s) in the mind of your target audience.
Value propositions can also serve as the basis for your current and future business development/sales strategy, communications strategy, marketing strategy and even your product development strategy.
It is never too late to create a value proposition for a startup (unless, of course, you’ve already blown through your runway on paid acquisition or product development without a value proposition for your target audience). If you are struggling to achieve product/market fit, failing to see ROI from your marketing efforts or aren’t clearly identifying which segments or buyer personas to target, chances are you haven’t crafted a solid value proposition that resonates with your target audience.
How do I craft my value proposition?
Crafting value propositions is a difficult task and even the most seasoned marketers can struggle in formulating them. No magical solution exists that will enable you to quickly and easily craft your value propositions, but there are two major actions that you can take to make this task infinitely easier.
Speak to your target users and target market.
Speaking (yes, actually speaking!) with your users and professionals operating in your target market is single most effective thing that you can do to help craft your value proposition.
By speaking with your target users/market, you should aim to achieve the following:
- Have a clear understanding all of their pain points and struggles.
- Hear the actual language and tone of voice that they use to vocalize their pain points.
- Capture crucial data and numbers needed to quantify your value.
- Learn about their experiences with competitors and their solutions.
Armed with this information, you are well on the way to crafting a great value proposition for your target audience.
Check out the competition.
By looking at the specific messaging used by your competitors and how they describe the value of their solutions, you can get a sense of how to craft a value proposition for your target audience.
A word of caution. You don’t really know what specific buyer personas it targets, what quality of leads it attracts and how successful it is in driving sales and revenue for their business. You need to use it as a starting point and craft something more compelling to distinguish your solution and draw the types of users that are best for your business.
How do implement my value proposition?
Implementing value propositions requires all consumer facing assets to echo those value propositions. All content created, whether it’s a simple blog post, your website or case studies, need to touch upon the value propositions that you have crafted. Old, pre value proposition content needs to be updated or removed. You cannot have a hole in your messaging strategy as this will inevitably taint your inbound lead quality by drawing users who do not resonate with your new value proposition.
Value propositions aren’t just more marketing bullshit, they are crucial for you to fully understand your own product(s)/service(s) and your overall position in the market. Value propositions should ideally be crafted from the outset of your startup, but are always relevant regardless of stage.
It is essential that you constantly review, test, revise and generate new value propositions as user feedback is received, new products/features are launched and market conditions change.
With a great value proposition in hand, you will be well on your way to achieving sales and marketing success for your startup.