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How to Write a Value Proposition

One of the easiest ways to make your website more effective and improve its conversion rate is to make sure it features a strong value proposition.

What is a Value Proposition?

In the context of a website, a value proposition is a clear and concise statement which can be displayed as the main headline on your website, and which sums up what your business does and what makes it better than its competitors.

Whether they realise it or not, someone who lands on a website for the first time, will typically have three questions in their head. Those questions are:

  1. Where am I?
  2. What can I do here?
  3. Why should I stick around and do it?

A good value proposition will answer those three questions in just a second or two.

And it's really important that those three questions do get answered quickly. If they're not then there is a strong chance that your visitor (aka your potential new client) will simply leave your site, go back to Google, and try one of your competitors instead.

how to write a value proposition - How to Write a Value Proposition

The World's Worst Website Value Proposition

The space at the top of your home page (where your value proposition is designed to go) is one of the most valuable bits of website real estate you own.

And yet there are still plenty of websites out there which waste this prime space by filling it with a headline that says:

Welcome to Our Website

Even back in the 1990s - when getting to someone's website might have involved a treacherous journey across dialup connections, riding on a web browser that was only slightly more advanced than Ceefax - it was a bit strange that people felt the need to welcome you to their website.

But nowadays there's absolutely no excuse for it. I often wonder if the businesses which put this kind of welcome message on their websites take a similar approach with all of their marketing materials.

Do they perhaps send out letters which open with "Welcome to our mailshot"?

Do they have "Welcome to our sales brochure" emblazoned across the front of their product catalogue?

Probably not. So why do it on a website?

What Makes a Good Value Proposition?

A good value proposition is one which is easy to understand and which says what you do without using overly complex language. So if, for example, your value proposition talks about the fact that you provide advice on "residential property funding solutions" I suggest you replace those four words with the single word "mortgages".

As well as making it clear what your business does, an effective value proposition will also give one or two reasons why someone should choose to buy from your business rather than anyone else's. So your value proposition needs to highlight some things that make your business different.

Let's look at an example of good value proposition to show you what I mean.

Value proposition: Our genetic testing is the quickest, safest and most accurate way of finding out if you or your family are at risk of cancer

This value proposition comes from the website of a company that uses genetic testing to assess the likelihood of someone developing cancer. 

It's a good value proposition because, in one simple sentence, it makes it clear what the service does - lets you find out if you are at risk of cancer - and also highlights the unique selling points of the service - speed, safety, and accuracy.

how to write a value proposition - How to Write a Value Proposition

A Value Proposition is Different From a Strapline

As you can see from the example above, a value proposition doesn't have to be particularly "clever" or instantly memorable. It just needs to be clear, concise, and packed with benefits.

A strapline, on the other hand, is a short and catchy slogan that is easy to remember but which doesn't usually tell you much about what the business does. It's often found underneath a company's logo. Some famous examples of straplines are:

  • Just do it (Nike) which has nothing to do with trainers
  • Every little helps (Tesco) which doesn't relate to groceries
  • The best a man can get (Gillette) which could be referring to all sorts of things other than just razors

There's nothing to stop you having a strapline as well as a value proposition, of course. But if you're only going to have one or the other, go for a value proposition every time.

As you'll see in the examples below, some businesses are now using two-part value propositions where the first part is a short sentence that's a bit like a strapline and then the second part is a longer sentence which conveys the benefits.

Value Proposition Examples

Here are five examples of value propositions taken from a variety of different websites, all of which I think do a good job of answering those all-important questions that we talked about earlier: where am I, what can I do here, why should I stick around and do it.

Monzo

Challenger bank Monzo's value proposition begins with something akin to a strapline - Banking made easy.

Banking made easy value proposition

What's good

  • It's very obvious what they consider to be their main USP - they make the banking process easy
  • They make good use of social proof - lots of other people are opening an account with Monzo so you ought to as well 
  • Numbers give a value proposition more impact and more credibility - 55,000 people sounds like a huge number of new customers each week, even though I have no idea how that compares to other banks; and saying that opening an account takes less than 10 minutes sounds more credible that saying that accounts can be opened very quickly
  • The value proposition manages to weave in a call to action as well - join them.

Room for improvement

  • There's nothing that says why I should bank with Monzo other than that opening an account is quick and easy
  • Being able to spend, save and manage money are not strong benefits, as all bank accounts let you do that

Freshbooks

This cloud-based accounting and bookkeeping platform uses a value proposition that promises to make life easier for small business owners.

Frshbooks value proposition

What's good

  • This value proposition works hard to overcome the objections that business owners have to doing their accounts - by emphasising that Freshbooks stops it being complicated
  • The value proposition makes it very clear who the product is designed for
  • It introduces a positive emotion at the end by reminding the reader why they went into business in the first place

Room for improvement

  • Although the value proposition says that Freshbooks makes running a business easier and more secure, it doesn't say how it does this and that makes the claim less credible

Thrive Themes

Thrive Themes is a suite of plugins for WordPress that make it easy to create a website that is optimised to generate leads, and this is made very clear in their value proposition.

Thrive Themes value proposition

What's good

  • This value proposition makes it very clear what the product is and which platform it is for
  • It spells out what is meant by a conversion focused website and what the buyer gets from that - more subscribers, customers and clients
  • Language like "built from the ground up" implies that a lot of time and effort has gone into creating the product and this makes it sound more valuable

Room for improvement

  • The value proposition would be more powerful if it included some facts and figures to back up the claim that Thrive Themes increases conversion rates
  • It's well known that some WordPress themes and plugins are difficult to use and so it would be good to capitalise on this by stressing that Thrive Themes is very easy to use

SumUp

This relatively new card payments provider uses a two-part value proposition which emphasises its flexibility.

SumUp: the card reader without a contract

What's good

  • Traditionally, it has been difficult for businesses to take card payments without entering into lengthy contracts for the rental of chip and PIN machines; SumUp's value proposition makes it very clear that they don't work like that
  • The second part of the value proposition makes it clear what kind of card reader is being talked about by mentioning credit, debit and contactless payments
  • Ease of use is presented as the secondary benefit of choosing SumUp

Room for improvement

  • The ease of use concept could be made more meaningful by saying how/why it is so easy to use SumUp - i.e. because all you need to get started is the card reader plus your existing mobile phone
  • As well as long contracts, the other thing that has put small business off accepting card payments in the past is the cost of processing each transaction; the value proposition could be strengthened if it addressed this possible objection

Quickbooks

This provider of accounting software is using a value proposition which is based around a topical issue facing business owners

Quickbooks value proposition for making tax digital

What's good

  • By focusing on a topical issue and a new process that everyone has to comply with, this value proposition creates a lot of engagement
  • The second part of the value proposition emphasises the high level of support provided by the software and the helpdesk.
  • The reference to filing with confidence invokes a positive emotion and a feeling of well-being in the reader

Room for improvement

  • Rather than focusing on removing something negative - the hassle of MTD - it might be better to use more positive language instead - e.g. Get to Grips With Making Tax Digital
  • The second part of the value proposition is perhaps a bit too long and a bit repetitive. It could be made more concise if it was rewritten as - With free phone support, no add-on costs, and software so smart it even checks your calculations for you, you can file your VAT return with confidence

How to Create a Value Proposition for Your Website

I regularly run value proposition workshops for clients who need to improve the value proposition on their websites before they embark on a digital marketing campaign with Google Ads or other forms of paid online advertising.

If you want to have a go at doing this yourself, here are the steps you need to follow.

1. Enlist the help of colleagues or clients

The first step in creating a great value proposition is to write down all the things that make your business unique or special and all the things that your existing customers like about your business. You could do this on your own, but it becomes much easier if you get some colleagues, friends, or clients to help you.

2. Find a facilitator

Although this is not essential, it can be very useful to have someone to act as a facilitator for the session where you and your colleagues or clients are going to come up with the list of things that are great about your business.

A good facilitator will be able to gently challenge you if you come up with a benefit that's a bit weak and get you to think about whether that's really something that potential customers will get excited about.

They'll also be able to get you to dig a bit deeper into some of the initial ideas you come up with and help you get to the points which will really appeal to your prospects. 

3. Put all your USPs into a spreadsheet

Open up a blank spreadsheet and, as you come up with each benefit or unique selling point (USP) of your business, add it to the first column in your spreadsheet. Once you've got a list of at least 15 points, add three more columns and label them: Rarity, Appeal and Total. Put a formula in all the cells in the Total column so as the Total is always the Rarity multiplied by the Appeal.

Now work your way through the list of USPs in your spreadsheet and, for each one, give it a score of 1 to 5 for Rarity and a score of 1 to 5 for Appeal.

Get My Spreadsheet Template

Download a free copy of the spreadsheet I use for recording and scoring USPs 

The Rarity score is going to be a measure of how exclusive a USP is. If it's something that all your competitors offer it will score 1 and if it's something that only your business offers then it will score a 5. 

The Appeal score measures how attractive that USP is likely to be to your potential customers. The higher the score, the more appealing you are saying it is.

For example, an ecommerce business might list free delivery as one of its USPs. This is probably going to be something customers will really like, so it could score 5 for Appeal. But if a lot of the other websites selling similar products also offer free delivery then the Exclusivity score might only be 2. And so the total score for that USP would be 5 x 2 = 10.

4. Rank your USPs

Once you've given each USP its scores and got a total for each one, you should sort your spreadsheet so the USPs are listed in order of their total score. You should now pick the top two or three of them to be the ones that you will craft into a value proposition.

5. Write your value proposition

This is usually the trickiest part of the process, especially if you've never done it before. You need to take the top USPs that you chose in the last step and write a one or two sentence value proposition that mentions all of those points.

It's a good idea to write several variations so as you can play around with different phrasing and word order until you get something that flows nicely.

Don't forget that you can split your value proposition into a main heading and a subheading underneath, like we saw in the five examples earlier on.

how to write a value proposition - How to Write a Value Proposition

Writing the Perfect Value Proposition

To illustrate how you can turn your top USPs into a winning value proposition, I'm going to pretend I've launched a new business bank that's aimed at freelancers and sole-traders.

Having got some of my team together and gone through the process described above, we've decided that our top USPs are:

  • You can open an account from home in under 10 minutes and without having to print or post any documents [Rarity = 4 | Appeal = 4]
  • You get fee-free banking for life so long as your account is in credit [Rarity = 4 | Appeal = 5]
  • We've won an award for paying the best interest rate of any business bank account [Rarity = 5 | Appeal = 5]

Pulling those points together into a value proposition could give us this:

Free Banking for Freelancers
Open an account in under 10 minutes without leaving your sofa and get free banking for life plus an award-winning rate of interest on your money.​​

Next Steps

Hopefully this article has inspired you to write or re-write your own value proposition.

If you want to get some feedback on your current value proposition or on a new one that you come up with using the above process, click here to post it as a comment on Facebook and people can let you know what they think of it and suggest any improvements. 

About the Author David Miles

As a digital marketing consultant, author and trainer, I specialise in helping businesses in the financial services sector use the internet to get more enquiries and increase profits.

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