Whilst the pitch deck is arguably an early startup’s most commanding weapon when enticing investors and getting all-important funding, a good value prop is a startup’s secret weapon for attracting its first customers.
Simple, engaging, and informative, a value prop is the “tagline” of your website or marketing campaign that lets customers know that you’re more than just another fancy website; you’re a young company with a life-changing proposition. Specifically, early startups need to have good value props as their website and social media marketing will likely be their first source of customers, and early traction will lift the company out of the depths of obscurity. As a result, the value prop needs to be sharper than a sashimi knife.
This article will walk you through the purpose of the value prop and how to approach writing a good value prop.
A value prop or “value proposition” is a clear statement made to the consumer or possible buyers to state why the consumer should buy a young startup’s product or service. The purpose of the statement is to convince the consumer that the early startup’s product or service is better and more valuable than anything that currently exists on the market. The value prop is similar to the marketing concept of a “USP” or “unique selling point/proposition” which is a proposition made to the consumer explaining what make the company’s product unique or significantly more valuable than competitors.
It’s normally a statement that is marketed directly to a potential customer and should highlight the “pain points” experienced by the customer. It’s a PROMISE to the consumer that the product they produce has added benefits and value to the life of the consumer. The best value props are clear and succinct and have an emotive element to them to spur the consumer to purchase the startup’s product or service.
Value props are often used on the frontpage of a startup’s website and it should be the eye-catching statement or headline that makes site visitors attracted to the startup’s business, product, or website. After reading the statement the consumer should have a good idea of what the benefit to them is, purpose, and features of your product. However don’t be confused with a slogan, the right language is key here.
What Makes a Good Value Prop
Good value props come in all shapes and sizes and depending on your business you may want to approach it differently. However if there’s one philosophy you should take to writing a good value prop, it’s this: Explain your early-stage business or product in a way that even your mother could understand. You might even want to try explaining it to your mum and see what phrases/explanations work best! Either way you NEED to put everything in layman’s terms.
Here are some general elements your value prop should have, with examples from well known startups (you should learn from the best to be the best!):
1. Headline: describing the end benefit of the product.
Ideally your value prop should talk about the clear benefit to the customer. One of Uber’s value prop headlines is “Drive when you want”. This headline is succinct, there’s no beating around the bush. The end benefit of the product is clearly the ease of travelling by car whenever the customer wants, and it’s a statement that can be read by any body.
By shaping your own value prop headline in this way the reader will already know if the product can serve their interests. If it does, they’ll continue reading and dive further into your website/brand.
2. Blurb: (2–3 lines explaining what you do, offer, and some key benefits/features)
Once you can highlight the clear benefit to the customer you’ll need to explain some of the key features that benefit the product and add some detail to your offering. Here’s Chinese mega bike-sharing startup Mobike’s blurb:
“Thousands of bikes available around you. End your ride in any bicycle parking space, near to your destination!
After downloading the App and registering, simply scan the QR code on the bike and ride away. Simply close the lock once you’ve parked in a bicycle parking area!”
Although the concept of Mobike’s product is slightly easier than say a startup whose product provides a regulation-based enterprise-grade software, they have done well to explain their entire business in 3 sentences. Again, the beauty of a good value prop blurb is all about it’s clarity and brevity in the way that it details what it can offer to the customer without being overly technical.
In the example above, Mobike clearly addresses its target customer’s likely pain points of not having convenient and accessible travel by emphasising the travel convenience that its app and service offer. It details clearly how it offers easy-to-use service (and how to set this up), and how flexible the travel and usage options are for the customer.
3. Images: show the product.
As with any great advertisement whether it be a pitch or a value prop, images are key. The image should connect directly to the statements made in your value prop headline and blurb and should showcase your product to bring a sense of realism to the product you’re advertising. After all, seeing is believing, and once the customer sees your product they’ll likely let their imagination sell the product to them.
For example consider how Atlassian promotes its new Slack-style program “Stride” for team communications.
Apart from its simple statement about how “Stride” helps teams talk and be more productive, it also provides a simple and relatable interface image of its product. This image is really powerful as it lets customers and readers see the direct functionality of the program including its tools and features. This image also provides examples generic team conversations, allowing the customer to picture themselves or their team utilising the program as per the image, meaning the customer ends up convincing themselves to use the product!
As an early stage startup, customers may not have heard of you and they won’t know much about what you offer. Your brand won’t be as big as some of the startups listed above so you won’t have a wide customer base and universal brand to assist you. That’s why you need to build a brand on trust, and trust can be built through a clear value proposition. A clear value prop tells the customer exactly how the startup’s product can benefit their life, through simple and considered statements that directly hit the pain points the customer is experiencing. By being easy to understand, and relatable a good value prop will help early startups win customer trust in no time!