Your website is your 24/7 salesman who works tirelessly for 365 days a year, always selling your business and your products even when you're asleep.
And like a good salesman, your website's first job is to capture the attention of your target customers.
The average human attention span is short, and it’s getting shorter. It had decreased from an average of 10 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. In those 8 seconds you need to tell your website visitors why they should stay on your site, why they shouldn’t go to your competitors or to check out what’s happening on Facebook.
And the best way to do this is with a clearly and skillfully written value proposition.
In this article you will learn exactly what a value proposition is, how to write a compelling one, and get to see and dissect examples of great (and a few not so great) value propositions.
We also included a breakdown of a few products in the same market, so you can see how different companies position themselves relative to others. We hope this will give you a burst of inspiration to make your own unique value proposition.
What Is A Value Proposition
A value proposition is a promise. It’s a promise to the target customer of the value that you will deliver. It tells them what you uniquely have to offer and why you’re different from your competition.
In a nutshell: it’s a concise message that tells the consumer why they should buy from you and no-one else.
A value proposition usually communicates:
The problem you solve
The benefits of your product or service
Why you are better than the competition
A value proposition isn’t….
It isn’t a marketing slogan
"Just Do It" - Nike
Though it might include one.
It isn’t a positioning statement.
"Style on a budget." - Target
Though it does include a message of your positioning in the market.
It isn’t a list of your benefits and features.
The standard list of features and benefits all laptop buyers are used to seeing.
Though a great value proposition does include the benefits of your product.
It’s a combination of these and more.
The Questions Your Value Proposition Should Be Answering
Your value proposition should answer these questions about your product or service:
What are you selling?
Who is it for?
What do they get out of your product or service at the end?
What makes your offer unique from everyone else?
How To Communicate It
A value proposition can come in a variety of formats, some businesses don’t even use words. Check out the Virgin Atlantic website and see if you can find their value proposition in a statement. You can’t! Boom!
Yet anyone who has flown with Virgin Atlantic knows their value proposition is in the experience of flying. Fly with us and have a great experience because we put the customer first.
Your value proposition should be the first thing your visitors see, and it should consist of:
A headline. Give the end benefit of what your offering in one sentence.
A Subheading or a few paragraphs that give a specific explanation of your offer, who it’s for and why it’s useful.
3-5 bullet points listing key benefits.
A hero shot of your product. A picture paints a thousand words grabs attention. If your photo reinforces your main message then you have a better chance of hooking your target customer.
Why Should You Have A Value Proposition?
Clarity = trust.
Trust = sales.
A customer can only know the worth of your product and buy it if they are clear on the value they’ll get from it.
If they are unsure, they’ll go to a competitor who will make a more coherent business case.
Your value proposition will inform every part of your business, from your product development, to your marketing copy and your sales strategy. It will provide understanding and force everyone in in your team to think of the customer first.
If you fail to make a great value proposition you will have lost your chance to grab your perfect customers attention on your website. It can lead you to making terrible product development decisions which make your launch dead on arrival.
What Makes A Great Value Proposition
A great value proposition:
Avoids hype or sleaze
Clarity. Every word is chosen carefully to be as precise in the messaging as possible. No corporate jargon.
Can be read and understood within 5 seconds.
Tells the customer the concrete result they’ll get after using the product
Communicates how they are different from the competition
Value Proposition Examples
Sometimes the best way to learn is by looking over the shoulder of the greats. Shakespeare learned how to write his tragedies by studying Plutarch, an ancient writer even back then. Picasso and Pollock learned by imitating the classics before creating their own styles.
With that in mind we’ve included dozens of examples of value propositions. Some are great. Some not so. Both will have something to teach you and help you craft your own.
This section is divided into four parts.
Going through the different value propositions of businesses within the same market should help you find ideas of your own on how you can tell your customers you’re unique from everyone else.
- Our Favourites
Stripe instantly communicates what they are about and who they are for. If you're a developer looking to integrate payments into your app or website then Stripe is for you. The hero shot of their product on two well known apps also provides social proof, another promise of value.
Every business owner immediately understands the pain of losing out on a sale because your customer doesn’t have any cash. Square showcases how they solve this problem with their hero shot.
The benefit driven headline "Start selling fast" hammers the end result into the customer's mind and also implies another benefit: simplicity. The subheadline which includes a clear offer of “Sign up and we’ll send you a free reader” will make interested customers take action there and then.
Lyft’s first value proposition is aimed at recruiting drivers and, it does it well. The end result is stated simply in the headline, "Turn miles into money," speaking to the desires of the entrepreneurial driver.
Lyft then eases into a second value proposition aimed at attracting riders. Highlighting the benefits of their product and differentiating themselves from their main competitor cough Uber cough with three bullet points that speak to the pain points of rideshare customers.
Evernote’s Value Proposition is obvious: download all the thoughts in your head into their app. The subheadline goes into more concrete detail on what they offer, how they do it, and why it’s useful.
Vimeo positions itself as the video platform for filmmakers who are serious about their videos. This is clearly told with the headline "Where videos come first" which takes a slight dig at Youtube, where it’s believed advertising comes first. The “Join Free” call to action button also tells the viewer a main benefit, and the background image reinforces the impression of quality that Vimeo is trying to convey.
2. The Search Engine Market
Once upon a time the popular way to navigate around the world wide web was by using web directories or web portals, like Yahoo! Or AOL. Search Engines were a relatively new concept. Today the value of a search engine is obvious, however it is still a market with a lot of players, who all have different ways of communicating the benefits they can offer a user.
Here are a few examples.
It’s impossible to talk about search without talking about Google - they dominate 80% of the search engine market. Over the years Google has changed the layout of their homepage, but in 1999 their main headline was simple and distinct, "Search the web using Google." A compelling value proposition to users who had never used search engines before.
In 2001, Google updated this to include the number of web pages they had indexed at that very moment, highlight the comprehensiveness a user got with a Google search compared to their competitors.
DuckDuckGo’s value proposition is clear: a web search with them respects the user’s privacy. This is illustrated with a straightforward subheadline "The search engine that doesn’t track you," and the benefits in the top right hand corner convincing the user to make DuckDuckGo their default search engine.
Search with ecosia, and plant a tree - a value proposition aimed at the ecologically conscious web worker. The call to action in the search bar conveys this and the images at the bottom reinforce this message. Finally the growing number of trees that Ecosia have planted under the search bar emphasizes the end benefit to the user.
Qwant play up their two main benefits with their value proposition - search with a European search engine that will respect your privacy. It could be made clearer, perhaps, with a different call to action in the search bar, but it does a good job of positioning itself against the competition.
A case study of a search engine’s value proposition - ExaLead
And then for every search engine which does an adequate job in communicating their value proposition, there is ExaLead - a search engine that does a not so great job in letting the visitor know why they should use ExaLead. No hate at all, but as a learning exercise, let's see how Exalead might improve their Value Prop game.
First off, the copy and images above the fold are confusing. It’s not evident what the product is about. The only informative copy is "ExaLead | Data in Business," but everything else is fuzzy.
What is ExaLead 3D Experience R2017x and why should I care? What if I work in Engineering, Manufacturing, Standardization, or Procurement? What exactly will OnePart solve for me?
There is no reason for the user to scroll down and find out more, and even if you do so what you find is a bit of a head-scratcher.
When you scroll down you're finally greeted with an end benefit headline - which should have been at the top - "EXALEAD reveals the hidden information intelligence needed to understand, participate, and act."
But again...what does that mean?
It’s corporate jargon which takes too long for the visitor to decipher. A reader might be able to decipher that ExaLead is claiming to give them a business intelligence advantage, but that benefit is not being driven home with this headline. Those 8 seconds they had to capture a visitor's attention have been squandered by confusing copy and suboptimal design.
Perhaps the product page is clearer, you may be thinking.
This is the product page itself, and it does nothing to communicate its unique value. There’s nothing on why a potential target customer should use ExaLead instead of more popular search engines. There isn’t a distinct benefit being communicated, except a simple call to action, "Search the web." Which would work if they were Google and had brand domination. But they don’t.
At the bottom of the page, in small print you see one benefit being communicated,
"More than 16 billion pages"
There are a three problems with this. First off a visitor shouldn’t have to go to the bottom of the page to see a competitive advantage. Second, it shouldn’t be in small print, that’s for legal and irrelevant information. Third, as far as unique value propositions go, it’s weak. It was a useful thing to tell when Search Engines were relatively new, like Google did back in 2001, but not anymore.
Clarity is key to having a great value proposition. Search engines make an effort to communicate why they should be used instead of Google.
Even in the search engine market, a service that is nearly homogenized, there are still ways to differentiate yourself, as these value proposition examples showcase. This is proof, that no matter your market, there is always a way to stand out from everyone else.
Finally, don’t ignore your web layout in communicating your value proposition. Google communicated their primary benefit by introducing a search bar in the middle you could instantly type in. What was also key was what wasn’t there. Links, news articles, and the lines of hyperlinks that were the norm back then. This use of negative space and user interface design said come to us and search for what you want, nothing more.
3. Invoice Software
Our next set of examples comes from the invoicing software market. A product aimed at small business owners that’s highly competitive.
Type "invoicing software" into Google, and you can’t help but notice Quickbooks, the market leader in invoicing. Their homepage is straightforward in communicating the value of using their software, “Send invoices in minutes & get paid 2 days faster.” and “Save 8 hours a month on your accounting,” speaking directly to the needs of an overwhelmed small business owner. The hero shots also highlight how accessible and intuitive the app is.
WaveApps clearly communicate the value proposition of software that’s easy and free to use and creates beautiful invoices for the design conscious business owner.
Kashflow keeps their value proposition simple: personalised invoicing that you are in control of. The headline and subheading emphasize this. The hero shot showcases the software but also leads to a video that can be played by viewers who are interested in learning more.
Finally, the call to action for a free trial gives business owners a compelling reason to instantly start using the product.
Xero has a nice hero shot on the right which not only captures attention, but shows a business owner what an invoice would look like to a customer. The headline "Get paid faster with online invoicing software" communicates the immediate benefit to a viewer. The subheadings make it clear that Xero stands out in the market for professional and beautiful looking invoices, as well as integrated online payment options for a viewers customers.
Clearbooks communicate a value proposition of simplicity with their online invoicing software. This is done not only through the copy, "Simplify your business invoicing," but also with the distinct blue & white design and use of negative space in their web layout.
A Not So Great Example - Easy Invoicing
First off, kudos to Easy Invoicing for coming as the first result of invoicing software for Google UK. But, for science, let's see how Easy Invoicing could up their value prop game.
First, Easy Invoicing's web layout and design feel outdated and confusing to navigate.
Don’t get us wrong, all the ingredients are there for a good value proposition. The headline "Easy Invoicing - Invoicing software for small or home businesses" clearly communicates who this product is for, and the subhead and copy simply states what the user will get when they use this product, “designed to be simple, easy to use and quick to learn” & “fast and reliable way to create, print or email invoices, quotes or estimates and statements to your customers.”
However, while the benefits of the product are stated clearly, they’re not done in a visually appealing way. Easy Invoicing is an example that a great value proposition not only comes from what you have to say, but in how you say it.
Many visitors looking for invoicing software may click away before their attention span within a few seconds, let alone 8.
What you say in your value proposition is not the only thing that’s important, but how you present your value proposition. Suboptimal Web design can be as baffling to your prospects as weak copy.
4. The Life Insurance Market
Life Insurance is unsexy, and deals with an uncomfortable topic, yet it’s an important product. It’s also massive and competitive. In 2014 180 million peopled carried a form of Life Insurance in the USA and estimates put the total annual revenue of the industry north of $147 billion.
It’s also a market in which the average customer is highly educated about the product - they know what it is and why they need it. This provides a challenge: How can you differentiate yourself when your customer already knows why they need you?
Several companies have gone about this in different ways.
AIG have a clear-cut offer on the front of their header photo, "Get $250,000 of Term Life Insurance Coverage for as low as $14 per month" which grabs the attention of the price minded customer. It also subtly reminds a visitor that the stressful decision to purchase life insurance needn’t be as expensive as they might think.
The subheadline addresses another pain point of a visitor, a guarantee of coverage, no matter their age. The photo reinforces the peace of mind that life insurance provides.
Geico get straight down to business with their website. Most customers are already aware of the benefits of life insurance and are shopping around for a quote, and Geico put this front and center on their web page. The shot of the family on holiday again reinforces the peace of mind value proposition that Life Insurance with Geico offers.
The copy beneath the header image addresses the pain points of a Life Insurance customer and the tagline, "Planning ahead with life insurance" is a straightforward message of the value a customer would get from taking action now.
StateFarm does an excellent job communicating the value of what they provide with their slogan "Here to help life go right" and pointing the user to take action by requesting an instant quote, which communicates the value of its speed and simplicity.
A Not So Great example - Domestic Insurance USA
If a visitor doesn’t initially click away at the aged design, it might seem that the reason to go with Domestic Insurance for USA and no other providers is because they’re products are tailored for US citizens, as the company name implies.
But then website confuses that message with the subheading "We offer life insurance to H1 workers and other non-US citizens too!" which would confuse the visitor in the 8 seconds they have to make a decision of the value of this company.
The website does do a good job of communicating the benefit of "All calls answered in USA only by licensed agents" and may intrigue visitors who have that pain point, but the poor design of the site means that Domestic Insurance USA has wasted its potential to simply communicate its unique value proposition in an attention grabbing manner.
How you present yourself counts just as much as what you present.
In as developed a market as life insurance, you still need to make a value proposition, but you need to be subtle. The average customer knows the end benefit of the product, but they need a little encouragement and a reminder. The effective companies do this by using images and designs that encourage peace of mind and making it simple for the target customer to get started immediately by requesting a free quote.
Great advertisers know that context is king. With that knowledge, a great advertiser can make their ad stand out from the competition.
With your value proposition, context matters. The education of your customer and the other marketing messages they’ve seen matter, and a compelling value proposition should take this into account when being written.
Value propositions are important, and they will inform all of your marketing. A great value proposition can make or break a business or a new product.
The key to writing a great one? Being clear to your prospect regarding the value they’ll get out of your product. How you say things matters just as much as what you say.
Think benefits, not just features.
Think images, not just words.
Think user interface design, not just web design.
Make sure your value proposition answers the questions a visitor who knows nothing about you will be asking when they come to your website. What are you selling? What’s in it for me? Is it for me? What makes you unique compared to everyone else?
You have less than 8 seconds to capture the attention of a visitor to your website. If you can write a value proposition that can hook them before then, then you have a chance to sell them on your product.
So get started on your value proposition today, it might just change your business.