Your “value proposition” is the sum of everything your customer receives upon purchase of your product or service. This includes more than just the purchased item – it also involves several softer variables. For your online business, defining your customer value proposition is the first step in separating from the competition. Learn more now about this critical concept.
I get a lot of questions about how online businesses can differentiate themselves from the competition – “How do we stand out from all the clutter?” Several people have several ideas, including increased pay-per-click campaigns, putting together public relations efforts or ramping up the design of their websites. All of this is great IF you’ve already identified your customer value proposition. This is the absolute first and most important step of all your marketing efforts – it allows you to define your identity, focus and message, all at once.
Okay, what is a value proposition?
Good question. Let’s break it down into its two parts, value and proposition – remember, when you’re selling something, it’s a transaction of goods between two parties.
- Value: The benefit received from the customer upon purchase of a good.
- Proposition: The total offering to the customer in exchange for their funds.
Thus, a value proposition is everything your customer gets when they buy – including more than just the item itself. The transaction also involves shipping. How fast can they get it and how much do they have to pay? That has to do with value. Can your customer contact you any time of day with questions? That also adds value. Does your customer feel better about themselves when using the product? Yep, that’s value too. And does your product make your customer look better to others? Definitely value.
A simple example
We’re all aware of the ongoing computer war between PCs and Macs. This battle is nothing more than a difference in value propositions. Take a look at what I think each has to offer in terms of value:
- PC: affordable, used by a huge number of people, familiar, practical
- Mac: pricier, virus-free, easy to use, creative freedom
Now, think about the messaging from both sides. Mac paints PC as a boring solution that is plagued by bugs and viruses. PC attacks Mac for being too expensive and shows everyday people happily using PCs.
First, define your value proposition. Then, use the heck out of it.
So what is it that your company really gives to your customers? If you sell clothes, you do more than that – you offer a particular type of lifestyle based on the style and price of the apparel. If you sell electronics, you offer more than devices – you offer entertainment and convenience. Here at Volusion, we offer more than shopping cart software – we offer a huge array of tools, unlimited support and expert advice to help your business succeed.
Once you really hammer down the pillars of your offering, run with it. Base your marketing materials, customer communication and business plan on promoting these strengths. In a world of billions of products, the product is starting to become a commodity. This is why you MUST set yourself apart by adding value to every step of the process, known as a value chain (post on this on the way). In other words, your value proposition is your business identity. Your business identity is your business focus. And your business focus determines your business messaging.
So let’s get started! If you haven’t thought about your value proposition, now’s the time to do it. If you already have one, how is it holding up? Good questions to ask at the beginning of the year.
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate
What is your value proposition? Do you have any questions about the concept or need help defining yours? What do you think of the definition I provided? How has your value proposition helped frame your marketing efforts? Tell us what you think!