Eric Coffman

Value Proposition: 3 steps for laying your value prop testing groundwork

In a recent blog post, a colleague of mine, Spencer Whiting, spoke to the reasons we need to avoid marketing strategies driven by the HIPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) of our companies and the “company logic” that most often supports their viewpoints.

It’s often that a limited number of well-paid individuals at companies have the power to shape the marketing strategies that influence customer perceptions of your products, and your company as a whole.

However, too frequently these decisions are made based on what we think our customers need instead of focusing on the real golden egg – what we know our customers want.

One definitive way for us to overcome this habit is to discover which aspects of our value proposition customers and prospects value most. The best way to figure out which aspects of our products and services are perceived as most valuable in the eyes of our customers and prospects is to test them on the open market.

If this seems like a daunting task to you, don’t worry. In today’s MarketingExperiments Blog post, we’ll go over the first three steps to take toward testing your value proposition and uncovering exactly what it is about your current offerings that your customers really want.

 

Step #1. Identify your value proposition claims

To start, it’s best to meet with your team in a good old-fashioned brainstorming session to put everything on the table and out in the open.

Include as many stakeholder groups as possible to gain as many point of views incorporated – from the C-Suite, R&D, Marketing, Sales and even customers. The closer you are to your customers – the ones who actually use your product because they find it valuable – the better.

The goal of this session is to discover all points of value that you can link to your product. To do this effectively, make sure to ask these questions:

  • What makes your product or service valuable?
  • What makes it better than your competitors’?
  • Why would a customer purchase it?
  • How does it benefit people?
  • What problem(s) does it solve?
  • What about your company enhances your product or service?

Once you and your team have an exhaustive list of value claims, your next step is to discover how to prove these claims to your customers.

 

Step #2. Identify the evidence that proves your value proposition

When you make claims about anything in life, people expect to hear the evidence that you have to back up those claims. In marketing, this expectation is often heightened for most people by the pervasive bombardment of marketing and advertising messaging we all receive in our daily lives.

When considering what evidence you have to support the claims you and your team have identified, it is very important to focus on specificity and quantification. Be sure to know specific details rather than generalizations, and try to have quantified numbers when possible.

Both add credibility and tangibility to the claims you make.

Instead of “We have the widest selection in the area,” go with something like this:  “We offer a selection of widgets across 17 models with 134 customizable attachments – the most in Smith County.”

For each claim you have, it’s necessary to dig into the specific evidence that exists as to why you are able to make that claim. If it’s a claim around customer service, look into the number of happy and satisfied customers your representatives have helped in a certain time period.

If it’s a claim to endurance, find the number of years needed before service is needed or the amount of uses a customer can get out of your product. If it’s a claim to quality, point out the specific materials or specialized craftsmanship used in creating your product.

Try to be as comprehensive as possible in these first two steps so your team has the most material available for manipulation when creating test expressions.

At this point, however, don’t waste your time focusing on wordsmithing; just achieve the plain facts and be as specific and quantified as possible. There will be time to worry about sprucing up the messaging in later steps of the process.

 

Step #3. Combine your claims into buckets

Now that you’ve identified exactly what is valuable about your product and provided evidence for that value, we need to do a little generalization. The purpose of this is to step back to gain a broader perspective of our product’s value proposition and look at which overarching value points we have to test against each other.

With all of your claims and evidentials laid out before you, it’s time to combine them together in larger categories, or as we like to call them at MECLABS, “buckets.” Sometimes, multiple value points will combine into one larger and broader point, and sometimes one value point will be so unique that it will be able to stand alone in its own bucket.

It’s important to identify buckets that are as close to mutually exclusive as possible so your test results aren’t muddied with overlapping value.

It’s also a good practice to aim for three to six buckets so you have plenty of expressions that can be tested against each other and provide you with the most useful insights.

Just remember in the testing world, more buckets means more treatments, more treatments means more traffic needed to validate, and more traffic needed means longer tests and possibly a larger testing spend.

You need to ask what is it that you really want to learn about your customers’ preferences, and how much you are willing to budget to attain these advances in your customer theory.

What you’re really aiming for is the ability to prioritize your messaging. Maybe nobody cares about your wide selection of widgets because they find more value in quality widgets. Or maybe they’re looking for widgets that are easy to use. Or maybe they don’t even care about any of those and are just looking for a widget that’s convenient to use or attain.

Through testing, you can begin to see what your customers really want and the ways you can emphasize certain aspects of your product over others.

It’s not likely any value point will ever stand alone, but through testing, you and your team may be able to identify a niche messaging focus that will give your company the competitive advantage it needs to shine brighter than the rest.

 

At the end of this third step, everyone’s cards will be on the table.

Everyone’s opinions – from your HIPPOs down to your interns – about what makes your product valuable will be in the open and ready to be tested. With everyone’s cards on the table comes the exciting part of the game –seeing who among your team was holding the winning hands.

Maybe an idea that came from cutting-edge widget that no one believed could have been valued by your customers beats out all of your previously cherished claims to value. Or maybe your flagship value claim the company was founded on is no longer relevant in today’s modern markets.

Through testing, you earn a chance to put your value points head-to-head and hopefully identify an ultimate champion and new flagship claim to fame.

Feel free to share any insights you’ve discovered on testing your vale prop or questions you have around today’s post in the comments below.

 

You might also like

Value Proposition: A simple spreadsheet to help you categorize your products’ value

Value Proposition: 4 questions every marketer should ask about value prop

Digital Marketing: How to craft a value proposition in 5 simple steps

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Categories: Analytics & Testing Tags: , ,



  1. Hans
    February 3rd, 2014 at 11:41 | #1

    When you say “through testing…”, what kind of testing do you recommend? Is this largely done through a series of smaller-spend PPC campaigns? How would you test each of these buckets?

  2. Eric Coffman
    Eric Coffman
    February 3rd, 2014 at 18:05 | #2

    The testing method I would recommend is the A/B method. However, instead of comparing a treatment to a control (A v. B), you would run multiple treatments against each other (ie. A v. B v. C v. D) and measure their performance in relation to one another.

    PPC is one method of testing Value Proposition. With this method, there will definitely be a cost, but the ultimate spend needed relates to multiple factors (number of treatments, cost per click, estimated conversion rates, planned time to validation, etc.). However, it is smart to expect a series of campaigns. Multiple buckets with multiple value points each can definitely lead to a series of tests. Unless you’re only interested in putting a few points head-to-head.

    Per testing buckets, it is a practice of ours at MECLABS to start broad and work towards the specifics. With this strategy, we would first test the general buckets against each other to see what general points customers find valuable and follow that up with testing more specific expressions within the more valuable buckets – ultimately searching for the premier value point your customers/prospects perceive valuable.

    Keep an eye out for future posts that explore Value Proposition testing in greater detail.

    Eric

  1. January 13th, 2014 at 03:01 | #1