Hunter Boyle

Clinic Notes: Optimizing your value proposition

Value propositions are still a major source of confusion and frustration for marketers, as our most recent web clinic reaffirmed.

While the clinic focused on three problem areas (identifying, expressing, and testing/measuring value propositions), 32% of the 487 marketers in our live poll chose “all of the above” as their biggest challenge. That “all of the above” was the leading answer is telling. Many marketers still aren’t sure just what a value proposition is, much less how to craft a powerful one.

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The clinic presented examples and a Value Proposition Worksheet (PDF) and is now available online in three formats for your convenience:

You might also want to review this roundup of value proposition resources, and check out the links at the end of the research brief.

Value propositions vs. branding taglines

To further clarify what’s not a value proposition, here’s my response to a question from one of our clinic participants regarding the www.JewelryDays.com website, and its tagline …

The statement “My Life Is Beautiful” makes a catchy tagline, but it’s not what we consider a true value proposition. Why not? Because it doesn’t answer this question: “If I’m your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you instead of anyone else?” Answer that with “My life is beautiful” and you’ll clearly see the disconnect.

I’ve taken a look at your About Us page, and though I’m not an expert on your market, I’d suggest that your strongest value proposition can be found within this idea:

“[Our] innovative diamond search technology evaluates the cost, size and quality of the diamond to help consumers make informed and customized purchase decisions. Consumers can graphically see the tradeoffs required when weighing each of these factors, and speak to or e-mail professional graduate gemologists with their questions.”

I would argue that buying diamonds hinges mainly on quality and trusting the seller; both are especially challenging for websites vs. brick-and-mortar stores because there’s not a real face-to-face person, you can’t touch and examine the diamonds before you buy, and returns are a greater concern due to shipping. Largest selection means more to wholesalers than an individual who only wants one or two pieces. Lowest prices has appeal, but can also raise anxiety with regard to luxury items such as diamonds, as it naturally conflicts with the desire for quality; skeptical consumers know that the highest quality and the lowest prices don’t go together.

So, what could really set your site/company apart is not the selection or prices, but offering a search that truly helps buyers make informed, customized decisions by weighing the tradeoffs. Again, I don’t know how many other sites offer something similar, but if your search technology really is superior — and is the one area where you excel over competitors — your site needs to express that much more clearly on the homepage.

Right now, that impressive search function is barely even visible on the homepage, much less promoted as your unique advantage over other diamond jewelry sites.

Take another look at the Down & Feather Company example from the clinic, and see how the redesigned site showcases the company’s “Perfect Pillow Policy” value proposition. Try to crystallize your innovative search and helpful buying process into concise, powerful language — and apply it to your site in ways that will drive prospects to use your site. That will be much stronger than the “beautiful” tagline.

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Categories: Clinic Notes, Credibility Indicators, Internet Marketing Strategy, Marketing Insights Tags: , , , , ,



  1. October 23rd, 2008 at 11:30 | #1

    In the value proposition webinar, Dr. McaGlaughlin mention in passing something called “Heidarian balance.” I googled it and got only one result, which references, but does not access, an article in the journal Social Forces. Can anyone explain what “Heidarian balance” is?

  2. November 3rd, 2008 at 10:35 | #2

    @ Dena: Thanks for attending the clinic, and posting your question. You can find out more about this topic here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Heider

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_theory

    I hope you find that helpful, and that you’ll join us again for future clinics.

  3. November 17th, 2008 at 05:31 | #3

    Very good read. I am wondering if a good value proposition is good for any website, whether they sell online or not?

  4. Hunter Boyle
    November 17th, 2008 at 14:28 | #4

    Trent: Thanks for the comment and question. Having a good value proposition is essential for any type of site: ecommerce, lead generation, even nonprofits. In fact, it’s something that goes beyond just sites and is a key part of how you convey what’s special about your organization and its products/services. So your value proposition actually should be a consideration for all your marketing communications efforts.