Posts Tagged ‘Value Proposition’

Email Marketing: Improve subject lines in 7 steps by using the right words, in the right order

April 27th, 2015 No comments

It can be easy to overlook the importance of a subject line when crafting an email. After all, it’s just one line. The email itself is where most of the magic happens. However, without an effective subject line, only the most motivated customers will open your email to see what’s inside.

In a recent MarketingExperiments Web clinic — “The Power of the Properly Sequenced Subject Line” — the team revealed how to improve email performance by using the right words, in the right order.

After analyzing many tests in the Research Library,  two key principles to finding success with subject lines were discovered:

  1. Many marketers worry about their ability to write persuasive copy, but the marketer’s art is not persuasion; it is clarity. Indeed, when the marketer represents an authentic value proposition, clarity is persuasion.
  2. We are not optimizing subject lines; we are optimizing thought sequences. The most effective subject lines emphasize the “get” and imply the “ask.”

From these principles and other discoveries the team has made about customer behavior, a checklist of seven questions was developed. These questions can then be used as seven steps to follow when crafting your email subject lines.


Feel free to share the checklist, and if you’d prefer something a little more printer-friendly, download the “Crafting Effective Subject Lines” PDF. The PDF also includes the two key principles for your reference.


You can follow Selena Blue, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute on Twitter at @SelenaLBlue.


You might also like

Download the “Crafting Effective Subject Lines” PDF [From a recent MarketingExperiments Web clinic]

Email Marketing: 4 tips for testing subject lines to help you win the inbox battle [More from the blogs]

B2B Email Marketing: Daring subject line gains 72 product launch email replies, 25% open rate [Case study]

Email Summit 2015: Top Takeaways from this year’s best sessions [MarketingSherpa webinar replay]

Register for the next MarketingExperiments Web clinic, “Harnessing Customer Motivation”

Direct vs. Indirect Creative: Which ad is better?

April 20th, 2015 No comments

Most people spend their lives trying to avoid ads. Not me. This may make me a complete marketing nerd, but I actually enjoy reading ads. I have for some time now. I love studying the different approaches of persuasive communication. I love attempting to uncover the underlying value propositions under each ad. I love just seeing how other marketers are attempting to communicate value to their potential customers.

Recently, I was on a Delta flight to San Diego, and I began to sift through the different ads in the Delta Sky Magazine. The first ad that caught my attention was an ad from Little Caesars. Now, I am no Little Caesars expert by any means, but its brand real estate in my brain up to that point was simply this: We do cheap pizza.

This ad was trying to combat that perception in a decently creative way.


Ad #1: The creative (indirect) type

The ad was mostly made up of white space (or perhaps orange space). The first positive thing about this ad was that it stood out from the other pages. It also had one bold image in the middle — an industrial mixer. A single line of ALL CAPS text centered beneath the mixer simply stated, “Saving the commercial mixer from becoming extinct.”


Now, there are very few elements to this ad. Its creative is simple and elegant. Its creative also takes an indirect communication approach. David Ogilvy (widely hailed as “The Father of Advertising”) would be proud.

What are they trying to say by putting a big picture of a commercial mixer? What do you think the implied value proposition is? What is the message underneath the creative approach?


Ad #2: The bold (direct) type

OK, so now flip a few pages, and you’re hit by a completely different ad that takes a more direct communication approach. It is an ad for a watch — G-SHOCK. I personally have no familiarity with the brand, but I am familiar with similar watch ads.


Like the first ad, there is one main image. However, the image is of the actual watch. It is not, like the previous ad, an image of something responsible for the building of the watch. This is already more “in your face.”

The image is also significantly larger; there is very little open space.

There is a larger headline that states, “The world’s first GPS atomic solar hybrid,” and then below,  in small print, the ad presents all of the details associated with both the “toughness” and the “accuracy” of the watch itself.

Again, what are they trying to say? What is the implied value proposition? What is the message underneath this direct approach?


Direct creative vs. indirect creative

Now, here’s my question: Which ad is better? We have two completely different approaches. One is direct, in your face, not nuanced and has very little “creativity.”  The other is indirect, simple, elegant and very creative.

So, which approach is better?

Many of us have our preferences. The inner-Ogilvy in me would esteem Little Caesars’ elegance. The inner-Rosser Reeves in me would celebrate the directness of the G-SHOCK.

However, the answer to this question does not lie in the actual creative itself. It is found in our ability to see underneath the creative. It transcends the two approaches. It touches what we call the “value proposition.” This is also what Rosser Reeves called the Unique Selling Proposition (U.S.P.) or what David Ogilvy called the Basic Selling Proposition (B.S.P.). It is that fundamental, essential proposition you are trying to imply with your creative.


Seeing through the creative

Forget the approach (direct vs. indirect) for a moment. What is it that the Little Caesars ad is implying about its pizza? What is Little Caesars’ value proposition?

Ultimately, they are trying to say something along the lines of, “This pizza is fresh and good.”

Now, look at the other ad, and decide what the G-SHOCK is trying to say about its watch. What is this watch’s value proposition?

Ultimately, G-SHOCK is trying to state that its watch is tough and accurate.

Putting creative approaches aside and focusing on the value proposition, which of these ads is more powerful now?

While you’re thinking about that, here’s the point: You don’t evaluate an ad’s effectiveness primarily by its creative approach. You evaluate an ad by its value proposition and the effectiveness by which it clearly communicates (through whatever creative approach) its value proposition.

At the end of the day, it is less about “how” they are saying it and more about “what” they are saying. This “what” will be the true force behind the success (or failure) of either of these two ads. As marketers, we have to be as good at the “what” as we are at the “how.”  We have to learn to transcend the approach and find the essence that has the greatest customer force.

And for what it’s worth, the G-SHOCK ad is 10 times better.


You might also like

Value Proposition for Startups: 3 questions every startup must have the courage to answer [More from the blogs]

Value Proposition: 4 questions every marketer should ask about value prop [More from the blogs]

Marketing Optimization: 4 steps to discovering your value proposition and boosting conversions [More from the blogs]

MECLABS Value Proposition Development online course

How Design Impacts User Experience: Reducing anxiety by infusing your page with value

April 13th, 2015 4 comments

In the age of free content, how can you capture leads and foster a relationship with people that consume the articles, videos and updates on your site?

Site design and the quality of content you produce can strongly influence the way that people engage with your site.

Using an example from the Harvard Business Review, we can see an example of a layout infused with value for the user.

First, the Harvard Business Review lets users read up to five articles before asking for a commitment. This allows visitors to get a sense of the breadth and quality of content so they can ensure that they’re getting a valuable experience.

Let’s review the overall look, feel and strategy of its registration process and design as well as examine how it impacts the visitor throughout the registration process.


Paywall page

After reading the fifth article, the user is given two options: Register for free in exchange for more information, or subscribe to the all-access version.

Let’s take a look at how the page is laid out.


First, look at the white space.

Can you feel the fresh air?

S – p – a – c – e

The simplicity of the page creates a “no pressure” feeling and lets the visitor know that they aren’t seeing an ad or being urged to make a decision.

However, you can clearly see the two defined calls-to-action, separated by a thin gray line.

Both sides indicate some level of value. However, the paid option has an image and lists several more bullet points worth of advantages over the free option.

Read more…

Direct from the Source: What a value proposition is, what it isn’t and the 5 questions it must answer

March 30th, 2015 No comments

Michael Lanning invented the term “value proposition” back in the 80s. Since then, it has become a staple in the marketing lexicon, and volumes have been written on the subject, including Lanning’s own book, Delivering Profitable Value: A Revolutionary Framework to Accelerate Growth, Generate Wealth, and Rediscover the Heart of Business.

I had the privilege of speaking with him recently about how the concept has evolved over the past three decades and what he thought about that evolution.

“‘Value proposition’ has been widely adopted since the 1990s as a marketing and selling tool — everyone knows they need a good value proposition to sell their product,’” Michael said.

However, Michael believes the focus is too narrow and misses the opportunity to influence business strategy. Michael explained that value propositions should:


1. Drive, but not be equated with, your message. It should be an internal articulation, to be echoed by your message. It should not be your actual selling line or slogan.


2. Focus on the specific, measurable experiences customers will derive by doing business with you.

“Contrary to how things may seem, customers don’t really care about your product. They care about their lives or businesses; they care about what they may or may not get out of using your products or services,’” Michael said. “So what matters and what must be at the heart of a real value proposition is those customers’ resulting experiences that happen because they buy [or] use your stuff rather than some other option.”


3. Be reflected across and influence your entire business — not just your messaging, marketing and sales.

“It should be the fundamental choice, creatively discovered, then debated, articulated and agreed internally by leadership across your entire business,” Michael  said. “It should fundamentally determine the very business you are in, which customers you seek and what your business will do to improve their experiences in return for their business.”

Read more…

Value Prop: How Radio Shack lost its way by losing sight of its ideal customer, Pt. 3

March 23rd, 2015 No comments

As marketers, Radio Shack should serve as an important cautionary tale of how quickly our businesses can erode if we lose sight of our core value proposition. The first two parts of this three-part blog series (read part one here and part two here) documented Radio Shack’s meteoric rise to retail prominence throughout the 1960s and 70s, accomplished by identifying the ideal customer (the hobbyist) and offering to the market a unique, authentic value proposition built upon a foundation of four key factors:

Credibility — Can I trust your claims?
Clarity — What are you actually offering?
Exclusivity — Can I only get this from you?
Appeal — How much do I desire this offer?

By honoring this core value prop — Radio Shack stores provide specialized, innovative parts and merchandise not available anywhere else, sold by the most tech-knowledgeable staff in retail Radio Shack grew from a handful of bankrupt Boston electronics stores to a retail juggernaut with more storefronts than McDonalds.

The mid-1980s would mark the beginning of the end for Radio Shack, as the company continuously diluted, rather than refined, the comparative strengths of the exclusivity, appeal, credibility and clarity that served as the bedrock for its core value proposition.


The Mid-1980s — Marginalizing the core customer

Who is your customer? How did that customer find you, and why did he buy from you? What does that customer tell others about you? Even more important, what does the customer wish your company would do for him? That knowledge is your only true source of power.

— Kristin Zhivago, Revenue Coach, Author of Roadmap to Revenue: How to Sell the Way Your Customers Want to Buy

By 1984, even though Radio Shack’s stores continued to stock parts and components popular with hobbyists, the company’s specific focus on the DIY market was clearly beginning to shift.

The success of the TRS-80 had given Radio Shack a sense of arrogance, and the company began claiming that small businesses and schools were Radio Shack’s new target market, rather than hobbyists, who were “not the mainstream of the business.” This pinched-nose approach to hobbyists would pervade Radio Shack’s messaging for the next 30 years, whether explicit or implicit.

In fact, hundreds of neighborhood Radio Shack stores saw products aimed at the hobbyist and tinkerer disappear entirely when the stores were converted into Radio Shack Computer Centers.


Ironically, these hobbyists that Radio Shack alienated were among the earliest adopters for new technology, including the TRS-80, and many were quickly growing frustrated with some of Radio Shack’s practices.

Although Tandy’s computers boasted superior hardware performance to competitors — often running up to three times faster than its IBM counterparts — the software library for Radio Shack’s line of personal computers was not nearly as robust as IBM or Apple’s.

Because of the company’s insistence on offering mostly private-label products, the TRS-80 computer was designed to work primarily with inferior Radio Shack-brand software. In the absence of MS-DOS, largely superior IBM-compatible software was not compatible with the TRS-80.

Further, expensive peripherals that customers bought for the TRS-80 were purposely designed to be incompatible with other personal computers.

Read more…

Value Prop: How Radio Shack lost its way by losing sight of its ideal customer, Pt. 2

March 19th, 2015 2 comments

Part 1 of this three-part blog series focused on Radio Shack’s origins and how a savvy businessman named Charles Tandy began to transform a chain of bankrupt Boston radio stores into America’s one-stop shop for consumer electronics. By identifying his ideal customer (the hobbyist) and offering to the market an authentic value proposition, Tandy laid a foundation that would open the door for decades of prosperity and growth.

Here in part two, we’ll look at how strengthening one key element of Radio Shack’s value proposition transformed the company from an emerging electronics chain into an American retail juggernaut.


The four elements of a strong value proposition

Though the “value proposition” we modern marketers speak of has gone by numerous names over the years — unique selling proposition, basic selling proposition, strategic differentiation, etc. — one underlying principal has remained largely the same:

The most successful value propositions boast credibility, clarity, exclusivity and appeal.

As the 1970s began, Radio Shack had their specific market cornered in three of these four key elements. The chain was widely regarded as having the most knowledgeable sales staff in retail. (Credibility — Can I trust your claims?)

Radio Shack’s meticulous mass and targeted marketing campaigns clearly communicated the specific goods sold within stores. (Clarity — What are you actually offering?)

Each store’s unique inventory of specialty parts and equipment gave Radio Shack a near-monopoly on the hobbyist market. (Exclusivity — I can only get this from you)

The only area where Radio Shack lagged behind was appeal. (How much do I desire this offer?) Though small, high-margin, house-brand items drove the majority of the company’s sales, batteries, capacitors and wire weren’t exactly the type of glamorous items that lured in window shoppers.

Early 1970s Radio Shack Value Proposition Lacked Appeal


Staying on the forefront of innovation

An exclusive offer without appeal has its force undermined by a lack of attraction. ­

— Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute

While selling exclusive, highly-specific parts and accessories to its target customers kept Radio Shack’s margins and gross profits high, CEO Charles Tandy decided to also position the chain as the leading seller of cutting edge consumer technology. The newest innovations in home audio equipment, gadgetry, robotics and productivity devices, such as personal calculators — which drew a broader interest while still resonating strongly with Radio Shack’s target customer — could all be found and tested at the neighborhood Radio Shack.

Read more…