How to write the perfect value proposition


Botown media founder Vinne Schifferstein Vidal. Source: Supplied.

The famous 10,000-hour rule explains that mastering a skill means practising it for 10,000 hours. According to this theory, there is no such thing as ‘I just don’t get it’. Real life examples have shown that more often than not, it’s a matter of practising, and over time becoming a master.

Of course, there are other factors at play, such as personality, the age you started, intelligence, resources, or something else entirely. In many situations though, if you have the means and the will, sweating your way to success is entirely possible.

At this point, you’re probably thinking: what the heck does this have to do with value propositions?

Having created many value propositions for various companies, products, target audiences and markets, it is my experience executives think it happens ‘at the stroke of a pen’. ‘Oh, and please get it back to me in a couple of hours, thanks’, is what general managers often think (or sometimes even say). ‘I mean, what can be so difficult about putting a few words together that explains what our product/company/offering is about?’

Putting it that way, it sounds pretty simple indeed, doesn’t it?

So why are there so many poorly defined value propositions out there then?

Here are some anonymised examples:

  • Company X is a comprehensive learning tool; or
  • Product Y is user-friendly, it is fast and you can use it anytime, anywhere.

The reason why there are so many ‘not that great’ value propositions out there, is the same reason there are so many ‘alright’ dancers who simply cannot turn. Just because something looks simple, does not mean it is easy.

It takes effort to find the precise words to describe your product or company’s value in a way that resonates with your target audience. Sometimes it takes weeks or even months to look at it, test it, amend it, put it aside, look at it again, amend it, test it, until you find the right collection of letters and words that work. In short, it’s an iterative process.

Value propositions change over time, as your product does, the market does and your target audiences’ behaviour does. So your value proposition needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure it still makes the right connection with the market.

When working with companies I use two very simple tools to kickstart the process: a value proposition canvas and this ad-lib template.

I love these as they focus the mind. But you shouldn’t think that after filling these out you’ll immediately have your masterpiece. While these tools are very handy, real masters of writing value propositions have practised patience, critical thinking, observation and listening to hone their skills.  

For inspiration, I’ll leave you with a few examples of companies who I believe have nailed their value propositions.

  • Invision: “Design better. Faster. Together. The digital design platform powering the world’s best user experiences.”
  • WordPress: “Create a website in minutes.”
  • Freshbooks: “Small Business Accounting Software that makes billing painless.”

I would love to hear what you think are good value propositions.

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