This is a post about value propositions, a topic you’ve probably read about a thousand times. Heck, you might even think you know all about value props, how to create one, and why it’s important.

And who am I to doubt you?

But I still see so many people doing website copy all wrong. If you’re one of the few out there who are getting it right—and leading with your value prop—my hat’s off to you.

But for the rest of the people out there struggling, well, let’s do this one more time, with a bit of a different tack.

So much of what makes great copy work revolves around having a strong value proposition. If you can clearly and quickly communicate your company’s value to a visitor or reader, you’re light years ahead of your competition.

So What Is a Value Proposition, Anyway?

A value proposition is an answer to a question. It’s the cure for a pain. It’s a simple statement that tells people you have what they need.

What is a value prop? It's clear, simple, in the customer's language, and your most powerful differentiator.

Conversely, it’s definitely not cute, not a pitch, not an outline of your product features, and not a tagline.

Yet, despite the importance of a having a strong value proposition, so many companies have a weak one. Or a wrong one. Or, as is more often the case than you’d believe, they don’t have any idea of what their value proposition is at all.

Don’t believe me? Visit a few websites and tell me if you can understand—within five seconds—what that company has to offer you. At best, most of them lead with a product or service.

Your value propositions should simply and clearly answer the customer’s internal question, “Why should I choose you?”

And the great thing about a good value proposition is that it doesn’t matter if you’re in a commoditized industry or not. If you do it right, your customers can tell you what sets you apart from everyone else. You just have to ask.

How to Uncover Your Value Proposition

Forget canvases. Lose the worksheets. There are no shortcuts when it comes to creating a great value proposition.

A good one—one that immediately resonates with your ideal customers—comes from…talking to your existing customers.

That’s right. I’m talking about talking. To your customers. (Well, to be more specific, I’m talking about asking them a bunch of the right questions.)

Before you ever consider putting your value proposition in writing, you have to know everything about why your customers choose to do business with you. This actually doesn’t take as much effort as it seems.

You’ll want to do interviews, send email surveys, and possibly even ask a simple question on your website.

In fact, you can double dip and approach the interviews as case studies, giving you twice the value. Then, take the transcripts from those case studies and select keywords and phrases.

So, to answer the question, how do I come up with my value proposition?

You don’t. You can’t. What you should be doing is uncovering it. Because I guarantee you that whatever you think your value proposition is, your customers are thinking something else.

Really, all you can do is provide a product or service that meets people’s needs. And when you do that enough times for enough people—when you do that for long enough—your value proposition will be there.

Now, I hear what you’re saying. “But Chris, that doesn’t make sense if you’re just starting out.” To which I say, you’re right. Everyone has to start somewhere, even if that means you start with your best guess. But as soon as you have product-market fit, you should look to tighten it up and revise it by putting it in your customer’s words.

Too many companies still make the mistake of leading with their products. It’s not inherently wrong. It’s just that without context for said product, without considering a buyer’s stage of awareness, that probably doesn’t make the most sense.

“Buyer’s stage of awareness?” you ask. Yes, let me explain…

Understanding the 5 Stages of Awareness

A good salesperson knows you have to meet people where they are so you can move the buyer through a series of logical “checkpoints” to get them to make a decision. This “meeting them where they are” is called “stage of awareness.” When you know this, you can tailor your value proposition to it.

There are five stages of awareness that a copywriter needs to know.

This means, at any given point, people who find out about your business could be anywhere along this spectrum. Some may know they have a problem and are seeking a particular solution. Some may know of a number of solutions and are deciding which product best meets their needs.

It’s important to understand that one is not necessarily “better” than the other. The level of awareness is just an indication of what your prospective buyer knows, where you need to start, and what you need to tell them to get them to the next level.

Because that’s the goal, to help move them toward a purchasing decision.

What to Do With Your New Value Prop? Everything!

Now that we’ve nailed down the stage of awareness, we’ve talked to our customers, and we’ve created the best value proposition we can (in our customer’s words), we put it to use. Every word goes into your new site copy revolves around the central idea of your value proposition. You simply have to have a logical conversation with your customer from this point forward.

Here’s an example of one of my clients who redesigned their entire site around the new value proposition we created from customer interviews and feedback.

Their old site opening:

Where do your eyes go? Probably everywhere, yet nowhere. Notice that it’s all about their product, not the value proposition. Check out the updated version:

See, we knew from our interviews with happy customers that our customers were product aware. They knew they had a problem with their IT infrastructure. They knew what solutions (or companies) existed. They simply needed a reason to choose us over the other guys. By speaking directly to what existing customers liked best about us (our value prop), we were able to do that.

Within a month, the new site, leading with a clearer, customer-driven value proposition was generating 54% more quote requests.

Let me quickly recap what I did in that example:

  • Avoided internal marketing speak
  • Stopped guessing at what our value was
  • Talked to customers about what our value was
  • Got specific
  • Anchored our copy with a strong value proposition
  • Created a messaging hierarchy based on the level of awareness
  • Let copy dictate design for a more natural “conversation”
  • Told the right story to potential customers
  • Differentiated ourselves in a commodity market

Now, Apply This!

Whether you think you have a strong value prop or you don’t have one at all, chances are there’s work to be done.

So, get on the phone, send out some surveys, become a detective, and really dig into to what makes you great. And if you’re worried your customers won’t be upfront with you, incentivize them.

Or better yet, hire a neutral third party to talk to them for you. (I happen to know a guy.)

Whatever you do, don’t neglect your content, be it with a poorly defined value prop or an underdeveloped strategy. Get the guide here:

Ready to streamline your content operation, and go from chaos to calm? Get this guide.

Chris Cooper

About Chris Cooper

Chris Cooper owns Real Good Writing in Denver, CO where he helps SaaS companies with Seed or Series A funding gain traction and kickstart their marketing program. Visit www.rgwriting.com or connect on Twitter @ElCoopacabra.