What you'll learn to do: evaluate examples of value propositions
If you were asked to evaluate the solution to an easy math problem, such as 24 + 17 = 45, you could definitely say whether it's right or wrong. If, on the other hand, you were asked to evaluate a painting by a modern artist and judge it "good" or "bad," you would have to make a judgment based on your own preferences and, perhaps, after reading some reviews by experts or others (who probably wouldn't agree). Evaluating art is akin to evaluating a value proposition—it's definitely a subjective process, and others may disagree with you. That said, below are a few pointers that can help you.
It is easy to recognize when a value proposition is bad:
If it is so general or universal that it doesn't articulate unique value, then it likely isn't very good. (For years Tony the Tiger promoted Kellog's frosted flakes saying, "They're grrrrreat!" It's a cute catch phrase for a tiger, but it's not a value proposition.)
If a value proposition has so many words that you need to read it twice—or worse, you stop reading and move on—then it's bad. As noted in the Quick Sprout infographic from the previous reading, it should take five seconds or less to read a value proposition.
If the value proposition does not provide clarity about the offering to the target market, then it isn't providing value. The target customer should understand exactly what is promised.
If the value proposition for an offering mimics the value proposition of a competitive offering, it isn't good. In the technology industry, many critics have poked fun at Microsoft for imitating Apple's simple marketing language and presentation style. No matter how compelling the value proposition for an offering is, copying it for a competitive offering doesn't make sense or work. An offering can't be unique if it's exactly like something else.
In this section, you'll get to review some value propositions that are quite good (in our view). As you read them, them think about what they are doing right and how they could be improved.
The Value Proposition in Action
Let's take a look at some real examples and evaluate them. Are they clear, compelling, and differentiating? Keep in mind that you may not be the target market for all of these examples. Your role as a marketer is to evaluate them from the perspective of the target customer.
This value proposition doesn't offer a lengthy description of what Pinterest is and how it works. It simply states the benefit Pinterest provides to its users.
Notice the use of the phrase "people like you." The value proposition connects you to the site's other users through your own interests. It implies that a friendly community of "people like you" awaits you and is interested in helping you.
Is the value proposition sufficiently clear to you? Does it give you enough information to know whether the offering is of interest to you?
The greatest challenge in creating an effective value proposition is striking a balance between being clear and communicating enough value.
The value proposition first highlights Skype's broad use, which is an important feature for its network-based approach.
Next it describes the offering. Skype provides more information than Pintarest does about what its offering is—and it highlights the fact that it's free. Pinterest is also free, but doesn't disclose this in its value proposition. Is one approach better than the other? Why might a company want to emphasize that its product is free while another does not? In this case, it's probable that Pinterest conducted research and learned that users expect Pintarest to be free, since that's the case with many other social sharing sites. In contrast, since Skype is competing with traditional paid services like cell service providers, free access is an important differentiator.
Again, notice the use of the word "you" in the value proposition.
The value proposition for Salesforce.com includes the acronym CRM, which stands for customer relationship management software. Not everyone knows this acronym, but Salesforce is confident that its target customers do, and it's betting that they are seeking such a system to improve sales management processes and results.
The value proposition cuts to the offering's core benefit—improved sales results—and highlights its strong ("world's #1") market position.
This value proposition is very simple, but it says enough about the value that you may want to learn more about how it works.
In just a few words, the value proposition explains that you can get a ride when you need it using your phone. It emphasizes convenience in a number of ways by using the phrases "on demand" and "in minutes." There is also a subtle use of the word "your." Uber provides your ride. You are in charge.
Coffee Shop Marketing
Starbucks is a powerful global brand that brings with it a sense of being cool and new. A stodgy coffeeshop brand in the United Kingdom had to find a different value proposition to convince coffee drinkers that they were worth another try. Watch the video, below, to see what they tried: