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(This is one of a series of articles, the first of which is here.)
Your value proposition can be defined as the benefits of your product or service minus its costs.
Value Proposition = Benefits − Costs
The costs aren’t limited to the financials; they also include economic risk and the cost of time and resources.
The above definition can be a bit too seller-centric. To aid clear thinking, we also find it useful to think of a value proposition as perceived through the eyes of an individual buyer. This view reflects more accurately what happens when a purchase is made:
Value Proposition = Pros − Cons
We find it useful to view a value proposition both ways—through the seller’s eyes and the buyer’s eyes—as two sides of the same coin.
—and several ways to fix the problems.
In this article, we focus on benefits (and pros).
Some products or services—particularly those that are technically complex—can be hard to explain. When a technical product is sold using a traditional brand-marketing approach, the results are often disastrous.
We are fans of Sonos. But until recently it wasn’t clear from Sonos’s marketing materials what Sonos is. Sonos could have greatly increased its sales by explaining its value proposition more clearly. Sonos’s website is better than it was, but the sales could be increased further by making the value proposition clearer.
Many marketers aren’t aware that their website has this problem because their visitors don’t report that they are “struggling to understand the value proposition.” Instead, they say things like “I’m still researching.” The best way to identify when benefits are unclear is through user-testing. During user-tests, listen for clues that the users haven’t understood the product or service. For example, you may find that a user’s objections to buying don’t make sense.
Whenever we spot unclear benefits, we know that a big win is just around the corner. No problem is more guaranteed to kill conversions. Some of our biggest wins have come from clarifying the benefits of complex, hard-to-explain technical products.
Quirky tip: If a product has a Wikipedia page, you might find that it contains valuable plain-English explanations that are absent from the official landing page.
The travel-phone company Mobal gave away a high-quality travel adapter with every phone. But it forgot to mention the travel adapter anywhere on its website. When we added the travel adapter to the website, sales increased. So we added it to the offline marketing campaigns too. This was one of the many contributing factors that allowed us to triple Mobal’s sales in one year.
We used this technique to great effect when we added more than $1 million to the bottom line of Moz. In this case study, we describe how we added to Moz’s landing page many features that previously went unmentioned.
To ensure that you aren’t making this mistake, list all of the elements of value that your visitors get, and then check that your website communicates them all clearly. It can help for you to order the product yourself, so you see the whole package with your own eyes. Also, ask your customers why they bought, and then ensure that all of their reasons are featured in your marketing materials with appropriate prominence.
Many websites—particularly those that sell services—don’t help their visitors to envisage the post-order experience. There are many ways of overcoming this problem. The following method, common in Japan, is rarely seen in the Western world. Japanese consumers expect to be shown what they are going to get. All Japanese restaurants, for example, have plastic food in their windows, showing what each meal looks like.
Similarly, many Japanese companies display cartoon flowcharts that show what will happen once a visitor orders the product or service. We created the following flowchart for Mobal, to show Mobal’s Japanese customers what to expect once they had ordered a travel phone.
The flowchart makes it clear how the process works: the order is placed, the phone is delivered, the phone is charged, the person flies abroad, calls are made, Mobal sends an itemized bill, the person returns home, and then the whole process is repeated for subsequent trips. The cartoon was so effective on the Japanese website, we transferred it to Mobal’s USA website, to similar success.
Such flowcharts are an example of what the hypnotism world calls future pacing: The buyer is told what they are going to experience over the next few days, weeks or months. (This is closely related to the sales technique of making the prospect “think beyond the sale.”) Even though future-pacing diagrams are less common in the West, they are extremely effective here, because
So if your product or service has an unclear post-sale experience, then a future-pacing flowchart may help to increase your sales. Within the last two months alone, we have had two wins using future-pacing diagrams. One gave a 20% increase in bookings for a travel company. The other gave a 14% increase in customers for a health company.
Once you have created a future-pacing diagram, you may find that it would benefit from being turned into a video. If so, remember that the process of creating a video should be no different from the process of creating a webpage. To begin, create the video in a low-res, highly editable format, which you can test on users—just as you would do with a webpage wireframe. If your video designer isn’t comfortable carrying out user-tests (in our experience, most aren’t), you may prefer to do it yourself, as follows:
This above process will ensure that your final video will convert visitors.
The techniques above provide four opportunities for optimizing your benefits and pros. In a future article, we will describe how to optimize the other side of your value propositions: the costs and cons.
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