This is part two of a series. The first part, “The #1 secret to all great marketing success stories” talks about the power of Value Propositions and is published this September in the Australian Plumbing Industry Magazine.
It’s one thing to read (or write!) about Value Propositions, it’s entirely another to actually create one that works in the wild.
Here is a simple 5 step process to do so. (Simple, but alas, not necessarily easy.)
1 – Listen To What Your Customers Are Actually Saying
As business people, we are often obsessed with action – and rightly so, for action is the only thing actually achieves results. However, we all know people or businesses that are busy yet not particularly successful. In order to focus your action with regards to creating a compelling value proposition, take some time out to sit and think – or walk and think, if you prefer, but get away from the computer and the phone for a bit.
Ask yourself this: Why do you do what you do the way you do it?
Presumably, you do things the way you do them because:
- It’s the way things are typically done
- It’s what you were taught to do
- You see the value in it
- You assume customers also see value in it
But one thing I have discovered along the way is that customers do not always value what industry experts do, and they do not always understand nor define the problem the same way that people inside any given industry do. For example, if I were an insurance broker, I might define a typical customer’s problem as “needing a comprehensive insurance strategy”, whereas my actual customers – if I listened – might usually call me and say “I think I need insurance for X and Y but I am not sure what’s right for me. I want to come and see someone to help me get my head around it all”.
As you can see, the former expression of the problem is vague, industry jargon and the latter is a specific cry for help – a definable statement of desired value.
And therein lies the magic and the opportunity.
I actually rang a couple of insurance brokers recently and said more or less the same thing. I just wanted one of them to say “Sure, come in on Tuesday at 11am and we’ll sort it out together”, but neither of them did. Both of them said “I will send you the forms, send them back to me filled out and we’ll go from there.”
No doubt that makes sense to them. No doubt this is how it has always been done. No doubt also, that it left me cold. Why? Because they failed to see what the problem was that I needed solved. What my real problem is was “I hate filling out long forms and I’m busy and so I’ll make excuses and the PDF you send me is just going to sit on my desktop for months until I trash it one day.”
Note that I only hinted at the problem, without articulating it very clearly. This is very common. Sometimes customers and prospects do not actually know what the problem is, or how to put it into words that you will understand. They may feel embarrassed to tell you straight out what the real problem is. Who knows why people do not always communicate clearly? The thing is, you can’t expect them to lay it all out for you in a logical way. You are probably going to have to read between the lines.
So have a think about what your customers typically say to you, how they frame the problem. I think an issue we have is we hear what they say through a filter of established industry jargon, so “I need help getting my head around all this” gets translated automatically in the insurance guy’s mind as “I need you to send me some forms so I can explain to you in black and white what the specific details I need to create an insurance solution are”. The two are not the same.
Put another way, a customer might say: “My washing machine is leaking and there’s water spreading throughout the house”.
A washing machine repairman might hear “My washing machine is leaking, can you come and fix it?”
So the washing machine man says “Sure, I can come and fix your machine – I can be there tomorrow at 8am.”
He may think this makes perfect sense, after all, he is a washing man and there’s a broken washing machine! And yet … our poor washing machine man, let’s call him Bob, may not get the job. A competitor might. And here’s why.
2 – Identify An Unmet Value Need
Bob the washing machine man might lose the job because he failed to identify a need that was being expressed by the prospect. The prospect actually mentioned two problems, not one. The first was, yes, the washing machine is leaking and needs fixing. The second expressed problem was “there’s water spreading throughout the house”.
Bob has been in the washing machine game a long time and he has fallen into the habit of filtering out everything that he traditionally does not see as being part of a washing machine man’s gig – including the near-daily complaints about water leaking all over floors making a mess, extra work for harried householders and sometimes even ruining carpets.
“Floors?”, complains Bob to his wife, “How is that my problem? I’m a washing machine guy!”
Meanwhile, Bob’s competitor Max, has three shiny new vans on the road and is obviously becoming increasingly successful. He gets a lot of jobs that Bob misses out on, including this one. Why?
Because he got his head out of the box, identified the needs that his customers were expressing and adjusted created a value proposition to match the need. He trained his staff to think of mopping up spilled water as part of their job and partnered with a carpet cleaning company to solve the ruined carpet problem when required.
These simple changes costed him very little (mopping doesn’t take long) and even makes him extra revenue (he makes a cut when the carpet cleaners are called in). And he gets more calls because:
His marketing material speaks to the problems his customers care about
And he gets more referrals from all those happy customers
Meanwhile Bob winces at his bank account statement and moans that the washing machine repair industry is going down the tube!
3 – Apply Creativity
Max the successful washing machine guy may or may not know it, but what he has done to rock the washing machine repair industry to its core is he has applied some good old fashioned creativity to the industry he is in.
Basically “creativity” simply means “taking two or more ideas and combining them create new ideas”.
So for example, what happens when you combine a wine-press with a coin-punch? You get the printing press. Combine a horse-drawn cart with a steam-powered engine? You get the automobile. A typewriter with a computer processor? You get a personal computer.
What Max did was combine “washing machine repairs” with “house cleaning” and voila! A new creative idea that solved a problem and created success for his own business in the process.
But How To Actually Frame The Value Proposition?
So the process for creating a compelling Value Proposition that gets customers to call and choose your business has so far been:
- Consciously listen to the language your customers and prospects use
- Use this to identify unmet needs
- Combine ideas in new and creative ways to fill these needs
But how to go from there to a compelling value proposition that actually makes your marketing and advertising work?
4 – Echo Your Prospect’s “Value Language” Back At Them
If you’ve followed the above steps, you would hopefully have found some recurring things they say that helped you to identify the problems they have (needs) and the way you intend to solve these problems (solutions).
Now you “just” need to experiment with ways of repeating these words, this “Value Language”, back at the market in headlines (most important) and supporting words, images and videos (content) until you find winning combinations that work to get the response you desire.
5 – Refine (Rinse and Repeat)
I put “just” in quote marks because this is not always easy to do. Firstly, you have to actually listen to your market, then you have to brainstorm various expressions of proposed “Value Proposition” into language and supporting content concepts that you feel might work to get those proverbial cash registers ringing. When you hit the sweet spot like this, when you’re onto a winner, this is called (by marketing geeks like me) a Resonating Focus Value Proposition. But anyway, if you just think of it as “words and images that hit the sweet spot with your customers”, that will do!
Once you’ve drafted some ideas, you have to test these variations out in the wild. And you need to do this in a way that is not overly cost-prohibitive and allows for experimentation along the way.
Thankfully, the Internet is great for this. No doubt there are many ways you could go about testing but a common, inexpensive and very useful way of testing these various ways of expressing your value proposition is via Google or Facebook ads that point at variant Landing Pages on your websites. Landing Pages are just pages on your website designed for customers to land on from a particular ad. By testing different headlines, images, etc in both the ads and the corresponding Landing Pages and creating ways to understand which pages generate actual enquiries or sales (forms, trackable phone numbers, Google analytics, etc) you can refine your value propositions over time until you really know what is working for you.
Then you can put your shiny new Value Proposition, expressed as a slogan or what have you, on more permanent things like signage, T-shirts, business cards, etc.
So wrapping up, the process for creating Value Propositions that compel customers to call is:
1 – LISTEN: Consciously listen to the language your customers and prospects use
2 – IDENTIFY: Use this to notice expressions of unmet needs
3 – CREATE: Combine ideas in new and creative ways to fill these needs
4 – ECHO: Repeat your market’s “Value Language” (aka ‘words’, lol!) back at them
5 – REFINE: Test & measure until you find the words that hit the sweet spot
Of course, this is a lot of work – requiring both writing, marketing and technical web skills – so by all means, contact us to discuss whether we’re the right business to help you turn the above theory into action for your business.