Why should customers do business with you?
Seriously, why should they choose you over your competitors? Why should they open their wallets and hand over their hard-earned money in exchange for your products or services?
It may sound harsh, but these are important questions to ask yourself. If you can’t come up with a convincing reason, you haven’t yet identified your business’s value proposition.
What is a value proposition?
A value proposition is a short statement that speaks directly to your customers. It tells them what value you’ll provide for them—basically, why you’re worth doing business with.
You might also hear a value proposition referred to as a value prop, positioning statement, selling point, or a unique selling proposition. Those are different ways of saying the same thing: a short and powerful statement that communicates why you’re the best choice.
You’re passionate about your business, which means you can probably think of a dozen different points and key benefits you want to incorporate. But strong value propositions are concise and impactful. For that reason, focus on these four bullet points:
- Who you serve: Let your ideal customer know you’re talking directly to them.
- The problem you solve: Tell your target customer exactly what pain point you address.
- How you solve it: This won’t be super detailed, but it should give your customer insight into why you’re the right choice to solve that problem or meet that need.
- Why your solution matters: Your customers care most about what your small business does for them, so you’ll need to point to a clear benefit they’ll experience.
Those are the main boxes that you need to check. We’ll talk about each of them in greater detail when we discuss how to write a value proposition later. For now, just keep that high-level overview in mind.
Why does your value proposition matter?
Crafting your own effective value proposition takes some elbow grease. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely. Nailing down this messaging can lead to a number of benefits, including:
- Refined marketing strategy: Your value proposition acts as your compass as you refine all your other marketing efforts. It’s a crucial part of your marketing strategy and will guide you as you create a cohesive and compelling marketing plan.
- Increased understanding: When done well, your value proposition gives your customers an immediate grasp of what your business does and why it’s relevant to them.
- Boosted sales: When you adequately communicate your value to your customers, they’re far more likely to make a purchase. Your value proposition should increase conversions, close more sales, and improve your small business’s bottom line.
See? Ironing this out is way more than a formality to check off your list. It’s your primary selling point that lays the foundation as you market your small business.
Where should you use your value proposition?
If you’re going to sink time and energy into crafting a compelling value proposition for your small business, you want to make the most of it. That means it should be shared anywhere potential customers might find you. This could include (but certainly isn’t limited to):
- Your website homepage
- Landing pages
- Blog posts
- Product pages
- Social media bios
Of course, you don’t want to overdo it. The important thing to keep in mind is that your promise of value should be one of the first things customers see when they discover your business. Focus on the main “entry points” for customers who discover and engage with your business. Confirm that your value proposition (or some form of it) is included there.
Is a value proposition the same thing as a tagline?
Your unique value proposition and your brand tagline are two different things. Here’s the main difference:
- Value proposition: A more thorough explanation of the value you offer to your target customers.
- Nike’s value proposition: Nike delivers innovative products, experiences, and services to inspire athletes.
- Tagline: A catchy and short slogan that’s memorable but doesn’t capture your value.
- Nike’s slogan: Just do it.
Taglines are fun and punchy. But if you’re going to focus on one thing to start with, make it your business’s value proposition. As we mentioned earlier, that will guide you through a number of other marketing decisions (including your tagline).
How to write a value proposition: 4 steps to follow
With that groundwork in place, it’s time to answer the question you’ve all been waiting for: How do I write a value proposition?
There’s plenty of advice about how to craft your own value statement. Unfortunately, much of it is either dense and academic or targeted more at marketers, startups, SaaS businesses, or huge companies with tons of resources.
That can feel overwhelming. So let’s take a step back and talk about how to write a good value proposition—all through the lens of a small business owner.
1. Know your target market
To write an undeniably effective value proposition, you need to start with who you're talking to. You should be equipped with a solid understanding of your customer’s problems, their goals, their objections, and more.
That’s information you’ll use to write a statement that speaks directly to them. Not sure how to figure out your business’s target customer? Here’s a helpful guide.
Let’s imagine that you’re starting a home repair business. You visit your customers’ homes to do everything from replacing windows to fixing washing machines.
EXAMPLE TARGET CUSTOMER: Homeowners in the city of Toronto who want well-maintained homes.
2. Clearly state their problem
Now that you know who you’re talking to, your next step is to drill down even further to identify what specific issue you address for them.
It’s entirely possible that your business solves a lot of problems. In the case of our home repair example, there are a ton of micro-problems—everything from leaky taps to faulty thermostats.
Many bigger businesses have different value propositions for different products or services. But for now, let’s keep things simple and focus on the overarching pain point you address for your customers. Your small business was born out of a need that you saw was unmet, and that’s what you should zoom in on here.
EXAMPLE PROBLEM STATEMENT: Homeowners don’t have the expertise to complete repairs themselves nor the time to figure it out.
3. Share how you solve it
Next, you’ll clearly state how you solve your customer’s problem. You don’t want to be long-winded here (“I possess all of these specific licences”), but you also don’t want to be too vague (“I repair things.”).
Ultimately, this section is about the differentiation between you and your competitors. Why are you the right choice over anybody else?
Do you have years of experience? A specific industry qualification or expertise? An innovative or patented solution? Do you provide a better customer experience? Free delivery? Whatever it is that sets you apart is what you should include here.
EXAMPLE: I have 20 years of experience as a facilities maintenance specialist.
4. Tie back to results
You can’t expect your customers to connect the dots themselves—you need to explain exactly how they’ll benefit from working with you.
With our home repair business, the results might be that customers will get appliances and infrastructure repaired around their home. But push yourself harder here. What does that actually do for them?
They get increased peace of mind. They save time. They have fewer hassles and headaches.
As you pick which one to focus on, return to the information you have about your target customer and their pain points. Which single benefit do you think will resonate most with them? You can even collect feedback or test different statements to see which one hits home the most.
EXAMPLE: Our high-quality home repairs save homeowners from stress.
Here’s how your value proposition turned out...
After walking through each of those four steps, here’s what we have to work with:
- TARGET CUSTOMER: Homeowners in the city of Toronto who want well-maintained homes.
- PROBLEM STATEMENT: Homeowners don’t have the expertise to complete repairs themselves nor the time to figure it out.
- SOLUTION: I have 20 years of experience as a facilities maintenance specialist.
- RESULTS: Our high-quality home repairs save homeowners from stress.
All of the fundamentals are there. But if you smash them all together, your value proposition might seem a little long and unfocused. You’ll need to do a little finessing here. It can be helpful to drop the different elements into this simple template to at least get started on the right track:
We do [X] to help you do [Y] so you can [Z].
After working through that and making some final polishes and tweaks, here’s what our example value proposition might look like:
You deserve to stop stressing over home repairs. We use our 20 years of maintenance experience to complete high-quality fixes that save you from headaches and hassles.
Not bad, right? Of course, that’s not the only way to package it. You’re free to play around and find the right sequence that works for you, your business, and, most importantly, your customers.
4 more tips for writing a compelling value proposition
The first draft of your value proposition doesn’t need to be the one you stick with. Here are a few more tips to help you take your statement to the next level.
1. Keep it short
Your value proposition should be able to be read in five seconds or less. If it takes longer than that, it’s too long.
Why so short? Because, to be honest, your customers have fleeting attention spans. In fact, the average human attention span is somewhere around eight seconds.
2. Reduce your ‘I’ and ‘we’ language
Remember, your value proposition isn’t about your business—it’s about your customer. One simple trick to keep your messaging customer-focused is to swap out some of your “I” or “we” references for “you.”
Here’s an example of a value proposition that uses too much self-centred language: I know many parents are stressed about their child’s first haircut. I create a friendly and welcoming salon environment where I can give kiddos their first trim without fears or tears.
And here it is with the spotlight shining on the customer: Your child’s first haircut can be stressful. Our friendly and welcoming salon environment helps your kiddo conquer their first trim without fears or tears.
That’s not to say that you can never say “we” or “I”—they’re bound to appear somewhere. But make sure that language isn’t overpowering your customer.
3. Avoid hype and sales-y language
Your value statement should separate you from your competitors. But the desire to differentiate yourself can tempt you to use overly promotional language.
You don’t need to say that your service is “unlike anything you’ve ever seen before!” or your product is “a miracle” or “an answer to your prayers!” If you’ve really honed in on your key benefits, all that over-the-top language won’t be necessary.
4. Solicit feedback
If you’ve been staring at your own value proposition for days on end, it can be hard to see it objectively. That’s why it can be helpful to ask customers or other trusted confidants for their feedback.
You can even do A/B testing on a few different versions of your statement to see which one achieves your desired results. Even if you don’t do a formal test, pay attention to how your statement is working for you. If you aren’t seeing benefits like increased interest or an improved conversion rate, you can try making some tweaks.
Small business value proposition examples
It’s not hard to find value proposition examples from large businesses. Here are a few commonly cited ones:
- Evernote: “Accomplish more with better notes. Evernote helps you capture ideas and find them fast.”
- Apple Business: “When the world changes, business changes too. Apple hardware, software, and services work together to give your employees the power and flexibility to do whatever needs doing—wherever that may be.”
- Unbounce: “Get more conversions with Unbounce landing pages and conversion intelligence tools.”
Those can be helpful, but they can also feel sort of untouchable and unrelatable when you’re a small business. For that reason, we’ve crafted five small business value proposition examples so that you can refer to them for inspiration as you work on your own.
1. Sandwich shop value proposition example
Make the most of your lunch break with delicious sandwiches made with homemade bread, fresh-cut deli meat, local cheeses, and from-scratch spreads.
2. Cleaning service value proposition example
Make your home your sanctuary with a cleaning service that makes your spaces sparkle. Our detail-oriented staff does the dirty work so you don’t have to.
3. Consignment shop value proposition example
High-quality products don’t have to be high priced. Peruse our selection of well-loved and well-cared-for decor and furnishings to bring style to your home—without the sticker shock.
4. Marketing agency value proposition example
Get your e-commerce business in front of the right customers with proven SEO strategies that drive results and sales.
5. Florist value proposition example
Celebrate life’s sweeter moments with free, same-day delivery of hand-picked floral bouquets.
Your business offers value—so go ahead and own it
Here’s a question you can’t expect your customers to answer: Why should they do business with you?
As the business owner, it’s up to you to make that answer painfully obvious to them. That’s where a compelling value proposition comes into play. This statement speaks directly to your target audience to highlight benefits, separate you from your competition, and push your business forward.