I recently worked with Vero on their customer acquisition. I was given free reign and one thing I personally needed to do was lift conversions from the homepage to a free trial: the all-important SaaS metric.
One thing that killed it was a single change I made to the Value Proposition only in the heading on the home page. I changed nothing else.
The result: a 200% increase in conversions with a 98% confidence interval.
First impressions matter in real life but they matter even more for your online business. Here is how you can craft a winning Value Proposition.
Promise the world and watch the world walk by
When I arrived at Vero, the Value Proposition on the homepage was:
It didn’t tell you what we do.
Instead, it used superlatives and hype.
As potential customers weren’t able to quickly understand the value of our service they simply bounced: a clearer Value Proposition would result in more conversions, and so it did.
Here’s the winning variation:
If this isn’t proof that you should continually test and evolve your homepage’s Value Proposition, then I don’t know what is.
I am sure that, like me, you regularly visit a landing page and get that feeling of confusion as you try to figure out what the company actually does.
You re-read the headline, check out “how it works” section and maybe even read the testimonials hoping they’ll help shed some light on the situation but, 9 times out of 10, you’ll hit the back button after a few seconds.
This happens more often than it should.
This happens when the company has a poor Value Proposition. A Value proposition is the primary reason why a prospect should buy from you. It tells your potential customers what you are offering, who it is meant for, how they will benefit, and how you’re different from competitors.
Whilst a large part of this is the tagline, it can also include a sub-headline, a few bullet points, and a visual.
I’m going to focus on the tagline as it’s the biggest culprit when it comes to confusion. The best Value Propositions articulate everything they need to in an instantly credible sentence.
For a great example, KISSmetrics has one of the best taglines out there:
“Google Analytics tells you what’s happening. KISSmetrics tells you who’s doing it.”
Larger companies can rely on their strong brand but startups without any real brand recognition have to paint a very clear picture, very quickly.
Stop using ‘made simple’, it simply doesn’t work
A common trend I observe amongst startups is to use a tagline like “Customer Service Made Simple”, “Webinars and Screen Sharing Made Awesome”, “Amazingly simple graphic design”, or “the easiest way to publish on Social Media”.
What does that actually mean? Can you now explain what they do and how is it useful to you? Not really, right?
Where did this trend in value propositions come from? We know that corporate jargon, the robot style writing that no one actually understands, is bad. We want to avoid it, so we try to sound human. We know that simple is better. Less is more.
…and yet here we are, regularly doing the opposite by creating tag lines that are overly abbreviated and full of known superlatives.
A case study on the dangers of bland advertising ran a test comparing the following two phrases:
- Simple Fix for Blown Head Gaskets
- Repairs Blown Head Gaskets in Just One Hour
Both examples offer to fix a blown head gasket, but the value proposition for these two examples is different. Which one do you think performed better?
The second phrase achieved a 58% increase in conversions. It adds a specific benefit as to why the customer should buy from them, whilst the first phrase doesn’t drill down enough on what the advantage is to the customer.
Clarity trumps persuasion
A lack of clarity creates friction, friction creates confusion, confusion leads to back button clicks.
The question most people have in their mind when they first visit a site is “Am I in the right place? Am I going to find something useful for me here?”. People want to understand if its for them, how they’ll benefit, and why they should use this service instead of a competitor.
Sites jump too fast to persuading by leading with their differentiators or testimonials. They’re important pieces of the puzzle but not as a leader. Or worse, they try to be clever or funny, but really don’t say anything at all.
Of course the purpose of a good tagline is to get customers to read the second line. The best ones get your attention, raises curiosity or surprises. But we’re not all copywriting experts. If in doubt, always go for clarity. Clarity leads to higher conversions.
My approach to Value Propositions made simple
See what I did there?
How to improve your value proposition
Here’s one heuristic approach:
ProductHunt.co is a daily leaderboard of the best new products (aside: great tagline). You’re browsing the homepage, skimming over the list and trying to decide which one is interesting enough to click through. Be self-observant, think about which products do you click on, and why?
ProductHunt’s short descriptions in a competitive environment is a great place to quickly see what sets good value propositions apart from the bad.
Reverse engineer this with your own value proposition. If a user was to see your product amongst the list, what tagline would best describe what you do and makes them more inclined to click through?
You should be able to Tweet your value proposition, which means describing it in 140 characters or less.
Your company doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither should your value proposition. Most customers will compare 4 – 5 different options before making a decision, so you need to make your offer unique to competitors.
Crafting a great value proposition requires a deep understanding of what is unique about your company and your products and services. It’s all relevant to your target market. You need to understand:
– their demographics
– the language they speak
– how to talk to them
– why they buy
In the 1960s, Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” He was talking about describing benefits, not features.
In the Copywriting Checklist by Dane Maxwell he outlines a formula for an ‘instant clarity headline’.
Formula: End result customer wants + specific period of time + address the objections.
Example: Recruit 2 Top Producing Agents Each Week Without Cold Calling or Rejection
Example: Match.com – 1 in 5 Relationships Start Online & More of Them Start at Match.com
Example: Shopify – Use Shopify to create your online store. Everything you need to start selling online – today.
You don’t need all 3 parts all the time, but it gives you a good framework to start with.
The formula tells customers in seconds what your product will do for them, not what it is. It forces you to think about the customer, not about your product.
This Value Proposition Worksheet from MarketingExperiments is a little more complex but a thorough alternative.
Upworthy is known for writing 25 different headlines for each article, then A/B testing a few to determine the best one. If they do this for one of 20+ articles they post that day, why don’t you do this for the most important thing your customer needs to know about you?
What not to do
Steer clear of vague superlatives, hype and jargon. Words like “easy, simple, best, awesome, smart”. Do you think your competition goes around saying they are “hard, difficult, or worst, or dumb”?
Lets revisit the Shopify tagline as an example:
Use Shopify to create your online store. Everything you need to start selling online – today.
Shopify is the best way to create an online store. Everything you need to start selling online – today.
Does the inclusion of “best” really ad anything to it, or takeaway from the clarity of what the product does?
CodeShare.io – a real-time browser editor for sharing code with peers.
CodeShare is code sharing made simple.
The first one clearly outlines what it is: “a real-time browser editor”, what it does: “for sharing code”, and who it’s for: “with peers”.
Pricify – We make watching prices ridiculously simple.
Pricify – Sale alerts for items you love, from any online store.
If you had to explain to a friend what Pricify does, which one would enable you to do so?
Entrepreneur David Cancel has a “no and” rule when pitching startups: “The “No Ands” rule is simple: You have to be able to describe your idea in a single sentence without using the word “and.”
He believes “and’s” take away from the focus. This one simple constraint forces you to construct a refined pitch. In fact, try it in your everyday sentences if you want to achieve real clarity.
Bonus: great Value Proposition examples
Scribe – A value proposition you have to see, with a great use of visuals.
Dropbox – “Your stuff, anywhere.”
Synthesis – “Superfast and Secure WordPress Hosting + Content Marketing and SEO Tools? Only from Synthesis.”
Help Scout – “Scalable customer support, no help desk headaches.”
Rapportive – “Get rich contact profiles right inside Gmail. Rapportive shows you everything about your contacts right inside your inbox.”
Optimizely – “A/B testing you’ll actually use.” Another one you have to click through and see for yourself as they personalise the value for your site.
Unbounce – “Build, publish & A/B test landing pages without I.T. The landing page builder for marketers.”
Match.com – “1 in 5 Relationships Start Online & More of Them Start at Match.com.”
Campaign Monitor – “Send beautiful email newsletters. Campaign Monitor makes it easy to attract new subscribers, send them beautiful email newsletters and see stunning reports on the results.”
Need to know more? Check out this extra reading material
Peep Laja at ConversionXL.com is an expert on crafting value propositions:
– Useful Value Proposition Examples (and How to Create a Good One)
– How To Come Up With A Value Proposition When What You Sell ISN’T Unique
– Your value proposition is for people to read… right?