I was playing in Hexagon Board Game café when I noticed a girl entering the place. Instead of heading to the cashier to order a table, she waited in the corner. I didn’t pay much attention to her because I was chatting with my friend. We both were waiting for two more players.
Not long after, a guy came into the café and looked around. His eyes stopped at the waiting girl and they both shared a smile. The guy looked at his phone then approached the girl. He mentioned a name and the girl nodded.
Oh, they are meeting for the first time! That’s what I thought.
As the four of us grouped and asked for a table, I observed the couple from a distance. I smiled, imagining how they managed to plan such a meeting. If they had met in a party before, the guy would have noticed the girl right away. He did look at his phone before so it’s safe to assume he knew the girl’s name from a text. Does that mean they have talked through texting before? How did he get his number?
That is when I started to think of the possibility of them meeting online on a dating website.
So, my question for the day: what do you write on your dating profile?
This sounds silly, but I want to argue that value proposition is pretty much like designing your profile on dating websites.
Value Proposition is a marketing concept that boils down to this: what kind of value you bring to the market through your product and services. In today’s post, I’m going to help you determine your value proposition particularly when you have an online business (having a website, blogging, selling online course, and etc.)
Talk about why your product is different than others
First thing first, I want you to think why you are unique. This is undoubtedly the hardest question that pushes you to think hard.
Let say you want to sell cupcakes. So, then my question to you, why would someone buy from you, let alone become a loyal customer for you? There are plenty of bakeries out there, not to mention the cakes sold by grocery stores. Why then should I try your cupcakes?
In business school, we often see two differentiators. One company aims for high-end, high quality, high priced products. The other aims for competitive pricing. Example. Louis Vuitton is all about high class fashion. Stories have it that when you enter the store, the attendants will observe until you ask questions for a particular product. Then they offer you some refreshments while getting explaining the product to you. At times, they would send thank you letters and look forward for your next visit. Compare this to Forever 21 (which we know filed for bankruptcy). The fashion retailer targeted young students who would enter the store, see bunch of products, grab one, then go to the cashier.
Maybe it’s not only about pricing and targeted customers. Maybe it’s about different business models.
Example again. Netflix is the opposite of Blockbuster. Netflix uses subscription model where they charge small amount per month for viewers to watch any movies. Meanwhile, Blockbuster charges you per movie that you want to rent.
Bottom line, ask yourself: what are your strengths that you want to sell? Think about how you are different than your competitors.
Say how you can ease customers’ pain
If you have read my first post on “Blogging”, then you knew that the first thing to do was to understand your target customers. This is where it connects.
Use your research data about customers to address how your product fits to them. Coming back to the cupcake example, your target customers are young mothers. They are busy handling their children but they also like to hang out with friends. Every month, they chat about the latest gossip, latest fashion, and take pictures for their Instagram. They want snacks to eat with but at the same time they want to stay slim.
You then figure out that such customer would want attractive looking cupcakes to bring to the meetings that doesn’t have high calories and sugar.
The next step is to brand your cupcake to fit this kind of customers: about friendship, motherhood, and good life. Your message or tag line could be about “making moments with delicious cupcakes”.
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“It’s like Product A, but better”
I borrow this line from Query Letter to literary agents. When a writer wants to get a literary agent, he or she needs to contact a list of literary agents. In the Query Letter he sends, he needs to showcase his book. He should say something like “my novel is like science fiction 1984 with a Sherlock Holmes’ twist.”
I agree that this one is tricky. You don’t want to be identified with a certain product. That will make your customers compare the two immediately.
However, people couldn’t measure goodness without comparison. When we have choice A, choice B, choice C, we compare what we like between A and B, then A and C, then finally B and C. Even worse, we have confirmation bias. If we show a picture of the sea, then give vacation options to Germany (Choice A), Florida (Choice B), and Tibet (Choice C). We automatically compare it to the sea picture we first saw.
What’s the point?
It is human’s tendency to compare. Might as well to give that comparison. This will be useful for word-of-mouth campaign.
For the cupcake example, you can say something like “It tastes as good as Black Forrest cake with lower calories.”
Define your online business in one sentence
Think about defining your online business within one sentence. If you can’t do that, you fail. People understands an idea better when it is concise.
Here are some examples from existing business:
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it – Simon Sinek
This last point is especially relatable for non-profits but it’s also applicable to online business in general. Don’t forget to include your vision and your goals from your online business. This helps build your value proposition to the customers.
The cupcake store you think about might be about promoting good life (good relationship and good health). This is entirely different than grocery stores or bakeries that sell cakes. Grocery stores might be about making sales while bakeries might be about supporting small businesses.
Thus, explaining why you do things brings a differentiation for your business.
Alright, so the summary of value proposition is this. You have to tell people why you are different, how your product can save them, what it resembles to, why you do the online business, and try to define it within one sentence.
A good practice is for you to pitch your online business idea to friends. See if they ‘get’ it, if what you’re saying is clear to them. Discuss on how you can better brand your business (for example, what kind of blog posts you should write about, what kind of visuals you should post on social media, etc.)