How to create a value proposition for your brand

Before exporting to a foreign market be sure to have your value proposition well defined. This is as important for business-to-business brands as it is for business-to-consumer. In both cases the buyer will have other options to your product and the value proposition helps you differentiate yourself from those options and tip the scales in your favor.

Below are the seven main steps required to create an effective value proposition for your brand.

  1. Survey your competitors

    Visit the sites of all main competitors. Look at the messaging and reverse engineer what their value proposition is. Write each down, then use your best judgement to prioritize them according to how well established the proposition is among your prospects and customers. Do any competitors own a word or claim in your prospect’s mind? If so, what is it? Surveys or simple conversations with your prospects and buyers will help here.

  2. Assemble the raw materials

    Start with a blank sheet of paper and create a list of all the possible attributes, features, benefits, and other potential selling points for your brand. The only filter to apply at this point is truth: Write down everything that is true, regardless of differentiation, relevance, believability, or sustainability. You should have 25-75 attributes. These are all the things that could be said truthfully on behalf of the brand.

  3. Filter your attributes

    Now apply the following filters to your list:

    1. Differentiation Filter

      Which attributes are most differentiating to your target? Arrange your list into the following categories:

      • Unique — only your brand can claim this
      • Differentiating — only a few brands can or do claim this
      • Common — many brands claim this
      • ‘Hygiene factors’ — common and expected for inclusion in your product or service
    2. Relevance Filter

      Which attributes are most relevant to your target? Next, take the factors that are unique and differentiating for your brand and order them according to which you feel will be most relevant across all your target segments. Which factors would tip the value scales most in your favor?

    3. Believability Filter

      Which attributes are most believable to your target? Some value propositions may be true but are difficult for buyers to believe. For instance “durability” as a value proposition can be difficult for buyers to believe. That was a challenge faced by the watch brand Timex. They created the tag line “It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’ ” and created a series of television spots that demonstrated the watch being tested under extreme conditions. It became a classic marketing campaign.

      In the best case scenario, you’ll be able to vividly demonstrate your value proposition simply. For instance the value proposition of the watch brand Timex was durability.

      In the best case scenario, you’ll be able to vividly demonstrate your value proposition like Timex did. In any case, be prepared to support your value proposition with evidence. It can be factual (e.g. product features) or circumstantial (e.g. celebrity endorsement), but it has to be believable. And remember, just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s believable. So assess your list of possible value propositions and cross off any that you feel you can’t support or that simply will not be believed by your target.

    4. Sustainability Filter

      Which attributes are most sustainable? The last check is for sustainability. There’s nothing wrong with flouting short-term advantages while you have them (as long as they have passed through the four filters above). But, be careful about crafting your brand identity around them or becoming too closely associated with them. Ideally, your value proposition is crafted around a claim that will maintain its relevance to the target, but also one that you will be able to maintain and defend indefinitely. So, cross off any attributes that are currently “owned” by competitors or that are otherwise not sustainable or defendable.

      New product categories are particularly vulnerable in this regard. That‘s because the core benefits of new technologies tend to become hygiene factors as the category begins to mature. Equally challenging are product categories with fast-moving product development cycles, like many medical devices and technology brands. The shelf life of product innovations in these categories can often be measured in weeks.

  4. Talk to your target

    You should now have a list of several attributes that you have filtered and prioritized according to what you think will be most relevant to your target market. You also have a list of what your competitors claim to be their main attributes. Time to put both to the test. Have a third party interview your target market to:

    • Confirm the category and who is perceived as the major players in that category.
    • Write a prioritized wish list of the top 10 factors that prospects want from your category.
    • Probe to see which factors are felt to be most and least adequately served by their current options.
    • Rate how each player in the category performs according to the criteria on the wish list.
    • Only after this, show your list of filtered and prioritized attributes and get feedback.
    • See which, if any, is most relevant to them and what support would be most convincing.
    • Probe to see if there are attributes you have missed.
  5. Define your value offer

    The results of the target interviews should have narrowed your list right down to what is:

    • most relevant to your target
    • most credible for you to claim

    Define how your offer delivers value to the prospect in plain terms. Remember this is a strategy statement, not a tagline or headline. Your value proposition statement will never be seen by the outside world. Don’t try to make it fancy, just extremely clear and specific.

  6. Support your value offer

    Now list all the proof you have that directly supports your value proposition. Prioritize the points that your target indicated would be most convincing and/or that are most easily demonstrated. Be selective here. It’s better to have three main points that are easy to remember than a list of list of twenty of which none will be remembered. These are the reasons to believe that will be provided to the market.

  7. Communicate your value proposition

    Your value proposition should jump off the page when a prospect lands on your corporate site’s homepage or main page of your product. It should be stated clearly and prominently whenever your brand is presented. It should also be reinforced with the type of content published (and avoided) and the topics you choose to focus on and people you engage with in your online networking efforts. It should also be reflected in the way you choose to profile your brand including the causes you support, the events you sponsor, and the spokespeople and brand ambassadors you select. Your dedication to this topic should shine through all your communication.

Creating a strong value proposition may seem like more work than its worth. That’s until you realize the vital role it plays in differentiating your offer and building and defending sales in your export markets. While you can try to create your own value proposition, its worth finding an experienced consultant to help. A consultant will provide the required perspective and save you time. Either way this is one of the best marketing investments you can make in your brand.

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Topics: Export Planning, Market Research, and Sales & Marketing
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