The internet has globalized tremendous opportunities. Someone in a remote village anywhere in the world (as long as they have internet) can make a living, or significantly more. With this explosion of opportunity comes many people who take advantage of it. The competition in many markets is stiff: instead of competing with the two or three jewelers in your area, you are competing with thousands of renowned jewelers across the world. And, the ultimate kicker, is if Amazon sells in the arena you compete—maybe even the same products?
My discussions with merchants often go like this:
Me: “what is your value proposition? When I visit your website, why would I want to buy from you instead of XYZ competitor?”
Merchant: “oh, we have great customer service, a beautiful website and fast shipping times.”
I then try to gently state the following: “But so does Amazon/Walmart/Target, and so does XYZ competitor. What really sets you apart?”
Merchant: “because we are the oldest company in the industry!”
Me (again, gently): “But do your customers actually care about that?” (this could actually go the wrong direction as customers could see older companies has having more overhead, thus higher prices)
Merchant: “Yes, because they still buy from us.”
Does the above reflect your company?
I believe this to be the most difficult part, but the most crucial and fundamental aspect of marketing. What sets your company apart? And, more importantly, is it compelling? Is it enough to actually make a difference (ie, a sale, a lead)?
It seems that many merchants (of course, not all!) rely on the fact that they are a competitor, instead of pushing to be the leader. This comes back to the idea that anyone can sell on the internet—and there are many people that can and do.
In this episode, we investigate two types of public value propositions: 1) spoken and 2) implied.
Spoken Value Propositions:
I consider a spoken value proposition as something you tell visitors up-front: “this is why you should buy from me.” This often implies what is wrong with your competition.
Ideally, you have a value proposition that is best-in-class. Maybe it is something that no one can even come close to touching.
- A lifetime warranty for your products?
- Maybe an incredible guarantee?
- Maybe the best reviews or accolades in the industry?
- Maybe easy returns?
- Maybe you are working harder than anyone else and have refined and developed this product? Be careful, lest your competitors surprise you with their efforts.
- Maybe it’s you? You are known in the industry and people trust you?
Side note: you might be thinking, “we have a patent.” Great, but being forced to buy a product is in no way an indication of your customer’s loyalty. Oracle is a great example.
Book recommendation: Blue Ocean.
If you don’t have a compelling value proposition, you have a problem. Please read Blue Ocean. Get a compelling value proposition or you will always be playing catch-up.
I suggest that you take a couple of weeks, do some soul-searching investigation of who are you and what is this company? Where can you shine and stand out from the rest of the players.
What if you don’t think you have a compelling value proposition? This all will still apply. Test your ideas. Throw crazy ideas up there, and see how it goes. Does it impact revenue? Does your bounce rate improve?
Proclaiming your value!
Talk to your customers. Why did they buy from you? It could be you have a value proposition that you don’t know about.
One of the first websites I helped bring a value proposition to the forefront. Pleasant Hill Grain’s chief competitor is Amazon. In order to successfully compete, you must reduce a visitor’s risk sensors: what can go wrong if I purchase from this company?
Let’s evaluate the value proposition as displayed in this box and see how it stacks up:
- Free shipping: this ensures visitors know that Pleasant Hill Grain is on par with their competition, as it’s hard to offer better than free shipping (overnight?).
- Curated production selection: Pleasant Hill Grain only sells products that they know are quality. Many of their competitors sell anything they think will sell. If you buy from Pleasant Hill Grain, you know you are getting something that is quality.
- Prompt, personal customer service: something that most (maybe all?) of Pleasant Hill Grain’s competitors won’t offer is knowledgeable help. You certainly won’t find that from Amazon. While Amazon has a vast product selection, it’s up to you to find what you need.
- 100% satisfaction guarantee: you have no risk in purchasing. This is on-par with Amazon.
- 5 star Google Customer Reviews: other people love Pleasant Hill Grain.
When we originally launched it, we tested it. Unfortunately, I lost the results of the test, but I believe that this improved conversion rates 5%+ (on the conservative side).
Note that this features a new design / location of the value proposition that will be released soon.
Think about it this way: what if I don’t tell customers my advantages? They will never know. That will put you on a level playing field with your competition. But if you go ahead and take the bold move to ensure every single visitor knows why you are better, provided that resonates with your visitors, you will sell more.
Let’s look at this value proposition:
- Backed by lifetime warranty: ultimately, each of these should link to a page on the website. Lifetime warranties are great, but what are the restrictions of this? However, at face value, this seems to be an advantage that few others proclaim.
- Always on time and with 100% accuracy: when ordering many small parts, this is a great claim. The last thing a customer wants to do is to have to inventory every order just to make sure everything is as ordered.
- No restocking fees, no hassle, and no waiting: nobody likes returns. Because of that, many smaller merchants are notorious for slow-walking returns, or giving customers hassle. If you need evidence, before placing an order at a small merchant, take a look at their Yelp/Google reviews. Returns are the #1 problem that I see.
SUGGESTIONS FOR SPOKEN PROPOSITIONS
One of the last things you want is to take up valuable real estate with meaningless words. A/B test what works. Your website, as it currently is, is “A”. Your updates are “B”. Tools like Google Optimize (free, but very powerful) and Optimizely will help you determine the winner.
This article is more of an overview, but we will be digging into specific experiments in the future.
Avoid using “best” unless you provide evidence of this.
You might have the best products. The best shipping prices. The best whatever. Unless you provide a buying guide with evidence, this is chalked up to marketing and will be discounted.
Ideally, put teeth to your value proposition.
This could cost some money, so you must carefully prepare. The idea here is a guarantee, and we will talk about that in another episode. Guarantees are powerful.
Today, go and create a Google Optimize campaign. If you don’t, see here.
Start with your product pages and place your value proposition just below the header, but above the content, like this:
Where to start with your value proposition.
Implied Value Propositions
While this one isn’t “in your face”, I believe that this could have even more impact than spoken value propositions (I hope to do testing centered around this and create a more definite answer).
Implied value propositions, in my opinion, is how a brand presents itself. This is social media, merchandise packaging, sustainability initiatives, and the often overlooked about page.
We buy from Amazon because we trust them, and less-so have good prices. We buy from Gap because we know they have high-quality clothes. Those of us who don’t have an Amazon Prime membership buy from Walmart because it’s the best alternative.
But, think about the last time you didn’t purchase on Amazon. How did you come to find about that website? Instagram or Pinterest? Maybe a friend? What type of website was it? Did they sell a conglomeration of many products, or might it be designed/manufactured by that brand?
My theory is that we often buy from smaller-than-Amazon merchants because we are supporting people like ourselves. There is a heart connection. There is the realization that we are both in this walk of life, and maybe we have shared interests? If that is the case, as merchants, we should take advantage of this!
THE ABOUT US PAGE.
However, let’s focus on an area that you can take immediate action today: the about us page.
If the about us page is prominent on the website, it is often one of the most clicked pages from the home page. Who is behind this brand?
I’m serious. Check out your Analytics on your website. Or trust me with the research I’ve done. Or, read this article.
- MarlowWhite.com: this is a great about page. They aren’t afraid to put a picture of each of their employees. It’s a bit of a pain for this number of employees, but this has been part of Marlow White’s value proposition from very early on.
- PleasantHillGrain.com: the first page is about the owners. The second about each employee. It gives context and information about each employee.
- Potion Yarns: A native to Kansas City, Johanna creates hand-dyed yarn. Remember, you can purchase cheap dyed yarn almost anywhere. Yet, she has a thriving business. Why? 1) she invests her time in answering questions and 2) she has made this business personal about her—you are buying from Johanna.
- SwiftOtter: I can’t resist putting our about us page up. While there is much more that we can do, the basic point is this: we make no bones about the fact that we aren’t the largest agency in the world.
Do you have an about us page displayed prominently on your website? Is it personal/relatable? Does it have your picture on there? Why not?
“I don’t think people will relate.”
Really? Have you tried it? In the day and age of impersonal shopping, a face/a video can go a long ways. Try it!
“I don’t like how I look.”
I’m sorry, friend. I know what it is like to wish you looked different, weighed less and the list goes on. Please accept yourself as you are. You are a good looking/beautiful person. Accept it, and you might be surprised as to how much changes in your life.
“We are too small, they will see that there are 3 people that work here.”
So, you would rather give a white-lie about your brand? I get the 1-800 number, “we” all over the website, and big words. That gives the impression you are a 100+ person, multi-national company. What will happen to your customer’s trust when they find out you are a 3 person team? “Wait, I thought you were a lot bigger?” You stand to loose much more trust.
What value do you commit to your customers? Competition is stiff online. There’s probably someone else that sells the exact same thing as you. Maybe they can buy it off Amazon? Either way, you must stand apart from the rest. How do you accomplish this? Make sure every visitor knows why you are better.
And, make that something that is compelling. Ask yourself, would this make a difference to you if you were shopping for this product? If not, it might be that some education is necessary. It might be that this isn’t compelling at all.
What is your unspoken value proposition? Are your customers buying from a person that they can relate to? Or are they purchasing from another domain name that claims to offer better prices?
How does your about us page look? Do you realize that this might be the connection your visitors are looking for that might just be the last check in the box to get that sale?