Don’t Ever Forget About The Value Proposition
This article was written by Silvana Churruca between 2011-2014. Silvana is a UX Designer & Researcher with a strong multidisciplinary background. She started with Graphic Design, Arts and Communications, and later specialized in Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media, Product and Project Design Management and Communication Design Theory. Follow Silvana on her LinkedIn.
Successful companies and startups have something in common that often big companies forget: a clear value proposition.
A value proposition is not just about creating a “sticky” slogan to use in your web header and corporate design. A well-thought value proposition would help you to keep the focus in the important things, especially in the key moments when you are doing a release planning or designing a launch strategy.
Often I ask myself how a company can survive without one? But sadly, it is quite common to jump straight to adding functionalities and forget about how exactly are we offering value to our users... especially when a strong brand recognition allows you to do it.
In my previous post about the 10 pillars for a Successful eCommerce experience, I have included communicating the Value Proposition as a key point during the user’s First Impression. As Ash Maurya says, “first-time visitors spend 8 seconds on average on a landing page. Your UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is their first interaction with your product – craft a good UVP and they might stay (…)”
Next, I will describe briefly what a UVP is and how having a good one will help you to create better and successful products.
1. What Is a Value Proposition?
The UVP is essentially a promise of value we make to our customers, where this value mainly means benefits. Therefore UVP is customer centric, and at the same time is a key part of a business strategy.
“Unique Value Proposition: A single, clear compelling message that states why you are different and worth buying.” (Steve Blank in The Four Steps to the Epiphany)
Must-have conditions for a UVP
A UVP Must answer these 4 questions…
- What need are you satisfying? What problem are you fixing?
- What’s your solution?
- What makes you stand out as a product or business?
- To whom are you selling?
A UVP must be concise, unique and relevant…
- Concise: memorable and easy to understand.
- Unique: must be a value that differentiates you from your competitors, where your product-solution is one of a kind. Focus on benefit rather than features.
- Relevant: finally, that ‘unique’ element; that thing which must be relevant for your target audience.
2. How UVP can drive your Product Design?
A clear and thought out UVP is like a candle in the dark- a signal in the forest that will help you to take decisions in those moments when you inevitably have to start “cutting,” because the deadline is to close or because resources are exhausted.
Let’s look at a couple examples. Let's imagine we are planing Pinterest's or Twitter's first release.
These are their Value Propositions:
Twitter VP: Start a conversation*, explore your interests*, and be in the know.
Pinterest: Join Pinterest to find* (and save*!) all the things* that inspire you.
Now analyze them following the guideline we saw earlier about UVP….
Twitter VP: [Start a conversation]+[ explore your interests] > [be in the know]
Pinterest VP: [Join Pinterest to find] + [and save!] all the things that [inspire you]
As you can see, it is very curious that both Twitter and Pinterest follow exactly the same structure for presenting their VP to customers. Green sentences correspond to “actions” (tasks) and red ones correspond to the ultimate “benefit” - the emotional goal a person is pursuing.
It is a clear relationship between the Unique Value Proposition (UVP) and the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Under the lean product development paradigm, the MVP is the key to start an iterative process that allows you to test your product -therefore your value proposition too- among those early adopters to which you aim.
What should be part of the MVP and what we can leave out of the 1st release?
We should ask ourselves, guided by the UVP, what features and functionalities would be essential and sufficient to demonstrate our VP to the early adopters of our product.
For example, in the case of Pinterest, from all functionalities and features, I would say those checked below would be good enough to prove the VP to users:
Pinterest: seek content by keyword, seek content by category, like content, create boards, pin (save) content, share content, follow other users, follow boards, and edit boards.
With these minimal functionalities, new users will experience Pinterest's VP: “find and save things that inspire you.” It is a UVP we've seen before which comes from a clear understanding of user problems. The features and functionalities included in that first release must be powerful enough to activate users, meaning to put users on board, and from developing the point of view required with the minimum effort possible.
If you are familiar with the Value Proposition Canvas, you will see that UVP comes directly from the identification of users' Customer Job(s), pointing out the most relevant Gains and solving the Key Pains.
Thinking on Pinterest again, I imagine that this quote could represent the major users jobs, pains and gains, that define the problem/need: “The Internet is full of beautiful things, but I never can find again something that I liked, or I can never find it when I need it. I would love to have found everything in the same place.”
Features included in the MVP should also be those we include in the design of our product's “first session,” as an activation strategy. Going back to the case of Pinterest, included there is “seek content,” “pin it,” and “create board” in their first experience. If you are looking for other great examples of “onboarding experiences,” check Samuel Hulick's amazing blog useronboard.com.
3.Last but not less important- Keep your UVP up to date.
The Airbnb example
As I've said before, UVP is part of a business strategy, and as such should always be linked to it. The case of airbnb is a good example of how a UVP is updated and aligned according strategic changes.
Airbnb is shifting from the rental business to the travel business. Airbnb began as an accommodation solution and rental business… and now is pivoting to the travel business, where it is no longer offering “a pay to stay” but a whole new travel experience, where you will feel “at home.”
At the same time, of course, a focus in building a community around a clear concept – the Bélo -, will help them to rise to the top of the increasing number of competitors.
Airbnb's new UVP is clearly oriented to the travel experience, leaving the rental concept in the background:
“they ended up with something more than just an airbed at a slightly messy apartment. They learned our favorite places to grab coffee, eat the best tacos in the city, and had friends to hang out with whenever they wanted”
“Find a place to stay. Rent from people in over 34,000 cities and 190 countries”
“Welcome home. Rent unique places to stay from local hosts in 190 countries”
“Welcome home = Belong Anywhere”
This new value proposition is equally reflected in the “living” images that illustrate their homepage…interiors are personal and intimate, and a variety of outdoor images illustrate a city - lived like a resident; quietly reading in a cafe, or sitting in the park.
How start to build a Value Proposition?
I will not go deeply in this, because there is a lot better literature on the subject (check “keep learning”) but some key points are:
- Identify and define perfectly the problem you are addressing
- Define a solution that is both fulfilling and unique
- Identify your target group, and among them the early adopters, because this one is the initial segment for whom you have to:
- Define how are you going to measure success (Key Metrics)
Apply some template like The Elevator Pitch Format. Tor Gronsund, makes a great sum up of 10 different templates
For (the target customer), who has (the customer need), (product name) is a (market category) that (one key benefit), is unlike (competition), the product's (unique differentiator)
KEEP LEARNING ABOUT UVP AND MVP:
REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED READING
About Value Proposition:
Disambiguity: Design starts with proposition ergo Usability
by Lara Reichelt
We Love Lean: Creating a Value Proposition
by Laurence McCahill
Forbes: 4 Steps To Building A Compelling Value Proposition
By Michael Skok
Help Scout: The Art of Creating a Magnetic Value Proposition
By Elizabeth Wellington
THE VALUE PROPOSITION DESIGN
About activating users.