Starting a business is a daunting and challenging task. In the world of tech and SaaS, developing your product or platform can take months or years – and it never quite ends! Many startups fall into the trap of then skipping over some important marketing strategy tasks once the product is ready to ship.
In that excitement and frenzy of thinking, ‘Yes, we now have something to launch’, it’s all too easy to forget that you can’t just put it out there and the customers will come flocking. You need to do a bit more additional groundwork to give your product the best chance of success.
Firstly, you need to have a clear idea of what you offer, how you will deliver it and why your customers should choose you. This is where a startup value proposition comes in.
A startup value proposition is the statement that explains how your product, platform or service uniquely solves a customer’s problem and what value or outcome it then delivers to that customer.
A startup value proposition should be concise, compelling and memorable. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page with what and how you communicate as a business because, don’t forget, repetition of your value proposition and brand messaging in those first months and years is critical for getting traction!
Your value proposition doesn’t have to be set in stone – in fact, it will more than likely change in your first few years as a startup. That’s why a rapid and flexible process for creating one is important. The good news is that creating a startup value proposition doesn’t have to take weeks or months, it can be done much more efficiently in just a few days.
The steps to creating a startup value proposition
Creating your startup value proposition is actually a pretty simple process.
To begin with, you should identify your target customer and understand their needs and wants. The best way to do this is to go back to why you thought of building your product or service in the first place:
- What inspired you to build?
- Who did you talk with to validate the idea?
- What did they say about the idea?
- How did they describe their frustrations and pains at the time?
Next, you need to determine how your product or service can fix these issues and provide a solution.
- What is unique about it?
- Does it provide a solution more quickly or more cost-effectively than others?
- Why will customers love your solution?
Now you have the building blocks to craft your value proposition!
It should be short and to the point, but also explain why your product or service is the best solution for their problem.
3 top tips to create your startup value proposition
1) Keep it simple
There’s an old maxim called ‘KISS’ – Keep It Simple, Stupid. And it still works today for many marketing activities, especially creating your startup value proposition.
Now this sounds a lot easier than it actually is. So here are a couple more tips for keeping it simple:
- Speak in everyday language. Think of how you would describe your product or service to a friend down the pub or in a coffee shop. Don’t add flowery language or corporate buzzwords, and don’t go to techie trying to sound clever! Just keep it simple and plain as this language will work so much better with your customers – they’ll literally say to themselves, ‘yes, that’s exactly what I need, just that’.
- Include keywords from your customers. Bring in words and phrases that your customers actually use. These often tend to be short and to the point so they work really well in a value proposition. Many of them will recognise this language and so your product or service will resonate much more strongly with their pains and needs.
2) Mention the features
Yes, you are allowed to mention the features of your product or service! Of course you should – you’ve ploughed so much time and energy into developing your offering that it makes sense to shout about it. What’s more, you need to prove WHY your solution is the best.
BUT… the key here is to keep it brief, and to connect these features with the value (or the outcomes and benefits) that you’re delivering to the customer.
The first sentence we’ll mark as the tagline. If we look at the second sentence, then we can see that first, it explains the value you’ll get (bold, clear, mistake-free writing). And then it quickly covers the features (AI, desktop, app).
Here again, the statement connects the value with the features succinctly. The features are ‘automations’ and ‘recommendations’ – the value these bring cover firstly, more opens, clicks and sales, and secondly, more revenue. And they manage to slip in a nice bit of social proof too with the #1 brand mention!
Here’s the magic of the two examples above – they keep the value and the features very tightly linked. Just one short sentence covers both in an efficient way that quickly answers the customer questions of – what does it do? And how does it do it?
If you’re struggling with boiling down all of your features, then here’s a quick tip. List out all the features or functionalities of your product or service. Then group them all into 3 buckets. In doing this, you’ll start to see the commonalities in each bucket and this will make it easier to describe each bucket as one whole thing.
Here’s an example from an AI company I’ve recently worked with:
- Intelligent tech
- Personalised ratings
- Risk factors
- Single dashboard
COMMON = Insights
- Huge datasets
- Scalable data analysis
- Greater accuracy and quality of data
- Verified datasets
COMMON = Data
- Interactive wizard tool
- Interactive dashboard
- Ability to test
COMMON = Interactivity
The resulting value proposition was then able to include Insights, Data and Interactivity as the features that delivered against the value.
3) Challenge your USP
The market for new products, platforms and services is becoming more and more crowded. Standing out in that crowd is becoming more and more difficult.
To give yourself the best chance of standing out and engaging with your customers, you really need to challenge yourself on what your USP is. What is the one thing that’s different about your tech and how it benefits the customer?
Peep Laja, CEO of Wynter and 3x Founder, calls it ‘your one big idea’:
The good news is that if you’ve done the work above on what your customer pain points are and where your 3 main feature buckets lie, you should be able to take a bird’s eye view on all of this to establish your one big idea. And don’t worry, that one big idea doesn’t have to be one word – it can be a few!
With the AI company I mentioned above, the single big idea turned out to be ‘reducing uncertainty and risk’. What was nice with this was that it also ticked the box of delivering value to the customer. And how did it do this? Through Insights, Data and Interactivity, i.e. the 3 feature buckets.
Creating a startup value proposition should be an essential part of launching a successful business. All too often, however, it’s skipped over in the race to launch. Startups then find a few months down the line that:
- Their message isn’t landing.
- The tech does so much but the messaging doesn’t simplify it down enough.
- They know what they want to say, just not how to say it.
If you find yourself faced with these challenges, then taking a quick step back to develop a memorable startup value proposition will do wonders.