5 advanced tips for designing a best-in-class value proposition
Dr. Heli Holttinen
Nils Fonstad, a research scientist at MIT, has suggested that innovating without a purpose results in products and services that are like “fondue sets—nice to have, but adding little if any value to the organisation.”
Learning what customers want before you sell it to them sounds obvious, but the statistics show that it’s not as common as we’d hope. Not all companies are doing their market research before launching new products into the market.
For example, 80–85 percent of fast-moving consumer goods product launches fail. And according to a 2018 report from Nielsen, “neglecting to address a broad consumer need” is one of the top reasons for those failures. (They also mention the hidden costs of validating a consumer need after the product is already launched.)
Successful innovation is tied to effective (i.e., validated, iterated, and refined) value propositions.
Read on for 5 best practices for designing your next value proposition, straight from design thinking and marketing science.
1) To write a value proposition, you need an insight hypothesis
An insight hypothesis is how you, using the best available evidence, describe your customer’s beliefs, values, and desires. This is also where you identify the challenges that are preventing them from living the life they want.
Here’s an example:
“For health reasons, I want to reduce the amount of alcohol I drink while socializing, but I take pride in my taste in beer, and none of the non-alcoholic options I’ve tried look or taste good enough.”
With this groundwork, it becomes easier to write your second hypothesis: the value proposition. This is how your product or service will help your customer achieve their desires and overcome their challenges:
“Our premium non-alcoholic beer is what beer snobs order when they’re the designated driver. But it’s actually so good they’ll crack another one as a nightcap when they get home.”
2) Crystallize your value proposition as early as possible
Hypothesis-driven concept testing allows teams to think like scientists. Asking questions, interrogating assumptions, and learning fast in order to zero in on the very best possible iteration of an idea.
The earlier you define your value proposition, the sooner you can start improving it.
Of course, both your insight and value proposition hypotheses will evolve and change as you learn more about your target group. This work will pay off, giving your team a common thread across the entire innovation cycle.
3) Write your value proposition like a story
Human beings communicate in stories. Before your product is tangible, you need to describe it in an easy-to-understand way. Both to your potential customers, and your internal team.
Compared to a bullet-point list, for instance, value propositions that are written as stories are more reliable. They’re easier for people to understand, and there’s less room for misunderstanding or unforeseen interpretations.
Likewise, using pictures in your value proposition can enrich a person’s understanding. Mood boards, however, are often too broad and leave too much room for different interpretations, which can invalidate your test’s results.
4) When you test your value proposition, test it separately from your insight hypothesis
If something is off about your value proposition, that doesn’t mean your insight hypothesis is wrong, too. And the same goes the other way around. That is why proper market research is your best friend.
In concept testing, it’s crucial to test these two segments separately with your target group.
This is how you get answers to questions like:
Are our insight hypotheses true for our target group?
Which insight assumptions need to be revisited?
How well is our value proposition performing?
Why is it performing well or poorly?
What are the root causes for how it performed?
How can we improve our value proposition so that it gets our customer’s job done in a way that is clearly superior to existing solutions?
5) Rework your value proposition every time you learn something new
Use market research as your teacher. When you’ve learned something new about your target group through concept testing, you can narrow down on what’s important to them, so that you can give them exactly what they want.
The earlier in the innovation cycle you start testing and validating your value propositions, the faster you can locate the most powerful one.
At Cambri, we’re not interested in more pointless “fondue pot” ideas. We want to help you identify the ideas that will make a difference to your customers, and the world.
Holttinen, H. (2014). Australasian Marketing Journal. “Contextualizing value propositions: Examining how consumers experience value propositions in their practices.”
Melgarejo, R. & Malek, K. (2018). Nielsen. "Setting the record straight on innovation failure."
Ross, J. & Fonstad, N. (2019). Sloan Management Review. "Forget fail fast."