A/B testing is a very popular technique leveraged by digital marketers to convert customers. A tiny change in imagery or copy on a landing page can have significant impact on the types of actions that your customers execute. But, the entrepreneurs and product managers also uses this technique to invalidate or validate experiments on their products and services. It is a very strong approach to make data-backed decisions when creating your value proposition, but at the same time, it is also very easy to get lost in a rabbit hole of A/B tests if you focus on the wrong techniques or conditions.
A genuine value proposition is required for every aspect of your business. And if you already don’t have one, your business is just surviving on pockets of ignorance.
Your value proposition is your company’s reason for existing. And it is also the answer to the fundamental customer question:
Why should I buy from you rather than your customers, if I am your customer?
By truly asking this question of your company from your customer’s perspective, you’ll get to your value proposition eventually- or to the conclusion that you don’t have one.
Value proposition definition pushes you into the first person. And you must get into the minds of your customer. This is how savvy marketers produce results. It is not through becoming a guru of landing pages, email, persuasion, etc., those marketers become great. Marketers become great because they study more about customers. Optimization doesn’t happen on the webpage but happens in the mind, and hence, you must try your best to get into the mind of your ideal prospect when considering your value proposition.
Four other critical factors to remember when understanding the nature of a value proposition:
- Marketers must try to refine their business’s value proposition until it can be articulated in a single, instantly credible sentence. The more concise, the more effective
- A value proposition is not typically dictated, it is typically discovered. It grows out of the needs of a market.
- In the end, you must test your value proposition to evaluate its effectiveness accurately.
- We must avoid a sales-driven approach to product development. A value proposition enables you to develop products for a real market.
The reality is most of the people doing business in a fair way have a value proposition.
We can now go through a 7-step process for testing your value proposition in a digital environment. This is the same 7-step experimentation process that we use when testing value proposition with research partners, it has been patterned after several years of value proposition research.
#1: Reviewing Data
In this step, you are seeking to create context. As described above, a value prediction is predicated upon external factors like competitive offers, customer motivations, etc. So it must be created within the context of these factors. There is four data point that our team uses to develop this context.
- Previous campaigns – What campaigns have been successful in the past? Which ones have not? This doesn’t necessarily have to be online campaigns. Anything that can provide insight into your customer’s motivation is an acceptable data point. If you don’t already, keep a thorough record of every campaign and test conducted for review and analysis.
- Industry and demographic data – Aside from unique data about your customers, what can you discover about your industry? What are the general trends? What about your customers? According to the B2B Lead Generation Chart: Business versus personal email addresses in lead forms, 58 percent of millennial have opened a separate email account for brand communications. So if your product is an email service, you might want to make the ability to quickly toggle between multiple email accounts an element of your value proposition, and test in the marketplace to see how forceful that element is of the value prop.
- Current metrics – What can your current metrics tell you about your website visitors? What landing pages, email messages, products, etc., are generating the most response? Where are your visitors coming from? Where are they clicking? Often this kind of data can give you insights into the motivations of your customers?
- Competitive analysis – What do your competitors have that you don’t? What makes you different? What claims are they making? How do you compare? Before conducting any test, researchers at MECLABS conduct a “Summary Competitive Analysis” in which three to five of the closest competitors are reviewed. You must understand how you stack up against your competitors.
These four pieces form the background for the next step in testing a value proposition.
#2: Identifying the Ideal Customer
A strong value proposition not only indicates who the company cannot serve but also whom the company can serve well. And if you don’t focus four value propositions around an ideal customer profile, you risk damaging your value proposition so much that it doesn’t actually serve anyone.
Step 1 of this process should easily offer you an indication of who that ideal prospect is. Meanwhile, when you create your value proposition, it should be with that ideal prospect and only that ideal prospect in mind.
When finding your ideal prospect for your company, you might feel that you have multiple ideal prospects. And the more complex the company, the truer this is.
Although, the ideal prospect in your organization’s primary value proposition is most probably an amalgamation of some kind. When you get deeper into launch, you should definitely consider how prospect-level value propositions (Why should [Prospect A, Prospect B, Prospect C, etc.] buy from you rather than any of your competitors?) can be easily derived from the primary value proposition in specific instances.
Now, let’s take a specific example, a re-activation email campaign. Matt Hickman of Yes Lifecycle Marketing suggests that you don’t treat all inactive the same. Instead, He recommends that you should analyze subscriber segments, and then execute A/B tests for each segment to find what works best for these different types of prospects. In simple words, each of these segments is a unique prospect type that needs a forceful value proposition, and the value proposition for one prospect type may be very different from others, and certainly different from people that are not your ideal customer at all.
#3: Identifying Value Categories
Let us illustrate what we mean with a case study:
CASE STUDY: PPC Value Categories for Major North American Bank
In this case study, one of the banks in North America developed a test to establish which aspect of their small business banking product would be most appealing to its visitors. It wasn’t that their marketing team cannot find a value proposition; it was that they could not make a decision about which aspect of their offer would be most valuable to their potential customer.
- Was it a feature?
- Was it a low price?
- Was it customer service?
And the only way to know for sure was to test.
The list of entire possible aspect went on, and each of these aspects was converted into a category to test in a search engine ad campaign. Finally, the successfully prioritized seven categories to run test:
CATEGORY #1: Support
- Expert support available 24/7
CATEGORY #2: Ease
- Ease of access to funds at ATMs
CATEGORY #3: Savings
- The estimated amount of savings
CATEGORY #4: Simplicity
- Reduced work due to payroll services, overdraft protection, and tax filings
CATEGORY #5: Product Design
- Uniquely designed for small businesses that need to give their employees access to accounts
CATEGORY #6: Price
- Low price of monthly fees
CATEGORY #7: Growth
- Potential for growth with credit lines and overdraft protection
#4: Testing the Value Proposition in the Channel
Once all the categories were identified, the researchers then started to carefully create succinct expressions of those points of value within the 130-character limit at that time of a pay-per-click
(PPC) ad. There are several reasons, why we started testing in channels- specifically PPC- prior to moving on to test the presentation of a value proposition on a website. But just for now, it should satisfy to see some of the ads tested. The Research Partner for this experiment has been anonymized. [Name] actually displayed as its brand name in the ads).
Overall, all these PPC ads were executed to help identify the value categories that clearly stood out from the rest in achieving user response. In this scenario, the entire team was able to shortlist the value categories from seven to four, with the winners highlighted above.
Why PPC Is an Excellent Place to Begin Testing Your Value Proposition
PPC is one of the best places to start testing as the price us usually low and the traffic levels are usually higher. For example, you will most likely have many more PPC impressions than product impression in your conversion process. Hence, when testing five or more than five treatments of the value proposition, channels enable to get significant statistical results with much less investment.
It is as if the paid search marketing was developed for testing of the Value Propositions for three unique reasons:
- Succinctness is forced – Next, due to the constraints on the number of characters per line, marketers are forced to tightly craft their statements of value. Remember, as mentioned above, the most effective Value Propositions are the ones that can be stated succinctly. PPC ads force you to do this.
- Value is isolated – First, in a PPC ad, you are primarily testing statements of value. Friction is not an issue you can control, nor are there significant sources of an Anxiety at this stage in the process. At the bottom of it all, it’s how you craft a statement of value that determines the effectiveness of a PPC ad.
- Competition is present – And finally, with PPC, your competition is always a few pixels away, meaning that when running a campaign, you are directly testing your claims of value against your competitors’. Why should your ideal prospect buy from you rather than your competitors? Well, PPC enables your customers to vote directly.
Now, the next set of testing was focused on integrating the value proposition into the offer pages themselves.
This enabled the team to completely express a value proposition to the prospects. Essentially, the “presentation” is your most strong communication of the value proposition, so the results should be representative of what your visitors find most appealing.
Since you are designing your value proposition treatments for this set of testing, keep in your mind the four elements of force: Exclusivity, Credibility, Appeal, and Clarity.
When executing the test within the channel, you want to clean your expression of each value proposition category with much force as possible.
CASE STUDY: PPC Value Categories for Major North American Bank
As you can clearly see in the example on the next page, the layout and design stayed the same, with the only change being the specific messaging of the offer. Treatment #1 added the benefits of savings and price. Meanwhile, Treatment #2 added the benefits of simplicity and support.
The final conclusion was that the value proposition emphasizing simplicity and support carried the most appeal in the mind of the visitor, achieving 10% increased conversion rate than the saving and price point of value. This is not to say that the other points of value were not important to the visitor, only that simplicity and support were the most important in their assessment of the offer’s value.
#6: Analyzing Results
The next step is to interpret the insights applicable to your live marketing campaigns and analyze results. Primarily, you will be finding the most effective expression of value and then integrating throughout your entire conversion processes. While you can be sure that the best performing value proposition can be launched across your online marketing campaigns, you must remember that the appeal of your value proposition will change with time.
This is why it is critical that you record the insight understood from the results of the testing and start planning for future testing. When the market evolves and your competitors change, you will want to sometime re-evaluate your value proposition.
At the completion of all testing, the team was able to find the key focal point that would receive the highest response from the visitor. And out of all the different value propositions possibilities, one among them outperformed every other: The small business benefit of simplifying banking. The below statement became the “Kernel” for all online marketing initiatives.
Value Proposition Focus:
“The [Name] Small Business Account simplifies small business banking by providing all the tools and resources you need for success.”
- Designed exclusively to meet the needs of small business
- 24/7 phone access to our dedicated small business advisors
On the other hand, the team that supported this value proposition including evidential- fact-based smaller statements that back up the claims in the value proposition. Meanwhile, this test also helped the researchers find the highest effective quantifiable/specific facts that brought credibility to the key value proposition statement.
In this scenario, a value proposition is not something that you dictate. Instead, it is something that you find. Irrespective of how intuitive your marketing senses are, or how many other teammates agree with you, a value proposition cannot be entirely a declaration of marketing. And in the end, it must be tested.
#7: Expressing Your Value Proposition across Digital Properties
Now that we have covered the entire step-by-step process if finding your optimal value proposition, where to next? What do we do once we have found the optimal value proposition for an offer?
We take it and use it to optimize our marketing across the customer lifecycle and funnel.
This process will take several forms and shapes based on the elements available on your web pages. Although, the research suggests that there are three common marketing elements that integrate a value proposition into a conversion process most effectively:
- Supporting stories
- Illustrative images
One by one, we will look at examples of these.
It is the first out of the three elements of evidential. . Essentially, these are codified text bytes that support the claim of value. They are quite evidential, giving support for the claims of value that you are making on your web pages.
Once you have found your core value proposition, you will want to find a minimum of three key evidential that can be used in your copy. As shown below, these normally take the form of bullet points and then include quantifiable and specific language supporting the value. And all the examples below have been used from very successful experiments where evidential were leveraged to integrate the value on a web page.
These evidential do not only have to about your product having had evidential about your customers as well as that can that illustrate your value proposition. Example, in an email marketing campaign with Yes Lifecycle Marketing, Marriott International utilized evidential about Marriott Reward member program usage to express the program’s value proposition.
The story is the next element that y should be used to integrate your value proposition online. The goal here is to find supporting stories that clearly substantiate the claims of value. The value proposition is best expressed and most underutilized in the form of a story. So, once you have found what aspect of your offer is most valuable to your audience, start to communicate to your audience how that aspect came about through the story of your company. If you offer unique beers on a monthly basis, then talk about how you came to appreciate unique beers and/or how you go about selecting them. If you are raising money to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, then tell the story of why. Stories create trust, builds the brand, and most importantly, they are highly engaging.
Images are the third element that can be used to integrate value proposition online. The objective here is to identify meaningful graphics that clearly illustrate the claim of a value proposition. Usually, the graphics marketers choose brochure fodder and have little to no connection to the value proposition. Although, once you have found the value category that is most appealing to your ideal prospect, then you must find or create images that bring relevance and reality to this value.
Example, let’s say your value is a 32-volume set of encyclopedias that you can easily get access to online, then don’t just show an image of a boy smiling in front of a computer. What does this mean? Instead, use an image that clearly shows 32 volumes you are getting access to via the computer. This is just one example from many heavy-lifting images.
There are several other ways to integrate your value proposition online, as well as in reality, every element of your web page should be supporting or stating your value proposition in some way.
Although, these three evidential supporting stories and illustrative images are the most effective ways to integrate your value proposition online.
The Bottom Line
The most fundamental aspect of your digital marketing efforts is the value proposition, and hence must be created on something stronger than gut feeling or internal company polls. Further, marketers cannot dictate what can only be discovered. Finally, the customer determines the value proposition, not the marketer.
Finding a value proposition is one of the top strategic steps a marketer can take in online marketing. AS described in the details above, finding a value proposition can be achieved in seven steps:
- STEP 1: Reviewing Data
- STEP 2: Identifying the Ideal Customer
- STEP 3: Identifying Value Categories
- STEP 4: Testing the Value Proposition in the Channel
- STEP 5: Validating the Value Proposition in the Offer Pages
- STEP 6: Analyzing Results
- STEP 7: Expressing Your Value Proposition across Your Digital Properties
In conclusion, the process of discovering value proposition might seem like an extra new step that you don’t have time for, but it can be done relatively in less time with the process outlined in this article. Further, when you actually realize how much time marketers waste swinging the dull blade of an unappealing value proposition, you will find it worthwhile to spend the extra hour doing a little sharpening.