Customer Value: 4 tips for crafting segmented value propositions


Edward vs Jacob Value PropositionWe’ve all heard the saying “someone’s trash is another one’s treasure.” The same holds true to the value your product and/or service offering brings to the world. If different pockets of people like you better for different reasons, how can you create a single, competitive value proposition that addresses all of them?

Austin McCraw and Flint McGlaughlin are researching and writing a book to help you craft effective value propositions. With the topic buzzing through the labs of late, over the past couple of months, I have been surveying various members of the MarketingExperiments optimization research team as well to try discover how they approach this challenge. Here are some key discoveries so far, and I look forward to reading the final book:

1.  Don’t try to immediately craft a single value proposition

Just to be clear, a value proposition is a simple, one- to two-sentence answer to the question “Why should I do business with you instead of one of your competitors?”

Most businesses have multiple channels of traffic. Many times, these channels differ, varying in interests, lifestyles and demographics:

  • Sometimes they can be very targeted (email lists or PPC for example)
  • Other times they are broad and mixed (direct traffic, traditional advertising, etc)

Instead of trying to cram everything for everyone into one statement, see how many different groups of people (channels) you can potentially speak to.

For example, in managing MarketingExperiments Research Partners, I have to speak to executives, developers, designers and analysts. Though we all work on the same project, I cater information to each type of team member with only the portion that is most relevant and appealing to them.

2.   Discover, don’t dictate, what your products/services mean to people

Once you understand that you potentially have multiple groups of people that care about different aspects of your products/services, do a little detective work to try and uncover what aspects are truly relevant and appealing:

  • Survey your current customers (one channel type): figure out what features, benefits, or qualities convince them to stay with you, sign up with you, buy from you, etc.
  • Survey non-customers (another channel type): figure out how they react to your offerings and general industry offerings
  • Read online reviews: see what people are politely saying about you and competition
  • Read forums: get a bottom-line feel of what people love and hate
  • Look at keyword demand: see what specific keyword phrases people are searching for (broad, phrase and exact)
  • Ask your friends and family: get their take on what appears to be most important

3.   Try to isolate what you’ve discovered into specific channels

Based on the detective work you’ve done above, you can also sort your data to discover majority appeal segments, which channels they come from, and how you should speak to them:

  • What are the top appeals/teams for each of my products/services?

Think Team Edward vs. Team Jacob in the Twilight movie/book series. Both groups of people strongly oppose each other but both support the Twilight product series. So, essentially, the Twilight marketers created two additional revenue streams to meet the needs of two major groups of crazed fans.

  • What’s most important to each group? How should I angle my communication?

For Team Edward, it’s probably those who value the sappy spontaneous love and mysterious vampire thing. For team Jacob, it might be those that value consistency, stability and the buff, tan figure.

  • Are you able to isolate those segments to specific channels? Can I find a way or afford to speak to them separately?

How does each group usually find your product/service (and your competition)? Can you reach each major group in places where the others aren’t? If not, what’s the majority segment(s) in each available channel?

4.   Write for the majority appeal segments in each channel

If you’ve been able to identify appeal segments, you can write value proposition statements for each one.

From there you can test how to express it at different points throughout the conversion process:

  • If I want them to open this email, I should write a headline relative to what’s important to them
  • If I want them to submit their information on a landing page, I should offer them something relative to what’s important to them so they feel that the information they give up is worth what they’re getting in return
  • If I want them to come back to my site for more or refer friends, I should follow up with them with service or an offer relative to what’s important to them

In Summary

If you are focusing all your effort on writing a single value proposition for your whole company then you could be limiting your growth potential.

Take a lesson from Twilight (forgive me for the example, I’m not a fan of the series).  Specificity converts, so get specific. Identify your major teams. Get to know them, and discover major teams you’ve never thought of (like team Bella for the poor guys that have to watch this stuff). Chances are there might be a number of different groups you didn’t even consider.

How many different segments of customer’s have you discovered through value proposition exercises and testing? Let us know in the comments…

Related Resources:

Do You Have the Right Value Proposition? How to test, measure, and integrate your Value Proposition online

Value Proposition: How to use social media to help discover why customers buy from you

Value Proposition: How headlines helped lead to a nearly 29% conversion boost

Marketing Optimization: 4 steps to discovering your value proposition and boosting conversions

Photo attribution: fanfreluche_designs

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  1. JRogier says

    I so enjoyed this post, it inspired a post of my own.

    So many marketing departments fail to connect with their prospects, and feel they have the best insight into how to create compelling messages. They churn out websites, ads, direct mail, and other content based on their own assumptions of the value that the product or service delivers. That power & knowledge actually resides with the market itself!

    Thank you for this great reminder, and thanks for the chance to reference it in my post.

    1. Jon Powell says

      Thanks for the feedback! 🙂 And I agree, in my work with many research partners i am seeing that a number of marketing departments have been focusing more of their energy on creating messages that connect with the people signing off on them instead of the people that actually have to respond to them in the midst of their busy lives. Applying this discipline of discovery has helped us to get marketing teams back on track to helping uncover the message that opens the door to an increase in the response we want.

  2. Rachel says

    Great article. I’m stunned by how many clients still focus on the sausage and not the sizzle.

    I still wonder about when to do segmented VPs and when to do an umbrella with different proof points. The risk of the former is that you try to be too any things to too many people. Your thoughts?

    1. Paul Cheney says

      Hey Rachel,

      I always start with the objective of the page or piece of creative I’m working on. It always helps to guide what aspect of the value proposition to focus on.

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