Day 1 Curriculum
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Value Props

What you’ll learn

  • How to identify the value props for your product/service.
  • How to turn those value props into the foundation of your ad copy.

Why is it important?

The most compelling copy on the planet does you no good if you're not conveying your value props.
Copy is a fancy way of saying the text that shows up in your ads, on your website, and in your marketing materials. “Value props” is short for “Value propositions."
You’re proposing to someone the ways they’ll “get value” from your product.
Without clearly identified value props, you risk attracting the wrong customers and delivering the wrong message.

Overview

Before you sit down to write copy, you need to know what to focus your copy on. This is where value props come into play.
From now on, you can think about value props as copy ideas. Whenever you’re stuck for copy ideas, revisit your value props.
Your first step to creating effective social ads and landing pages is to identify value props: What does your product do to improve the lives of your target audience?

Developing value props

Step 1

To identify your product or service value props, first create a 3-column chart.
Here’s the process:
  1. 1.
    List all the bad (non-desirable) alternative solutions people resort to when they don't have you. And describe what makes each one bad. For example, if they don't have your fast car, they have to get to work in a slow car. What makes that bad is how much more time you waste in traffic.
  2. 2.
    With each bad alternative, write one value prop that highlights how your product offers a better solution to improve on that bad alternative. For example, your fast car gets you to work quickly.
  3. 3.
    Finally, list a lucrative customer persona in a third column: identify the persona that cares most about this particular value prop. And bullet point the top two reasons why they care about it.
Here’s an example of value props for a fantasy football (soccer) app:
Bad alternatives
Value props
Top personas
Other fantasy leagues make you build 11-man teams.
  • They take too long to set up.
Faster betting Make bets faster by building smaller (5-man) teams.
Casual fantasy sports players.
  • Want to make more bets faster.
  • Looking for better gambling experience.
Join a fantasy league where thousands compete against each other.
  • You don’t have much of a chance to win, because you’re competing with too many people.
Increased odds Join a fantasy league where you compete against 12 or fewer people every time. Increase your chances of taking home money.
New fantasy sports players.
  • Not interested in trying to compete against ‘sharks’ who always win.
Join a league that has salary cap restrictions.
  • Meaning you can’t afford to get all the players you really want for your team.
No earnings cap Join a fantasy league that doesn’t have any budgets. So you can build a dream team of every play you want.
Experienced fantasy sports players.
  • Tired of not winning because their team isn’t good enough.
Create and manage your team from your desktop computer.
  • It’s a hassle to log in and change your lineup.
  • So you lose interest fast, because of how inconvenient that is.
Mobile app Create and manage your team, and deposit/withdraw money, right from your phone. Making it easy to stay engaged with your team.
Familiar with, or new to, fantasy sports. (Both.)
  • Wants to join a league for fun, but hasn’t yet because they think it’s inconvenient.
(You can use a tool like Google Sheets for your chart.)
You may walk away with a bunch of value props at first. This is good. It’s always easier to subtract than to add. Once you feel you’ve exhausted your options, you’ll want to reduce your list of value props in column two to those that are most appealing to your top personas.
The leftover value props will be the focus of your ads.
Ideally, you'll walk away with at least five value props to build ad copy from.

Step 2

Identify the problems your value props solve

Now that you've identified your value props, it's time to refine them so that they serve as a foundation for your ad copy. To do this for our clients, we use a spreadsheet to flesh them out:
Here’s a link to an example that you can copy. We’ll use some of the copy from this spreadsheet directly in your ad copy.
First, it’s important to remember that you want to use the language your audience would use. This is where customer surveys become invaluable.
Second, skip the marketing jargon and industry jargon (exception: if you’re in a super-niche market, it’s sometimes OK to use industry jargon).
When you fill out this spreadsheet, do it as though you were speaking directly to your audience.
Begin by listing out the value props you’ve identified in the left-hand column. Then, fill out the following columns:

Problem

Get super specific about the moment your target audience has urgently experienced the problem. This should be written in past tense.
This is especially important if you're a B2B product.
Most often, the problem involves wasting substantial time or money.
Some examples:
  • Your company just lost a lot of money
  • A key employee just quit
  • A relationship just got ruined
If you're B2C, you might be a "vitamin" instead of a "painkiller". This means there might not be a burning problem to solve. That's OK. Focus on the solution and benefits section more.
At Demand Curve, we’ll sometimes get on the phone and talk to each other as if we were a member of our target audience. We interview each other to flesh out the pain and urgency we feel.

Implications

Drill into the bad things that happen if someone hits that problem.
What happens after the key employee quits? What can't you do because you're wasting tons of time? Does your company risk going out of business? Do you fear for your job? Do spouses threaten to leave?
We call this "twisting the knife". Once you've found an entry point with the problem, drill into that pain more and more.
As you write out the implications of the problem, find the specific person whose butt is on the line when things fail. Get super specific, down to the job title. They should be losing massive amounts of money, time, or reputation.
Examples:
  • If your company loses a lot of money, people are going to get fired. Which means your job as the VP of Finance is at stake.
  • If your key employee quits, it's going to take months to retrain a new hire. And that costs $80,000.
  • If you're wasting 20 hours a week on meaningless tasks, you can't ship as quickly. Which means that, as the CEO, you're going to miss investor goals and lose funding.
Solution
How your product solves the problem.
Examples:
  • Ruby Plants uses machine learning to grow plants
  • Our feedback tool keeps track of employees who are flight risks
  • Sentry integrates with every type of codebase
Benefits
Flip the implications of the problem around and talk about the great things that naturally come from the solution.
  • Growing plants with machine-learning makes them five times cheaper. So you save money.
  • Keep employees around. Saving you months of time hiring and training.
  • When every codebase can integrate, you don't write any custom code. So you have time to push new features.

Don'ts / Common Pitfalls

Implications that aren't tied to the problem.
For example, if your customer's problem is "you just missed your taxi", an implication is not "you always miss your taxis." That's a separate problem and value prop.
An implication would be "you missed an important sales meeting" — which missing your taxi directly caused.
Avoid industry-wide trends
Don't use language like "there's a gap in the market for insect-based snacks" or "AI hasn't reached farming yet". That's not a specific problem that your customer faces.
Instead, talk about your customer. For example, "you just had an allergic reaction to gluten" or "you have thousands of workers manually checking your chicken eggs."