6 B2B SMB problems and how to fix them - no. 4 - Unclear value prop

misty

Continuing our series of blog posts on the six major problems of B2B SMBs that we at Usher & Spur have identified, we look at "People don't know what we do". We get this a lot. And it's a simple one to fix. Because, if people don't understand what it is that you're trying to sell them, you're not telling them in the right way. Read on to find out how to fix this.

Most of the companies that tell us "people don't know what we do" are tech companies. Not all, but most. As we've discussed before, tech companies tend to be highly product-focused. Their products are the fruit of often-brilliant minds, based on concepts that come naturally to those involved in their development. But these concepts are mystifying to users, who just want to get the job done.

It's sad to see, because many of these companies have really found a different way to do something, a way that's more efficient and creates a genuine wow effect when users get a chance to try it. But, as this rather direct blog post points out, "the product is not the value proposition". When companies are focused on their product, they "fail to [...] translate the features of the product/service into messages that are relevant to the potential buyers in their specific position in the buying cycle (instead they just hammer out company and product centric propaganda)."

Why should a customer buy your product/service?

That's the question a value proposition should answer. It's the question we often lead with. And we get responses like "because it's got this bell and this whistle" and "because it's good", or even "because we do it better than the competition". All of this may be true, but let's investigate these three statements from the customer's point of view.

It's got this bell and this whistle

We love to see an engineer's eyes light up as they start to talk about all the things their technical product does, and the efficient way it does them. Unfortunately, your customer can't see their eyes, and they're only interested in how the bell rings or the whistle toots insofar as they can understand what the bell rings for and why they need a toot.

We found an article for you at the end of last year that covers the basics of benefits-oriented language by comparison to features. Just so we're clear, we're talking "never miss notifications again" contrasted with "our bell rings when you have notifications". The simple rule when thinking benefits is: Don't let the potential customer have to work it out for themselves. If they have to ask, "why is that useful?", you're not there yet.

It's good

As we said at the end of the above-mentioned post, at Usher & Spur, we go a step further to help customers understand. When you say "good", what does it mean? For your customer, it means it solves their problem. Do you know what your customer's problem is? What keeps her awake at night? What his biggest pain point is? Does your product or service kill that pain and cure that insomnia?

The best way to know what customer pains you're solving is to ask your customers. A survey or request for feedback by email or post-sales call will give you a wealth of information about why your customer subscribed to your service. You might however want to wait until they've been using it for a while because, with use, customers often find completely different benefits in addition to the ones they expected.

Not all benefits are equal though. Some are nice-to-haves. The ones you're interested in are must-haves. We previously offered you two articles we love about distinguishing customer pains. Here's another tip that can come in useful if you don't yet have any customers: your competitors may already have figured it out. Even if they haven't, they've at least given it some thought, and your critical eye on what they're saying can set you on the right path.

Don't forget: in B2B, a "customer" can be a committee of up to 7 people! They may all have different concerns and pain points.

We're better than the competition

Great! So prove it. Can you show what sets you apart? The first post in this series of 6 problems walks you through how to differentiate your company, your product, your brand. We cannot stress enough how important this is, and one of the obstacles to progress we come across very often is the all-too-human need to fit in.

This translates by businesses wanting to say the same thing as everyone else who does something similar to what they do. Sometimes, they justify it by saying that customers are looking for these keywords. You may be right there, and once we've confirmed that is indeed the case, we can certainly include those keywords in copy on your website, so your prospective customer's search will bring them to you.

When they get there though, you have very little time to get your point across. According to UX experts the Nielsen Norman Group, "Users often leave Web pages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people's attention for much longer. To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds." (Bolding is ours.)

What makes a clear value proposition?

This article on Forbes, from an entrepreneur turned venture capitalist explains in quite a lot of detail how to get to your value proposition. It defines it as, "In its simplest terms, a value proposition is a positioning statement that explains what benefit you provide for who and how you do it uniquely well. It describes your target buyer, the problem you solve, and why you’re distinctly better than the alternatives." (Bolding theirs.)

At Usher & Spur, we disagree that it's a positioning statement. A positioning statement (which we agree is as described above) is the departure point for creating everything else, and we mention it here because if you don't yourself know what you do, how can you expect other people to? A positioning statement could stand in for a value prop, if you only have one target segment and one offering, because it evokes the value your target will find in your product or service. If you have more than one target or more than one product, you should have as many value props.

This great infographic from Quicksprout shows how to write a value proposition. It uses "positioning statement" in a slightly different way here (we call the example given a "descriptive company tagline/slogan"), but don't let yourself get confused by it. It gives a very simple way of creating value props that can get you started.

And best of all, it gives some clear examples of good value propositions. This blog post from Conversion Sciences gives more examples and goes into a lot of detail in an extremely clear way, thanks to the neat structure of each example. As their name indicates, this company aims to improve conversion, so the value proposition is discussed as more than a collection of words that do that job. Its graphic context, including images, calls-to-action, proximity to CTA buttons, even position, are all discussed in what is quite a long post, but one we find enjoyable to read because of its clarity.

A clear value proposition, then, states the value the target audience will find in the offering. One of our personal favourites is that of marketing automation platform Hubspot's blog: Where Marketers Go to Grow. That's for the marketers. For sales people, they offer: Read. Learn. Sell. As easy as 1, 2, 3.

We realise crafting a value proposition, especially if you don't have a positioning statement, can seem daunting. That's why we're here to help you accomplish both those steps. Contact Usher & Spur.

Look out for the next two B2B SMB problems in the coming weeks. Subscribe below.

Find this useful? Let us know below and share with your friends and colleagues.