Struggling to decide what you should write on your home page?
Striving to whittle a headline? And bullet points?
Composing an online value proposition probably is the hardest part of creating website copy.
Your online value proposition explains what you offer to your customers – usually in a headline, subheading, and a few bullet points or introductory sentences.
The wrong value proposition may chase away potential customers; and when they click back instead of reading on, you’ve probably lost them forever.
How can you ensure your value proposition wins you customers rather than turning them off?
Let’s have a look.
How Web Visitors View Your Home Page
Web visitors don’t look at your home page the same way you do.
They barely glance at your home page before making a snap decision as to whether they’re in the right place or not.
We’re thinking “great literature” (or at least “product brochure”), while the user’s reality is much closer to “billboard going by at 60 miles an hour.” ~ Steve Krug
When web visitors arrive on your website for the first time, they see your value proposition:
- Your headline and possibly a subheading
- A few bullet points or introductory sentences
- An image
Your value proposition is a conversation starter. It should entice a scanner to start reading your copy.
What Makes a Value Proposition Compelling?
Your value proposition must give people a strong sense that you may offer what they need. You should assume that potential customers will not make an effort to understand what you’re about, so you need to be quick at getting your most important points across.
A value proposition is compelling when it encourages your target audience to read further to learn more about you. Your value proposition needs to be:
- Credible: You boost your credibility by being specific and by avoiding gobbledygook and superlatives. For example, 99designs mentions a precise number of designers in their subheading: Let our community of 233,581 designers create dozens of designs for you.
- Clear: Web visitors may ignore you if they don’t “get” your headline quickly enough. Create a simple and clear statement. Skip word play. Cut puns. Your visitors are in a hurry and cleverness may slow them down. TimeTrade’s headline simply states Online Appointment Scheduling for Business.
- Concise: Conciseness is not as important as credibility and clarity. Keep your value proposition as short as possible, but not so short that you lose clarity.
There’s no rule for how short your headline or bullet points should be. Focus on simplicity and don’t try to be comprehensive. Your value proposition isn’t a magic pick-up line. Your only goal is to start a conversation with a potential buyer.
4 Easy Templates for Your Value Proposition
Your value proposition always starts with a headline. Your web visitors see your headline first, probably even before they look at your image.
Your headline can be combined with a subheading, a few introductory sentences, and/or a series of bullet points.
Let’s look at examples of a few common formats:
Option 1: Highlight the key benefit of working with you
To use this option for your value proposition, simply state what your product does for your customer. How do you make your customers feel happier, healthier, or more productive? How do you help them save time or money?
An example: Evernote’s headline doesn’t refer to note taking and archiving software. Instead, it highlights the key benefit of using its software: Remember everything.
Option 2: Tell readers which problem you help them avoid
Research has suggested that people are risk-averse. Rephrasing your headline to highlight what people will lose if they don’t buy can increase conversion of web visitors into customers.
To use this template, consider: What will web visitors miss out on if they don’t buy from you? Or, what problem do you take away for them?
Intuit, unlike its competitors Square (Start accepting credit cards today) and PayPal (Get paid anywhere), highlights the potential loss (Never miss a sale) before stating the benefit in their subheading (Accept credit cards anywhere).
Option 3: Simply state what you do
Traditional marketing usually has a preference for focusing on a benefit in the headline. However, online – where people are in a hurry – you can successfully attract web visitors simply by stating what you do.
The home page for Premise states what Premise software does: Point-and-Click Membership Sites and Landing Page. The subheading explains that Premise can be used for any WordPress Site. Three short introductions explain that Premise allows you to (a) create different types of landing pages, (b) build membership sites, and (c) perform split tests.
Option 4: Target a specific group of customers
You also can quickly assure web visitors that they’re in the right place by mentioning your target audience in your headline. This can be an extension of option 3 as you state what you do and for whom.
QuickBooks, for instance, states in its headline that it provides accounting software for small businesses before explaining in bullet points what the software can do for you.
3 Easy Steps for Creating a Compelling Value Proposition
Step 1. Describe your ideal reader
One of the biggest mistakes web writers make is trying to write for too many people. It makes sales messages wishy-washy, watery, and ineffective. By trying to talk to too many people, we end up having a conversation with nobody at all.
The problem with writing for a target audience is that it’s a faceless crowd. Writing to a group of people makes you sound as if you’re lecturing.
People don’t like to be addressed as a crowd. They prefer to read something that addresses them personally, directly.
Describing and visualizing your one ideal reader makes your value proposition stronger, more personal, and more enticing. It doesn’t mean you target just one person. It means that whoever closely matches your ideal reader feels that your value proposition is exactly right for him or her.
Create a one-page bio of your ideal reader. Include a few simple demographics plus favorite books, movies, or websites. Write down what your ideal reader dreams about achieving and what keeps him or her up at night.
Step 2. Create a list of benefits and problems
Are you excited about the recent improvements you’ve made to your product? Or about the new app you’re launching?
The hard truth is that nobody is interested in your app, your company, or your new features. People are interested in themselves. To write your value proposition, you need to consider your ideal reader’s self-interest, such as saving time, reducing costs, making more money, or becoming happier.
Compile a list of features and specifications, and translate them into benefits for your reader. Next, for each feature, consider whether there’s a problem or hassle the reader can avoid. A simple example:
- Feature: scheduling of social media updates
- Benefit: more social interaction
- Hassle your reader avoids: no need to interrupt work for social media updates
Step 3. Write your headline and bullet points
Now that you have your list of features, problems, and benefits, imagine your ideal reader, and decide:
- What is the biggest problem you overcome for her?
- What is the most important benefit she draws from working with you?
Write a dozen headline options based on the four templates outlined above. Then, pick your favorite four or five. Combine them with three to five bullet points. Finally, decide on your favorite value proposition(s). Of course, the best way to decide on your favorite value proposition is to test them!
How to Boost Sales with Your Value proposition
The “secret” to writing a seductive value proposition is to know your ideal reader well.
Know exactly what interests him. Understand his worries and his fears.
See when he’s nodding his head. Hear him mumbling his approval. Predict the questions he wants to ask. Understand his objections to buying from you.
When you know your ideal customer as well as an intimate friend, your value proposition becomes persuasive and your sales copy becomes enticing. And that’s how you sell more.
About the Author: Henneke Duistermaat is a marketer and copywriter. Her new book How to Write Seductive Web Copy, An Easy Guide to Picking Up More Customers is out today. This guide helps small business owners write more persuasive web copy. The book is available exclusively from Amazon and you can download it for free until 1 July 2013.