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The Few Sentences You Need to Dominate Your Market

Almost regardless of what you do, you have bigger competitors.

There’s a blog that has more readers, an e-commerce site with more customers, or a brand with better name recognition.

Usually, one or two of them are clear market leaders.

It’s tempting to think they got there because the planets were aligned and the gods were smiling at them.

And sure, fortune just might’ve played a role in their growth.

But their continued success isn’t about luck.

Instead, they have the best value propositions, and they know how to use them.

What makes you valuable?

People won’t ever buy from you if they don’t even understand why they should pay attention to you. And they notice you only if you have a strong value proposition.

The usual definition of value proposition is crippled. It describes it as “a promise of the value you can deliver.”

Value proposition, if you define it like that, is a decent—but incomplete—internal tool that can guide your decisions to the right general direction. But nothing more.

A more useful definition of value proposition is “a believable collection of the most persuasive reasons people should notice you and take the action you’re asking for.”

This way, it guides your decisions much more clearly and can be used as the basis for marketing messages.

If you don’t have a strong value proposition, people don’t have good reasons to do either of those.

For example, if your online bookstore has average selection, decent prices, delivery, a guarantee, good customer service, and a website, why would anyone buy from you? There’s surely a competitor who beats you in at least some of those aspects.

You don’t have to be the best in every way. Sure, it’s great if you are. But realistically, it’s difficult enough to be the best in one way.

However, if you’re the best in at least one way, you’re the best option for the people who value that aspect.

Apple doesn’t have the largest product selection. Amazon isn’t the most prestigious. Tiffany’s isn’t the cheapest.

People buy from them for other reasons.

So, if your bookstore has the largest selection, for example, but the other things are “just average,” the people who value a large selection have a reason to buy from you.

Something has to make you the best option for your target customers.

Otherwise, they have no good reason to buy what you’re selling.

Can you prove that?

If you say, “My pizza is the best in the world,” will people flood your restaurant?

No. They won’t believe you.

Without proof, you can’t say much before it starts to sound like “marketing talk,” which people don’t pay almost any attention to (nor do they remember it).

For example, I recently saw a site where someone claimed to be “the secret weapon of digital marketing for the most successful companies in the world.” Needless to say, I doubt anyone can take that seriously when nothing supports the idea.

Being the best isn’t enough. People need to believe you’re the best option for them.

As long as you don’t prove your claims, people are unlikely to really believe them. And your value proposition becomes useless.

You can use studies, testimonials, and common sense, among other methods, to prove your claims.

Basecamp uses social proof to validate their main claim “World’s #1 Project Management App.” The two specific numbers make the claim believable (“6,232 companies” and “97% recommend”).

basecamp value proposition

Impressive numbers can be the right choice (e.g., Basecamp), but they don’t always work.

Numbers can prove popularity and other quantitative things.

But when you’re a “trusted expert,” saying, “1,000 people consider me an expert” won’t work.

Instead, a few expert testimonials make the idea credible. They can even take away the need for you to make any claims—the testimonials can make the claims for you.

Similarly, you can use testimonials to build your product’s overall perceived value and take away the last doubt people might feel about your promises.

StudioPress shows well-known people praising their products.

studiopress value prop

You need to pick the right way to prove your promises. Otherwise they’re not believable.

Usually, since you’re not just trying to make one claim about you and your products, you need to use different methods to prove each promise.

People can’t read your mind

Many businesses don’t help people see what sets the company apart from its competitors.

They are better than others, and they could prove it.

They just don’t do it.

Instead, they try to persuade people with general promises, corporate babble, and feature lists. Or they just ask you to buy before really even telling you what they sell.

If your website doesn’t clearly tell visitors what makes you worth their attention (and money), they don’t spend the time to figure it out on their own.

It’s your job to hit people in the head with what makes you different and worth attention.

Visual Website Optimizer doesn’t waste time; the home page is very clear about what you can get from them.

visual website optimizer home page

The headline might not be as creative as many people seem to think is necessary. Instead, it gets the job done.

Besides, “creative” headlines are often just plain confusing.

You’ll never, ever hear anyone say, “It’s too easy to understand what your site is about.”

But if your site is even a bit confusing, your bounce rate will skyrocket.

It’s not enough to have a headline that’s clear about what makes you different—people won’t really understand your value proposition that easily.

You need to restate it everywhere.

If you say something just once, people can easily forget it, or they don’t realize how important it is.

So, when you know what people need to believe about you and your products, don’t put all the pressure on just one headline; do everything you can to make it clear to people.

The Iconic, an Australian online shoe store, uses the search box to remind people of their big selection.

the iconic

When people understand why they should buy your product instead of any other, they’ll do it.

But first you need to figure out what makes you different from your competitors and the best choice for your target customers.

Your value proposition

When you start creating (or refining) your value proposition, the first step is to find the core of it.

The core of your value proposition is made up of the ideas that make you clearly the best choice for people.

It’s not everything there is to a strong, refined value proposition (unlike some of the basic definitions would have you believe). But it’s the part that makes the biggest difference.

Those few sentences can give you an unfair advantage.

Using them well can make you the market leader; the current leaders got there because they knew how to do it.

If you have any questions, or you’d like to share your value proposition, the comments are open for a reason.

About the Author: Right now, Peter Sandeen is probably knee-deep in snow (he lives in Finland) with his wife and dogs. But you can download his 5-step system for finding the core of your value proposition and landing page checklist to improve your conversion rates.

  1. Great actionable article. I’ve been trying to find my value proposition over the last few weeks and trying to compete on the incumbents terms would be impossible but after reading this I am so much clearer. The funny thing is, customers have been telling me why they prefer my product I just wasn’t listening properly and it’s the competitors weak spot.

    Thanks again

  2. Great actionable article. I’ve been trying to find my value proposition over the last few weeks and trying to compete on the incumbents terms would be impossible but after reading this I am so much clearer. The funny thing is, customers have been telling me why they prefer my product I just wasn’t listening properly and it’s the competitors weak spot.

    Thanks again

  3. Great article Peter. Really got me thinking about my positioning and how I present the value I provide to visitors.

    Picked up your 5 step system (nice squeeze pages by the way….were they created via Lead Pages?) & interested to hone in on my value prop.

    – Steve

    • Hey Steve,

      Thanks, I’m glad to hear that :)

      And thanks, I’ve created a couple of landing page templates for my theme, which I use as the base. The only exception is the page for the landing page checklist, which is made with Premise (though it looks just like the other pages).


  4. Peter,

    Great article.

    The great copywriter, John Caples, said in his book “Tested Advertising” that if he had a year to write an ad, he’d spend 11 months finding the right appeal (his word for value prop).

    I find most people underestimate the power of their value proposition. They are wise to heed your words.

  5. Hi,

    Great article, although some more examples would definetly make the point.
    Here is my question:where is the bottom line between a value proposition and a unique selling proposition?
    I run a business with oriental decoration objects and I choose a USP which sounds like this: “Inspiring.Simply magic”

    Thanks for your answer!

    • Hi Mihaela,

      Good question :)

      USP usually describes what makes your product different from its competitors.

      How I define value proposition, the differentiation factor is only a part of it.

      What you mentioned seems like a tagline, unless it describes what makes your product/business different from its competitors, which would make it a USP.


  6. That’s the valuable article :) Peter, thanks for good examples

  7. Super article, with really good examples. I’m using the PDF to help shape our value proposition now. However, i am confused as to the difference between a value proposition and a USP. Is the USP 1 point that makes you stand out from the crowd? Such as The only burger bar in xyz whereas the value proposition may be Voted the Best tasting burgers in xyz?
    Thanks for your help. So pleased i ‘landed’ on your pages.

    • Hi Louise,

      Good question :)

      USP describes what makes your product different from others. And usually it only refers to the “one” thing that makes your offer better than others.

      How I think of value proposition means that it’s much more than that. It describes all the best reasons (that you can prove) people have for taking an action you’re asking for. So, for example, your product’s value proposition includes all the best reasons, not just one differentiating factor, people have for buying it.

      But taking the idea further, every action you ask people to take, should have a value proposition. For example, your PPC ad should be the best link to click ;)

      Does that clarify?

      Let me know :)


  8. Specialisation: The separation of tasks within a system.

    Specialisation (Biology): In a multicellular creature, cells are specialized for functions such as bone construction or oxygen transport.

    Specialisation (Economics): In capitalist societies, individual workers specialize for functions such as building construction or gasoline transport for the greater benefit of the society as a whole.

    In any case, specialisation enables the accomplishment of otherwise unattainable goals. It also reduces the ability of individuals to survive outside of the system containing all of the specialized components.

    Excellent article! Congrats!

    • Hi Carlos,

      Thanks :)

      That’s actually a great point; specialization started when agriculture came along. And nowadays, you can’t really avoid it…


  9. Hi Peter, good examples to illustrate your point and I would go further that companies also need to ensure they align their business to their core values. Know the beating heart at the very core of their business. Understand what makes them stand out from the crowd and in turn realise their true worth.

  10. Absolutely perfect. People can’t read your mind, you need to express your thoughts and explain them to take action.

    Proof for everything is really important if you are not a established blog or brand. No one will believe in you if you a re newbie claiming everything you know about the subject you are speaking about.


  11. Wow, it’s probably no surprise that I use most of the tools you feature in this post.
    I guess it’s because they truly can prove that. If anybody isn’t split testing, or if you’re split testing without Visual Website Optimer (or Optimizely) you’re crazy! These are some killer tools.

    And if you’ve got a team to manage… basecamp is the simplest way to do it.

  12. Thanks for the article.

    I was wondering if you had any advice for someone who operates in multiple niches.

    For example, I build websites, I market websites, manages social media platforms, write and I provide training.

    I find it challenging at times to have a consistent message.



  13. hello peter !
    This is an excellent post, indeed. One should follow these tip. This post is a complete guideline for making your brand a successful brand. Don’t just tell the people that you are best rather prove yourself , totally agree with this concept.

  14. Typo: Value proposition, if you definite it like that, is a decent—but incomplete—internal tool that can guide your decisions to the right general direction.
    I think you mean “define”

  15. Nancy thanks for the find!

  16. What an incredible post on value proposition. It definitely can make or break your business if you overlook it. Thanks for the tips!

  17. Hi,

    An incredibly useful post, thank you.

    I’m currently studying social media for business, although only at level 3, its something I want to take further. However, I’m currently studying alone and only meeting an assessor once every month to provide evidence of the work I’m doing so often I’m struggling in the water alone.

    I did have a question that so far no one has been able to answer:

    Is it safe to assume the marketing proposition and value propositions are the same thing just different wording

  18. Hi Steven, thanks a lot for the article.
    I am working on a value proposition for my business.
    Just wanted to make sure it makes some sense.I would love your input.Thanks

    “A revenue generating bespoke online store that is integrated with a social media platform chargeable on a pay per use basis with an efficient order fulfillment service to facilitate on time ecommerce delivery operations for retail shop owners across Africa.”

  19. Godfrey Silas Feb 03, 2017 at 2:58 am

    Chanced upon this article inadvertently. But I flowed with the read as though meandering along a single conceptual phrase. This is the stuff with which great writing is fashioned. Evocative simplicity.

    But, a corollary to the simple melodic language style is the wisdom is unpacks. I remember my graduate advisor in graduate school telling me how teaching is an art, and how development of argumentation or presentation makes so much sense. Reading this recreated some of that. It’s about returning to simplicity. It’s about exteriorizing that which one internally, organically intuits. How it is communicated to the world without.

    – Godfrey Silas


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