by Don F Perkins

“Stop being wonderful and start being useful.”

Jay Baer – Author of the book Youtility


Hey Team, How About That Value Proposition

I recently asked our firm’s crack marketing team about our value proposition. I got the customary unicorn-breath: We evidently have “robust,” “world class,” you know, life changing products. The problem is, so does half the planet. Just check their websites. It’s on the internets so it must be true! Seems that the college professors today are not teaching words like “differentiation” to their marketing majors.

Then a thought occurred to me – to get a real bead on what we do best and what I can say to people about how great we are and how we can help them, why not go to the source? That’s right, I asked my customers. Guess what? They confirmed the sage advise of Jay Baer above. Usefulness wins out over wonderfulness every time.

What Went Right

I put together a short survey email and sent it out to some of our long-term customers. I asked them what went right. Here are the questions I posed to my customers:

  1.       Business people get dozens of calls each day about marketing and you have many choices. Why do you choose to partner with us ahead of any one else?
  1.       When you compare the web service you get from us with others you’ve experienced, what specifically that makes this service better than the rest?
  1.       When you think about the service offering as a whole, what’s the thing you value the most? To put it another way, what is it about our services that does the most to assist in meeting your business goals?

The Real Value We Provide

Admittedly, I felt a bit of apprehension asking these questions, because let’s face it, the answers could have ended up being pretty harsh and painful. I could get my feelings hurt. I could have opened up a real can-o-worms here with some of these folks. Happily, the responses I got back were all positive, and incredibly helpful in building my value proposition. Here’s a summary (in no particular order) of what my customers value about me and about my firm:

  1. I like doing business with a real person (in-person), not remotely
  2. I am confident you care about the success of my business
  3. I like that you take the time to understand my business, who we are, our target market
  4. I can tell that you really want to do a good job for us
  5. You demonstrated that you listened to me
  6. You have the answers we need to succeed
  7. You make us feel important
  8. You interact with us regularly
  9. You offer us new insights we can use
  10. I know I can trust you to help us grow our business
  11. I don’t have to worry about (my website, my search ranking, my online reach)
  12. I know you have our best interests in mind and you are there for us

How Others See You

Pondering these responses over the past few weeks, a few key points bubble up that will surely shape my value proposition and future marketing efforts. First of all, the news was all good. I didn’t get one negative response. This is not to say I’ve never had an unhappy customer of course. I’ve noted their comments as well and learn from them too (what not to do). Here, however, I got to know exactly what delights my customers and keeps them buying from us, even though we are in a competitive and highly commoditized industry. These are the things my long-term customers care about:

  • Industry knowledge
  • Personalized Service
  • Understanding a Client’s Unique Business Challenges/Opportunities
  • Regular and Timely Interaction
  • Fresh Insights
  • Investment/Alignment
  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Caring
  • Listening

Delight Your Customers

I was at a MOZ event a few years ago. They came to Portsmouth NH for their annual MOZcation, (a sort of working vacation for them and a seminar for web marketing geeks) I got to hear Rand Fishkin talk about the future of SEO. We were all expecting to hear about Google’s latest algorithm and how it peels back the secret layers of the internets to reveal our true desires when we search. Instead, he said the future of SEO is to delight your customers. If you want to raise your rankings in search, shape your web site content, your social media, your video, etc around what your customers will wow over, and Google will reward you with a higher search ranking.

While not a new idea from a business growth standpoint, it was certainly a break from traditional SEO “tactics” at least for most of us who had been watching Google’s approach to determining who gets to be on top morph over the last 15 or so years.

Your Turn

One of the worst things you can do right now is to print this post out and use this list in your own business. This is my list. I’m not going to get mad at you if you use my list, but your customers deserve their own list and you deserve the insights that list will produce, to help you delight your customers and grow your own business.


Here are some other value proposition articles you might find useful:

How to Write a Great Value Proposition – Lindsay Kolowich, Hubspot

The Few Sentences You Need to Dominate Your Market – Peter Sandeen, Kissmetrics

7 Tests For Your Value Proposition – Anthony Iannarino, The Sales Blog