• Export Essentials

The value of knowing what you’re selling

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

It's not your product or service. It's not a slogan. It's not the features. Knowing why people are handing over money they could spend elsewhere, in return for something they can only get from you, is the hidden engine of your business.

A value proposition explains, in one sentence, what your customers get from your product or service that they can’t get anywhere else. It’s what you offer that customers are prepared to pay you for.

But if you can’t put your finger on just what that unique value is, you won’t be able to explain what you offer to customers in new markets, or work out if you have potential there at all.

Here’s a quick guide to getting to grips with your value proposition – and turning it into a practical tool for growing internationally.

What a value proposition isn’t

Defining your value proposition gives you a powerful tool for growing your business in New Zealand and internationally.

Summing up what your business offers in a sentence isn’t always easy. One way to clear away a lot of distractions is to think about what your value proposition isn’t.

It’s not a slogan. A solid value proposition is great for marketing, but don’t aim for a perfect slogan or tagline from the beginning.

This is a practical job. Think first of all about exactly who your customers are, and what problem you’re solving for them. The perfect words for your website or sales materials can come later.

It’s not about features. Take a step back from how your product or service works, and look at the benefits your customer gets when they buy – whether it’s better results in their own business, more self-confidence, or free time on the weekend. Whether it’s measurable or emotional, this is the real value in your value proposition. Features are secondary.

It’s not stand-alone. Your value proposition is about why customers buy from you, so to get it right, you need to look hard at how your competitors are trying to solve the same problems or deliver the same benefits. Take the broadest view of ‘competition’ that you can – you’re competing against all possible solutions to the customer’s problem, not just solutions that are similar to yours.

How to get it right

A sound value proposition starts with answering these key questions:

  • Who are your customers?

  • What kind of problem are you solving for them?

  • What real benefits does your customer get from your product or service?

  • Can you put numbers on those benefits? How do they make your customer feel?

  • How does your competition try to solve your customer’s problem?

  • What’s unique about your offer compared to the competition?

The information you get should boil down to a single statement – one that’s based on customer needs, talks about real customer benefits, and is unique to your business.

Now you’re ready to start building your value proposition into your website, promotional materials and sales strategy. You can also use it to tweak your product or service, or take a different approach to marketing or pricing, so you’re in line with what your customers really want and value.

This can help make your business more successful and profitable, even in your existing markets. But if you’re considering a new market overseas, you can also use your value proposition to test what you offer and make sure the opportunity is real.

Confirming market fit

Your value proposition is unique to your business, but one size won’t fit all in offshore markets. Not only do customer needs and expectations vary from country to country (or even in different parts of the same state or city), but you might be facing completely different competitors aiming to solve the same customer problems.

Test your value proposition against a new market by doing as much research as possible. Start with desk research from New Zealand, and follow up with visits to the market to get information on the ground.

Talk to customers to understand how they buy, where, and from who, and what influences their buying decisions. You might find you have to modify what you offer to fit the market, or that there isn’t an opportunity for what you offer at all.

When you know you can deliver the right product or service in-market to the right customers, at the right price, you’ve achieved market fit. This is the point where your value proposition ‘clicks’ with customers, and they’ll happily pay money for what you offer – a great starting point for growing your business in a new market.

Get the full story and more tips, tools and advice in our Export Essentials guide to value proposition and market fit. Or review our full series of guides here.

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