How to find your startup’s value proposition

Published in Oct 8, 2019

A value proposition is where the offer of your company (your product) meets the desires of your customers. It is the hunch point between what you make and why people buy! This is why it is really important to build the best value proposition, in order to show the customers that there are more added values on your offer than from any other existing products in the market.

The value proposition is nothing about how many features your product has, it has to be about how much value your customers can identify on your product.

It is Insert Column(s) important to know that any canvas that helps you understand your customer, your offer and how the two fit together, will help you clarify your value proposition. It is when you realize if you have enough information about your potential customer. If you feel at some point that you are running out of information to answer, go outside and ask your potential customer about it. This article will focus on the Value Proposition Canvas.

Value Proposition Canvas

The version of the Value Proposition Canvas created by Peter J. Thomson leads startups to examine the human experience of their customers and to think through their customer experience.

The product section uses features and benefits with the addition of experience. The product understanding sections include:

  • Features as the description of how your product works. The features are the functioning attributes of your product. 
  • Benefits as what your product does for the customer. The benefits are the ways that the features make your customer’s life easier by increasing pleasure or decreasing pain. The benefits of your product are the core of your value proposition. The best way to list out the benefits of your product is to imagine all the ways that your product makes your customer’s life better.
  • Experience as the product experience is the way that owning your product makes the customer feel. It’s the sum total of the combined features and benefits. Product experience is different from features and benefits because it’s more about the emotional reasons why people buy your product. 

The customer section draws on neuro-linguistic programming and psychology research into motivation. It focuses less on “pains” and “gains” because people can be motivated by both pains and gains in different ways. The customer empathy sections include:

  • Wants – The emotional drivers of decision-making are things that we want to be, do or have. Our wants are usually conscious (but aspirational) thoughts about how we’d like to improve our lives. The wants speaks more to our emotions.
  • Needs – The customer’s needs are rational things that the customer needs to get done. Interestingly, needs are not always conscious. Customers can have needs that they may not know about yet. Designers call these “latent needs“. 
  • Fears – The dark side of making a decision is that it carries fear. Fear of making a mistake, fear of missing out, fear of loss and dozens of other related fears. Fears can be a strong driver of purchasing behaviour and can be the hidden source of wants and needs. Customers’ fears are often the secret reason that no one is buying your widge.
  • Substitutes – These aren’t the obvious competitors, instead look for the existing coping behaviours. This is on the canvas because it shocks us to remember that our customers are real people with daily lives who have made it this far in life without our product. No matter how much better your product is on the market, if it isn’t better than the existing solutions, then you don’t have a real-world value proposition.

A key finding from the process of mapping a value proposition is often “we don’t have enough information to answer this section”. That is a perfect time to adopt a lean startup approach and to get out of the building to ask existing customers and potential customers about their wants, needs, and fears.