When you hear the words “value proposition,” do you think it is a strategic imperative that must be driven by the CEO? Board of Directors? Owner of the company?
Do you think of it as something out of your hands?
Value propositions are necessary on many levels. After all, any time there is a decision to be made, there is a need to understand the value of that decision. So, I’m guessing many things you are working on right now could be further optimized with an effective value prop.
To spur your best thinking, in this article we bring you examples from a startup, simple online tool, and IT service management company.
This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
An effective value proposition is core to all marketing. Really, to any endeavor that requires a person to make a choice – from business to public health to politics to interpersonal relationships…and the list could go on forever.
So next week we’ll be hosting – How to Craft Your Value Proposition: A live, working session with Flint McGlaughlin (there is no cost to attend).
To show you that the importance of value proposition extends far beyond the primary value proposition of a company, in this article we bring you three stories.
First, a startup trying to communicate a value prop to attract new hires to work for it instead of larger competition.
Then, a simple online tool that used its data to create free online content with enough value to attract an organic audience.
And finally – to show you how difficult it is to craft an effective value prop in a highly competitive market – a tech company that leveraged incentive when its attempts at improved value communication did not move the needle (incentive is another factor outlined in the MECLABS Institute Conversion Sequence Heuristic that you can use to improve the probability of conversion).
In this tight labor market, companies are in a battle for talent. So, communicating the value proposition of working at your company is essential for hiring.
Woola makes compostable bubble wrap packaging out of leftover sheep wool. That product has a value proposition all its own. But the startup needed a value prop for its hiring campaign as well. An essential element of that value prop is that the team does not take itself too seriously.
When the team raised a €2.5 million seed round led by Future Ventures in December 2021, the press release included an irreverent team photo.
Creative Sample #1: Startup’s team photo
“Quite different from a typical startup fundraising photo (with logo-t shirts and power poses), don't you think?” said Katheriin Liibert, Head of Marketing, Woola.
“Probably the greatest tech founder team photo of all time. Dear other founders: This is now the standard you have to meet. Take a bow, Woola,” tweeted Mike Butcher, Editor At Large, TechCrunch.
TechCrunch also wrote an article about the fundraising, and included the photo. “Think about it – unless you're in ecommerce and care about sustainability, you likely won't share the TechCrunch article with your friends or colleagues. Add a one-of-a-kind team photo – I mean one that really stands out – and you're much more likely to share it. People spread the word because of the photo and as a result, more people actually read the article, [and thus] increased brand awareness,” Liibert said.
“I was employed at a different company at the time and the TechCrunch article got shared in our company’s Slack only because of that team photo. The impact of such ‘dark social’ is near-impossible to track in numbers (Google Analytics show it as ‘direct’), and while I cannot share specific traffic numbers of ours, I can share this screenshot from our Google Analytics which shows the increase in traffic to Woola's website around the time of the TechCrunch article,” she said.
Creative Sample #2: Traffic increase to startup’s website from article mention with viral photo
Liibert feels that since it was not just a one-week peak, the article kept spreading over a longer time, on social as well as dark social, thanks to the photo gaining some level of virality.
The startup’s jobs page uses the fundraising photo and has a similarly irreverent tone to showing the company culture.
Creative sample #3: Startup’s jobs page
Anna-Liisa Palatu, CEO, Woola shared a series of irreverent posts on LinkedIn as past of the hiring campaign.
Creative Sample #4: Irreverent LinkedIn post as part of startup’s hiring campaign
The above post received 103 reactions and six comments.
Creative Sample #5: Irreverent LinkedIn post as part of startup’s hiring campaign
The above post received 13,856 impressions, 241 reactions, and 15 comments.
“Amazing organic reach, considering our CEO has not built up a following or a ‘personal brand’ on LinkedIn as such (she's been busy building the company!),” Liibert said.
Since January 2022, more than half of interviewees have mentioned either the LinkedIn posts or jobs page as strong influences on them applying for a job.
“Building a brand that stands out is the way to win against the category leaders – especially if you’re an early-stage startup and don’t have enough funds to compete on innovation,” advised Paula Pärnaste, Head of Brand, Woola.
The aggregate data your products or services collect is an opportunity to produce original content that has value for your ideal customer. For example, something as simple as an alarm clock website is collecting a lot of data about people’s behavior.
Burak Özdemir created an infographic based on the data from his Online Alarm Clock website that showed what time people in America go to bed. He then shared it on Reddit.
Creative Sample #6: Reddit post with infographic
The post received 1,222 upvotes, 118 comments, and what Özdemir describes as some valuable backlinks.
“Why Reddit? For starters, it's a great way to get backlinks. When users upvote your infographic, it gets seen by more people, and if they really like it, they may share it on other websites, giving you valuable backlinks,” said Özdemir, Web Developer, Online Alarm Clock.
“Not to mention,” he continued, “infographics are a great way to explain complex topics in a visually appealing way. This can help drive traffic to your website, as users will want to learn more about what you have to offer.”
He created another infographic, about his Turkish visitors, and shared it on a Turkish subreddit.
Creative Sample #7: Turkish subreddit post with infographic
It received 163 upvotes and 23 comments.
In addition, he says he received valuable feedback from Reddit users and his research was also mentioned in several Turkish media outlets.
“Nearly all of my visitors are organic, and competition is tough. When you get a presence on Reddit, it is easier to get noticed by other website owners. When you get backlinks, or mentions, from high-authority websites, at some point, Google sees you as a brand they can trust,” he said.
During the pandemic, the team at LeeShanok Network Solutions started hosting monthly cybersecurity webinars for clients and prospects. Interest was high at first, but by mid-2021, webinar fatigue had set in. Attendance was averaging three to seven people, most of which were existing clients.
The promotions for the webinars were usually just lists of topics the team would cover.
Creative Sample #8: Social post example before updating communication strategy
So, the team tried to improve the value proposition communication. They updated the visual style of the communications and focused the messaging on the benefit of attending.
Creative Sample #9: Social post example after updating visual style
After changing the value communication, they didn’t see much of a boost.
While a powerful value proposition can be an incredibly effective way to increase conversion, creating an effective value proposition is also very difficult – even for a “free product” like a webinar. After trying to improve the messaging for a couple months, the team was still getting paltry attendance.
“We turned that around in November 2021 when we began offering $20 Grubhub gift cards to all attendees so they could buy lunch after the webinar,” said Shayne Caffrey, Marketing Director, LeeShanok Network Solutions. They didn’t change anything about the event promotion. “We send emails to our newsletter subscribers and post to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. For our first webinar with Grubhub gift cards, we had 42 sign-ups, 25 of which were new leads!” he said.
Creative Sample #10: First social post offering gift card
And here’s the cherry on top – vendor partners sponsor these events, which means they are covering the costs of the gift cards. Getting these vendor dollars became easier when the purchasing department began asking about market development funds (MDF). The team discovered vendors are more willing to help the person who submits orders than the “pesky marketing guy.”
When they don’t get a sponsor for a webinar, the team sets aside $1,000 of the company’s own money for the event. So far, they’ve only had to do that once.
Six months into this strategy, they’re consistently seeing 15 to 30 webinar attendees. On average, five to seven of these are new leads. Compared to the zero to two leads they were regularly getting before the gift cards this has been a huge boost to their pipeline.
And the majority have been quality leads. Since they instituted the incentive, the team filters out poor leads while admitting attendees to the presentation. To attend, people have to represent an Arizona organization and sign up with their company email. This keeps out most of the folks just looking to score a free lunch.
Sometimes the team finds a lead isn’t ready yet because their company isn’t big enough. They’ve also had a couple university students attend. Those aren’t great leads, but the team is happy to be an educational resource for students.
Important lessons learned:
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