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How to capture your user value proposition August 4, 2008

Posted by jeremyliew in marketing, start-up, startup, startups.

In the past I’ve written about encapsulating your business plan for potential investors in an executive summary, or even more succinctly as a high concept startup pitch. This is helpful for communicating to angel investors and VCs, but it doesn’t help you communicate to new and potential users of your product why they should try your site.

Whether you plan on acquiring new users through viral growth, SEO, SEM or banner advertising, the basic principles of marketing apply. You need a Value Proposition and a Call to Action. It helps a lot if your value proposition is unique so that it stands out from its competitors

I sometimes ask entrepreneurs “What would a banner ad look like for your site?”. This isn’t because I expect startups to be buying banner advertising, but because the discipline of condensing your consumer value proposition to fit into a 728 x 90 banner forces you to crystalize what is unique about your site. It forces you to focus on your value proposition in absolute terms, not relative to a competitor (“Higher quality video sharing than Youtube” doesn’t fly for example), without using any buzz words (“File class agnostic media sharing” would not make a good banner ad). Often it surfaces a key issue for startups going up against an incumbent – if your banner ad could equally apply to the leader in the space as it could to you, then you likely have a hard hill to climb to drive traffic to your new site.

Some examples might include, for Youtube “All your online video”, for Streetfire (a Lightspeed portfolio company), “Car videos for car guys”, for Hulu, “Watch your favorite TV shows online”, for Wonder how to, “Every how to video that exists”.

Mike Spieser recently gave startup marketing advice of a similar nature, focused on optimizing the vale proposition and call to action in your Google Ad Sense copy. Although he focuses more on the A:B testing aspect that Google offers to refine your value proposition (improving copy is an easy way to increase user interaction), the constraints imposed by the marketing medium still serve to distill your sites value proposition.

I’d like to hear from readers some examples of banner ad copy, whether for their own site or for various well known websites.


1. Engago Team - August 4, 2008

Pitching to VC’s or participating in Web2.0 or Startup award contests don’t bring you customers.
Getting customers is most important, thus the issues in your blog post actually happens to be on our mind.
Here’s what we’ve come up with so far as banner ads:

Do you know who is visiting your website right now?
Discover their company name. Identify their needs. Qualify as leads.

7 out of 10 b2b purchases start with an Internet search.
What are you doing about it ?

Only 2 out of 100 website visitors will contact you.
Why don’t YOU contact THEM ?

In order to optimize our value proposition, we made a 3 page presentation:
That should be short enough.

Any ideas or suggestion are very welcome for our startup.

2. Boyd Jones - August 4, 2008

Great way to encapsulate the need for Value Props.

3. Ariel Diaz - August 4, 2008

Great post and definitely a challenge to create a clear message in short amount of visual space. We went through this challenge as we were trying to start our ad campaigns for YouCastr, an interactive sports network. One big challenge is to balance excitement and curiosity about the product, versus explaining the product features and what you do.

We chose the former and have the following script on our banner ads (with flash, so it plays over 15 seconds):
“Introducing a brand new way to follow your sports, your teams, your way – YouCastr – the Interactive Sports Network”

The real way to answer the question on effectiveness is to AB test, so we’ll be launching a product focused campaign as well.

Founder of YouCastr.com

4. Adam - August 4, 2008

Everything cascades from your value prop. I think too often people forget that.

5. Amy Jo Kim - August 5, 2008

For me, the “banner ad” equivalent on Facebook is invites/notifications/feed stories. Those tell an ongoing story about your app — and like a banner ad, need to be measured, and communicate value prop and call to action.

6. Simon Newstead - August 5, 2008

Actually rather than setting one ourselves and using that, during our alpha testing in past few weeks we have been asking the users to share how they would describe us to a friend.

Of course we know what we’re focused on (avatar fashion and lifestyle for everyone), the value we feel we bring and our tagline “Free your Ztyle” is set, but it’s always great to hear what real people using the website for the first time think, free from any present idea or description…

This would definitely help shape how we message about the service to others in the future once launched..

7. Parker Emmott - August 5, 2008

This is a great point – distilling a clear value prop is overlooked all too often – especially in the consumer world. I go through a very similar line of questioning / discussion whenever I meet with a consumer company that is relying on viral growth to acquire users… “if I was a user and fan of your site, what would be my one sentence pitch to convince my friend to use your site? ‘I go to (your site) because X’ – what is X?”. People are generally short on time, attention and patience, so it’s supremely important to make your initial value prop (your hook) quick and easy to comprehend.

8. AK - August 12, 2008

how about: “Better want ads for [insert niche product vertical]” ?

As in: “Better want ads for cameras” – a system which does a better job in providing a place for users to buy and sell their camera gear?

9. Herb - August 15, 2008

I like the “banner ad” concept, as well. My website, BlackBottom.com, is constantly referred to by my visitors/members as the “Black YouTube.” I’ve had to actually do some ad copy myself – one popular ad which we have is “It’s like Black History Month All Year Long!”.


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