“We have widgets” is not a value proposition

I was speaking to a prospective client the other day who was looking for help attracting more leads to their web site, and converting more leads into sales. The company offered useful technology, an impressive self-serve portal, free trials, and on-line payment processing. So why wasn’t this thing taking off?

The problem was the value proposition presented on the web site — there wasn’t any.

Of course, technical experts can sell technology to other experts — because they both know what the technology does and can see what how it might be useful (also known as “benefits”). They can establish credibility and create a bond. That’s why technology companies often have success recruiting technical people for sales positions. Unfortunately, mere mortals need a lot more help.

Consider the sales cycle for someone who wants to sell widgets on-line. Their buyers have to:

  • Be aware that such a widget exists (e.g., torque wrenches)
  • Know what the widget does (tightens bolts to a specified maximum torque)
  • Understand what the benefits of using the widget are (won’t damage the fastener — or the material being fastened — while ensuring it is sufficiently tightened)
  • Know that your web site sells these widgets (through your promotional efforts such as search engine optimization, etc.)
  • Evaluate your widget by deciding “is this for me?” (Maybe the buyer is a DIY’er who wants good value at low cost, or a professional auto mechanic who wants a robust tool and is willing to pay more for it, or maybe a heavy-equipment mechanic who needs the biggest and strongest tools available regardless of cost, or maybe someone who needs some sort of specialized tool?)
  • See how your widget is better than others (our widgets are the best quality for the price and we offer free shipping, or our widgets never break so they save you money replacing them, or maybe our widgets can adapt to any situation because they are so versatile)
  • Decide to buy now (or not), and process a transaction

This company had a product and the back-office customer service parts, but none of the strategy.

You may do okay if your company sells a commonly-purchased item with a large and broad addressable market and your web site is highly-ranked by the search engines. But that doesn’t describe most technology companies, especially start-ups.

Instead of immediately focusing on SEO and conversion rates, I suggest that the path to improving a company’s performance is to address the strategic issues first by defining your target customer and developing a compelling value proposition.


2 Responses to ““We have widgets” is not a value proposition”
  1. Mohammed says:

    Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution
    and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs
    and I’m looking for something unique. P.S
    Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  2. Greg Graham says:

    Hi Mohammed;

    Thanks for your question. The site is in WordPress with a custom theme designed by 2dragons (you can click on their name in the footer). You’re right, you can easily spot WordPress sites that use the default theme (layout template; I think the most common one is called Theme Ten) but it is actually a very flexible platform. My biggest complaint about WordPress is that many sites haven’t taken the effort to design a print format, and so pages don’t print well at all. For business use, I think you want to enable readers to be able to print any information of interest so they can refer to it or use it later offline as well as online.

    Good luck with your blog, Greg.

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  • Meet Greg Graham

    Market Metrics Inc. helps knowledge-based businesses with strategy, planning and innovation and was founded in 2003 by Greg Graham, a seasoned marketing professional. Greg is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), an Accredited Small Business Consultant (ASMEC), a member of the American Marketing Association, and holds MBA/BEE degrees as well as a Certificate in Strategic Management. He frequently performs consulting engagements on behalf of the Government of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). Prior to Market Metrics, Greg's 21 years of corporate experience encompassed tech start-ups through Fortune 500 companies.

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