These 10 templates will make you rethink how you design value propositions

A cheat sheet for pitching and minimum viable marketing

Writing matters in business, design, and life alike—it is fundamental to moving your ideas forward. However, getting to short, meaningful sentences that grab the attention of your audience can be a painful exercise. Ernest Hemingway knew. When he had difficulties writing, he reminded himself*:

Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Ernest’s one-sentence technique can be useful whether you are writing copy for UX, advertising, company presentations or pitching ideas face-to-face. To get you a head start, I’ve here put together a collection of ten value proposition templates from previous posts here and here.

1. Geoff Moore’s Value Positioning Statement

Probably the best known to date. In his seminal book Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore provides a Mad Libs-style template for outlining your market positioning. In addition to the below part, Moore also introduces a second statement focused on competitive positioning.

2. Venture Hacks’ High-Concept Pitch

In their book Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Heath point to how high-concept pitches such as ‘Jaws on a spaceship’ (Alien) and ‘Die Hard on a bus’ (Speed) have convinced movie executives to invest vast sums of money on the basis of almost no information. In Pitching Hacks, Nivi and Navel from AngelList build on the Heath brothers’ idea and share examples of how this technique can be applied to startups.

3. Steve Blank’s XYZ

Lean startup and customer development guru Steve Blank refers to the value proposition as a ‘ten-dollar phrase’ describing a company’s product or service; the ‘what are you building and selling?’ Blank suggests using the following form for creating a value proposition statement that people truly can understand.

4. Vlaskovits & Cooper’s Customer-Problem-Solution

In their Cheat Guide to Customer Development booklet, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits applied what they call a Customer-Problem-Solution presentation. Here’s their system.

5. Dave McClure’s Elevator Ride

In his How to Pitch a VC presentation, investor and founder of startup accelerator 500 Startups Dave McClure provides a three-step check list for creating positioning statements.

  • 3 keywords or phrases
  • KISS (no expert jargon)

6. David Cowan’s Pitchcraft

Although more elaborative than the above examples, David Cowan shares some useful guidelines in his Practicing the Art of Pitchcraft piece. I put together a summary and example.

  1. Tell the audience up front what your company sells.
  2. Distill the differentiation down to one, easy-to-comprehend sentence.
  3. Establish credibility by sharing the pedigree of the entrepreneurs, customers, or the investors.

7. Eric Sink’s Value Positioning

Eric Sink writes that your value proposition is somewhat like your marketing iceberg — the part sticking out of the water is highly visible. Sink suggests using the following format for crafting value positioning statements.

8. Clay Christensen’s Jobs-to-be-done Statement

According to HBS Professor Clayton Christensen, designing an innovative customer value proposition begins with genuinely understanding the customer’s jobs-to-be-done (JTBD). Its premise is that customers don’t really buy products. Instead, they hire them to do a situational job and make some progression. For instance, rather than asking customers what products they want to buy, you would ask what fundamental problems they hope to address. In a MIT Sloan Management Review article, Ulwick and Bettencourt suggest using a “job statement” as follows.

9. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

According to Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it.” Sinek’s Golden Circle framework shows you how to turn an idea into a social movement by leading a focus on your Why, before drilling into the how and what of your solution. This step-by-step process teaches you to clarify your Why, articulate your Hows, and the importance of being consistent in What you do.

10. The Minto Pyramid aka SCQA

The SCQA (Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer) framework by Barbara Minto, also known as The Minto Pyramid, helps you organize your ideas to write compelling business documents. It be memos, presentations, emails, blog posts or — key to all the former — value propositions.

Bonus: The VAD approach

In a previous blog post on value propositions I set out to learn from Guy Kawasaki’s evangelism approaches. On his blog I found that he tends to take something like a verb-application-differentiator approach when describing the startups that he’s working with.

Doctoral research fellow and asst. professor, Digital Innovation, University of Oslo and Iserv Computing. Twitter @tor