Estimated time: 6 hours, spread out over a week
- Why make a value props sheet?
- How do value props get used?
- #1: Copy you write
- #2: Brainstorming acquisition channels
- Phase 1: Learn
- Phase 2: Copy template
- Phase 3: Watch
- Phase 4: Write first row
- Bad Alternative
- Phase 5: 20% mentor review
- Phase 6: Write 2-4 more rows
- Phase 7: Full mentor review
You’re going to make a sheet that looks something like this:
Value props are usually the most important exercise we have clients do. Many clients are confused by them at first, and they tend to take 3-5 revisions to get right.
We’ve made this project to save you time, call out common mistakes, and answer questions you’ll likely have.
Why make a value props sheet?
Over and over, our clients who don’t nail value props fail to get users.
Two main reasons: their copy converts worse, and they pick the wrong channels to test. The result is that they don’t get users. (And we get blamed.)
Clients think they understand why users want the product, but they miss crucial details that explain why users actually want the product.
As a result, their positioning doesn’t land, their marketing fails, and customers don’t convert.
By walking through this process with us, you’ll avoid these blindspots and build a much better intuition for which experiments will hit — and what copy to write.
Beyond that, this is a way to get us up to speed: by sharing why people use your product, we’ll strategize with you better and give you better feedback.
Beyond that, if you ever onboard someone new (an agency, a contractor, a new hire), you can share this sheet to get them up to speed.
It’s a win-win-win. It’s just a little work up front.
How do value props get used?
#1: Copy you write
You can often copy-and-paste value props directly into the copy you use in ads, cold outreach, landing page sections, etc.
For example, here’s a screenshot of a cold outreach template that generated $250K in revenue for an old client. Many of the placeholders come directly from the value props doc.
#2: Brainstorming acquisition channels
When you flesh out your value props, we often stumble into new ways to reach high-intent users that you never thought about before.
A couple examples:
- By fleshing out value props, we learned that one of our client’s customers faced huge problems after a property eviction. We then found a scalable way to pull lists of ideal customers based on public government eviction records — who we could then target with direct mail and cold outreach.
- Another client realized they were actually competing with photographers instead of photography apps, which led to them running a completely different set of Google Ads.
Phase 1: Learn
Go through our Value Props reading in the intro guide if you haven’t yet.
Phase 2: Copy template
Make a copy of this value props sheet template.
We recommend using Google Sheets rather than Notion tables because it’s easier to comment cell-by-cell to give feedback.
You’ll update it over time as you learn from user interviews, but get it started now so we can give you more tailored feedback.
Phase 3: Watch
Note: the problem in the top example should be “you missed an important meeting because you wasted 15 minutes hailing a taxi.”
Phase 4: Write first row
Pick what feels like the biggest clear painful problem, write the bad alternative, and then write one row.
As you write, sanity-check the following:
Where clients go wrong here is thinking that competitors are the only bad alternatives.
- Sometimes the alternative means hiring someone to do the job, or stitching together multiple products.
- Sometimes the bad alternative is “choosing nothing”; for example, we worked with a job placement program where a bad alternative was just staying at your current job.
- (Sometimes the alternative really is just a competitor. That’s fine too.)
Write this in the second person, in the past-tense. It should be a real, painful, ideally urgent, moment that your customer experiences.
For example, “You got no sleep last night” is better than “People lose sleep.”
It’s helpful to write problems as “Because of the bad alternative, X broke” so the logical connection is clear. For example, “Because you used a greasy mineral sunscreen, you looked terrible in your beach photo.”
Clients get this wrong when…
- The bad alternative doesn’t directly cause the problem.
- For example, if the bad alternative is a greasy mineral sunscreen, the problem isn’t “people stopped following you on Instagram.” The problem is “you looked terrible in your beach photo” — which could eventually lead to people following you on Instagram.
- It’s too vague.
- For example, if Shopify is the bad alternative, and they write, “Selling digital products is tedious” as the problem…no, that’s not an urgent, painful moment.
- “You lost sleep because you stayed up until 2am configuring Shopify” is closer to the problem. Go down the implication chain to find the real painful moment.
- It’s not painful enough.
- If a problem is small and not painful, people won't spend time and money fixing it. Think about waking up with a stubbed toe versus being unable to walk. Are you more likely to see a doctor if you can't walk?
Clients get this wrong when…
- The implications don’t logically tie to the problem. For example, if the problem is “you missed a deadline” and your first implication is “you’ll get fired”, that’s probably too extreme. No one fires an employee for a minor slipup.
- You need to flesh out the intermediate steps before someone would get fired. (You go on a performance improvement plan, your boss loses trust in you, etc.)
- The user would call BS on the implication — because it’s not what actually happens. For example, if the alternative is normal sunscreen, and the problem is “you looked bad in a beach photo because you covered your skin in white paste”, the implication isn’t “Your dating life will fail.” It’s closer to, “you can’t use it in your dating profile → your profile looks worse → you’ll get fewer matches”
- They don’t go deep enough with implications. I.e., they just write “you’ll look bad in your beach photos” without “→ you couldn’t use them in your dating profile → your profile looks worse →” etc.
Clients get this wrong when they put a benefit instead of a feature. For example, “match with drivers in seconds” isn’t a feature of Uber. It’s a benefit.
“The biggest pool of drivers” is really the feature, which causes you to “match with drivers in minutes.”
This should almost always be the inverse of the problem and implications. Using the beach example above, the benefit should read like: “Look good in your beach photos → use them in your dating profile → your profile looks better → you’ll get more matches”
Phase 5: 20% mentor review
Bounce that row off us in Slack immediately. Clients waste time when they write tons of value props, but miss the nuance and principles that make them good.
We want to keep this feedback loop tight so you move faster.
Phase 6: Write 2-4 more rows
Only include your five biggest value props in the sheet. If you include more than five, it’s a sign you’ll struggle to market all the nuance of your product — because your users will get overwhelmed. This exercise will force you to simplify your messaging and start now.
How do you figure out your five biggest value props? Use your happiest users as your signal. (This is also where user interviews come in.)
It’s also harder to use this sheet in practice when you have more than five total rows; it’s too overwhelming and hard to reference.
Phase 7: Full mentor review
Bounce your completed sheet off us in Slack. Note that it typically takes 3-5 revisions to get things down pat, so stay the course.