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You Need an Online Value Proposition

Let me ask a simple question: why should customers use your online store over a competitor’s online store… and why online rather than shopping at a bricks and mortar retail outlet? In other words, what is your online value proposition?

If you build it they won’t come

I remember standing in a friend’s office when his phone rang… “Yes,” he said to the person over the phone… “what you need is a Content Management System. I can make that website for you, it will be six pages.” Within less than one minute they’d loosely agreed on the price.

Standing at the end of my friend’s desk I recall that I was aghast… no, slightly horrified. How the hell could this one stop web shop know that the person who had just telephoned needed a six page website built with a Content Management System?

That’s what I mean when I talk about making Internet beach towels. Where is the strategy? Where are the measurable outcomes? The only thing I saw in that interaction was a confused and desperate business being held victim to somebody they’d approached as an expert. They needed an answer… he gave them an Internet beach towel.

My friend, at that time, was operating under a naive assumption that if he built them a website – any six page website – the customers would come.

Your Online Value Proposition

One of the main things any online commercial business needs to work out is their online value proposition – often just called their OVP. What is the reason someone would go to their website for goods or services… why don’t they shop on a competitor’s website or drive to the analogue wasteland of their own city’s business district?

Amazon’s OVP is that customers get up to 40 per cent cheaper books from their large stock list. That’s the reason customers think of Amazon and type in that Amazon URL and why they bother to go through the Amazon purchase process. It’s not simply because Amazon sell books. It’s because Amazon have a strong OVP.

The OVP links straight into the big strategic plan that explains why the website exists, who its customers are and its business model. It’s critical that nobody fools themselves into making up an OVP and pretending that it’s true – the business depends on it being a real and candid one.

That OVP has to be on their website

The Amazon OVP is there on the website… otherwise how would anybody know about it? This is the value proposition that a business is selling to customers to convince them they should spend money.

And yet its hardly ever mentioned when the web designer’s telephone rings with a new prospect… why?

How come so many web designers think its ridiculous to ask their prospects (or existing clients) this level of strategic business question? Why does the conversation become about offering them a Content Management System and a given number of pages to populate with text and graphic?

A business not knowing their OVP means their customer won’t know it either. And if the business can’t identify an OVP then perhaps they don’t need a website at the moment. And if the web designer doesn’t know their clients OVP then how can they design a business strategy or a website to effectively capitalise on it? Instead they get distracted into building Internet beach towels.

When a Prospect Telephones Your Office

If you’re one of those web designers, I’d like the next prospect to hear this from your end of that phone call – “Yes, but before we discuss anything further could you tell me what you want that website to achieve? My job is to help you figure out how to meet your objectives.”

A web designer’s job should rarely be to make Internet beach towels. No client’s business has charity money to piss up the wall simply to support their local web designer.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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