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FutureNow Article
Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008

The 7th Deadly Claim — “Best Value”

By Jeff Sexton
February 28th, 2008

Best Value” can be a useful label, but it’s a lousy claim if you can’t back it up.

“Best value” makes a bold promise. It says to your website’s visitors, “I’ll prove to you that my product/service/whatever is worth far more than the asking price.” If you’re going to make this claim, you’d better have the proof waiting for them on the product- or service-description page.

Don’t be shy, though. If you can prove the “best value” claim, it’s a great way to simplify the customer’s selection process. High-speed decision-makers (Spontaneous and Competitive types) will likely read “best value” as your attempt at saving them time. For slower-paced customers (Methodical and Humanistic types), it helps kick-start their quest to find the very best value.

Whatever the visitors’ temperament, they’ll expect you to prove your claims, so before we talk about how to substantiate “best value” claims, let’s review the elements that evoke “value.”

As Roy Williams explains,

“The value of an item – in the mind of a consumer – is simply the difference between the anticipated price and the price on the tag. When the anticipated price is higher than the price tag, it’s a ‘good value.’”

A Bargain @ Any Price

“Best Value” should be supported in two steps:

1) A detailed description of the item — (build up the anticipated price)
2) The actual, lower-than-expected price — (surprise the visitor and entice them to buy)

Do BOTH parts well and you’ll be golden. Here’s how:

Since “value” is subjective, you’ll need to support it with an objective, factual statement. Don’t tell me your hot chocolate is a great value because it’s the “richest and most flavorful.” Tell me it contains 70% cocoa powder — twice as much as any other brand. Don’t tell me your pizza is the “cheesiest.” Tell me you use a full pound of genuine buffalo mozzarella flown in from Naples for every large pizza. You get the picture.

Then, after substantiating your product’s wonderful qualities, show me that the price isn’t much more than a typical hot chocolate, pizza, or whatever. Do those two things and people will be persuaded to click the Add-to-Cart button or fill out your lead form.

The Quality/Price Ratio

The problem for most companies is that they don’t do BOTH well: Either they don’t do enough to persuade customers of the product’s value, or they price their high-quality item even higher than what they’ve been able to substantiate to the market.

Most businesses don’t offer higher quality at slightly higher prices. They offer higher quality at proportionally higher prices, then try to sell it to us as “value.” But value is actually the ratio of (Perceived) Quality-to-Price. So, higher quality at a proportionally higher price doesn’t represent better value.

If I’m considering a cheap-o $10 knife and you offer me twice as much knife for $12, that’s a good value. If you offer me twice as much knife for $20, your $20 knife may not feel like a bargain.

The way out of this used to be to stress the intangibles of the product. Not long ago, the copywriter would build perceived value above and beyond the substantiated value by talking about, say, the fact that the knife was professional quality. That it was the same knife used by Charlie Trotter, Emeril Lagasse, or the like. The copywriter might wax poetic about the balance of the knife and its feel to the hand. He’d stress the added pleasures of using a more expensive knife over time. He’d hint at the increased social status that only brand-name cutlery can bring.

That used to work very well. But thanks to our depressed economy, our heads are hardening by the day, and those sorts of value-added extras no longer add as much value — not lately, anyway.

In this type of climate, you’ll have to prove that the value added by your product provides genuine Return on Investment — (show how jeans last 2x longer and, therefore, are worth 1.5 times as much) — or you’ll have to master yet another two-step process.

The Value Margin Two-Step

Now, before I get into that, I want to emphasize that I’m NOT preaching a discount or price-cutting mentality; on the contrary, I’m recommending you substantiate your product’s value and maintain your profit margins.

Only when your best efforts have failed should you consider Plan B:

1.) Increase the saleability of the product rather than its perceived value. In other words, allow your value-building efforts to increase the number of people who are willing to buy at a lower-than-usual price, rather than trying to use it to increase the price you charge.

2.) Decrease the buying pain enough to cause a favorable “anticipated vs. real” pricing structure. This could mean price-cutting, resizing portions, restructuring payments, reducing surcharges, etc.With any luck, doing both of these things will increase sale volume and keep you from having to lower your prices as much as you otherwise might. That’s probably not what you want to hear, and, as a copywriter, it’s not necessarily what I want to write, but it’s the truth. If you’re used to charging a high premium on intangibles there are going to be fewer people willing to pay the usual premium to get such things in the coming year.

Copy can’t fix everything. Each business must decide where to draw the line.

Show your value. Prove it. Convince hard-nosed customers. And if that stops working — or isn’t an option — go for Plan B.

In the meantime, read the other deadly claims at your own risk:

  1. Superior Customer Service
  2. Easy to Use
  3. Most Experienced
  4. We’re #1
  5. 100% Risk-Free
  6. Cutting Edge
  7. Best Value

[Editor's note: Want to improve the value of your website? Join us on March 28th in San Francisco for the first-ever West Coast edition of the Persuasive Online Copywriting seminar, our popular Web writing crash course. Jeff Sexton and Holly Buchanan will be your instructors. Class size is limited so that attendees can get real advice and actually learn something.

As a bonus leap year discount, you'll save an extra $100 if you register by 2/29.]

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Comments (13)

  1. [...] "Best Value" [...]

  2. [...] "Best Value" [...]

  3. Jeff,

    Comes down to value is a perception versus a hard reality, doesn’t it? It doesn’t matter how much we think our products are worth – if we can’t convince (show) the customer – well, there goes our margins.

    And, those darned customers have minds of their own – and their perspectives can change on a daily, even hourly basis, depending on the mood, the location, the type of product. So, we can write Pulitzer prize copy and deliver the absolutely best product…and still have a hard slog.

    One example of “value perception” is the BBCA show “Bargain Hunt” (worth watching just to marvel at the host’s hair). Two teams go out and buy various old and antique items at flea markets and events. They then take them to be auctioned – and often end up selling at a big loss. Expert says: “Well, it’s from the 17th century, with lovely inlaid metal design; it’s in great condition. It should fetch between 100 and 150 pounds.” So, the team pays 50 pounds. Then, at auction, the audience sees a small metal vase – and bids all the way up to 10 pounds.

    Then the beat up not-particularly-old farm basket with dusty flowers sells at a profit of 15 pounds. Go figure!

    Back to convincing one of my clients to take “100% risk free, money-back guarantee!” off his materials (I sent him here, but so far he’s sticking to it. Sigh.)

  4. Mary,

    Thanks for sharing. It sounds like “Bargain Hunt” really is a must see. Funny how the same people who show up to my yard sales and buy up my wife’s used sneakers and swimsuits (yes, swimsuits!), while ignoring fabulous and ludicrously discounted furniture, somehow manage to show up at auctions as well.

    Yes indeed, value, like beauty, truly is in the eye of the beholder. And said beholder tends to view things differently in hard times, which is really what the second half of my post is all about.

    As for “risk free, money back guarantee,” I’ll be happy to e-mail you one blog reader’s experience in implementing my advice, if you’d like. I think that the before and after copy examples speak for themselves.

  5. Jeff good post. I am learning a lot form your posts. I have to implement this as soon as possible. I was also missing one part of the things you mentioned. Thanks for sharing.

  6. [...] “Best Value“ [...]

  7. I had bookmarked this entry because I found it informative. This was in April. Now coming across it again, I can’t help but see how important value is now, with the economy the way it is. I hope you reference it again, because many will find it very useful.

  8. “Best Value” is a tried and tested phrase but it is very essential provide some data to back your claim.

  9. The reason being that I am looking for some more ways to increase my lead generation conversions

  10. Sample egenty picture onlide the year

  11. As for “risk free, money back guarantee,” I’ll be happy to e-mail you one blog reader’s experience

  12. In my mind, honesty will always reach the visitor.

    For example, “Easy to Use“ does not always fit into the catagory of deadly claims. You could be just explaining the simple matter of fact.

    However, I can see how “Best Value“ could be seen as a red flag.
    Without really sharing what that value is, the customer is left scratching his head.

    Bottom line is to use words like you really mean it – and not just to treat the customers like cyber-credit cards.

    That way you are perceived as someone who genuinely cares about the customers need.

  13. I’ve changed my business model to reflect this. Great post.

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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