In a previous article I talked about the importance of a powerful customer proposition, and how this forms the crux of your marketing communications brief. So in this article, I want to continue by looking at how we should go about actually writing one. But before we get into the detail, let’s consider for a moment who should be writing the customer proposition…

I believe that the customer proposition should ideally be formulated by the client (operating in a marketing communications role – whereby they are firmly focused on the needs of the customer). A few points to bear in mind here though:

  • A good customer-focused client should be able to distil out the key problem and benefit that are most relevant to their target audience.
  • Remember – you are not looking for creative expression of the customer proposition at this point (don’t confuse the customer proposition with the headline).
  • The proposed customer proposition needs to be discussed with the creative agency as part of the briefing process, and refined accordingly, based on the agency’s feedback.

Sometimes the agency is tasked with formulating the customer proposition themselves (particularly where the client is in more of a product-focused role, as opposed to a customer-focused communications role). In this case it is especially important that the agency is clearly briefed on the key emotional and rational benefits of the product, as well as the client’s understanding of the prospective customer’s needs and desires.

So, back to how we go about actually writing it… Well, the first thing to recognise is that you shouldn’t try to write the customer proposition as a headline, or attempt to use clever word play or humour. Instead it should precisely capture the essence of the problem being experienced by the prospect, and the relevant solution you can offer them. A good customer proposition is literal, concise and simple to understand, avoiding any jargon. Remember you are writing the customer proposition for the agency or in-house creative team – not for the customer.

A useful structure that has served me well is the 3-sentence approach to writing the customer proposition:

  1. “It’s been created for…” (describe your target audience) “who… .” (state their underlying problem – ie the key element of customer insight.)
  2. “The…” (name of your product/ service) “is a…” (describe the kind of product/ service it is) “that…” (the single key benefit – the compelling reason why your target audience will want it)
  3. “Unlike…” (key competitor or group of competitors) “we…” (the proof-points/ product-truths that differentiate your solution from what your competitors are either offering or focusing upon).

For example, a fictional customer proposition for an airline may run along the following lines:

“It’s been created for our business travellers who are fed up with uncomfortable pan-European flights. The Anglo Airways flights from London to key European cities offer a business-class service that provides unparalleled levels of comfort. Unlike Easyair Airways, we offer an additional 10cm of legroom, and we offer state of the art SuperSoftTec seat padding for all passengers.”

Of course, it’s then up to the agency/ in-house creative team to devise a concise and compelling campaign proposition – but by following this approach you should have supplied them with all the raw materials they need. More on that in a future post…

If you’re interested in delving into this area in more detail (together with relevant examples), you might like my recent book ‘Successful Marketing Communications’.  If you have any thoughts or comments, do drop me a line below.

Written by Rob H

I’m a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years’ experience working in digital and offline marketing communications across the financial services, leisure, education and technology sectors – most recently working for a large financial services organisation, managing the acquisition marketing communications team. I gained an MSc in Strategic Marketing from Cranfield Business School in 2005 and the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing in 2012. In 2012 I became the part-time course tutor at the Cambridge Marketing College for the CIM diploma in ‘Principles of Mobile Marketing’ – also authoring the accompanying Mobile Marketing study materials for the college. In March 2017 I published ‘Successful Marketing Communications‘ (available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks), which has become recommended reading for delegates at the IDM (Institute of Direct Marketing). When I’m not knee-deeping in reading/ writing the latest marketing communications articles I enjoy outdoor swimming and anything involving snow – with my goal for next year being to combine the two…

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