Compiling a Value Proposition Canvas is easier than you think: Here is a guide with step-by-step steps, as well as use situations and best practices, to make it your best ally in growing your business. 

As I explained to you at this article, the Value Proposition Canvas is a super-useful tool for designing your offering following an effective plan that takes into account customers' needs and fully meets them. 

At first glance, it may seem a little difficult to use, but in reality you just need to know the right steps et voila, in the blink of an eye you will have gathered all the key information to create a competitive and valuable product.

So, let's cut the nonsense and get right into it: here it is A guide on how to fill out the Value Proposition Canvas in a simple way. Finally, I also explain in what situations it can be useful and what mistakes to avoid.

How to fill out the Value Proposition Canvas: the step by step guide

Okay, let's imagine that you decide to create a Value Proposition Canvas for the design of your latest new product. Here are all the various steps I recommend you follow to get maximum results with minimum effort.

#1 Organize

The first thing you need to do is to set the most favorable conditions for doing this task: find a quiet and private environment, get pens, markers and colored Post-its, print or draw the Value Proposition Canvas on a large enough sheet of paper and give yourself at least 45 minutes of undisturbed time.

#2 Identifies a target segment.

To begin filling out the Value Proposition Canvas, always start with the customer profile (so the circle on the right). What segment do you have in mind for this proposition? Of course, you may have many different target audiences you are addressing (or want to reach). So, as a first step, identify who your offer's target audience actually is and, if necessary, create multiple templates, one for each segment.

value proposition canvas

#3 Define client characteristics.

At this point, having identified your target audience, you need to fill in the boxes related to the customer's activities, difficulties, and benefits. How? By asking the right questions! Here are some examples you can take a cue from:

Activities

  • What are the activities that your client is trying to do in work or life? 
  • What are your basic needs (emotional and/or personal)?
  • What functions does it try to perform/what social or emotional goals does it try to achieve?
  • How would you like to be perceived by others? What can you do to achieve this goal?
  • How do you want to feel and what do you have to do to get it? 
  • What activities make him satisfied?

Difficulty

  • What hinders your client's activity? What is bothersome or prevents them from accomplishing what they desire?
  • What situations make him feel bad or do not satisfy him?
  • What are the main challenges you face? (Doesn't understand/know how it works, etc.)
  • What negative social consequences do you fear facing? (Loss of reputation, credibility, trust, social status...).
  • What risks can you be exposed to?

Benefits

  • What makes your customer happy? (Having time, money, etc.)
  • What results do you expect and what can exceed these expectations?
  • What would make his work or life easier?
  • What positive social consequences does he want to achieve?
  • What are you looking for (Intelligent design, guarantees, specific features, etc.)?

#4 Fill in your value map.

Once you have completed the circle on the right side, move to the square on the left. Start listing some options that can serve as a "solution" for your customer: the products and services to offer,  considering how they reduce difficulties and how they generate benefits. With these in mind, you then decide how to use them to meet various needs in unique ways. Here is a list of questions to ask yourself.

  • What can you offer your customer to help them gain benefits?
  • How do your products or services... 
  • ... are they able to help your client accomplish the tasks to which they aspire?
  • ... reduce the difficulties or problems it faces?
  • ... improve your emotional state?
  • ... solve the shortcomings of existing solutions?
  • ... offer savings (of time, money, etc.) that makes him happy?
  • ... guarantee him the results he expects?
  • ... make their lives easier?

#5 Connects the two switchboards

Okay, now that you have filled in the two fields, you need to link them.

To do this, you need to identify for each box (activities, benefits, difficulties in the circle and their correspondents in the square) the items with higher priority (I recommend a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 5).

From here, define how you stand out from competitors and create your own value proposition, using clear, simple language that earns you the attention and trust of your audience.

#6 Check your work

When you have completed your Value Proposition Canvas, take a step back. 

Yes, you got it right!

You need to stop and reflect on what you have worked out. Ask yourself whether your "map" is sufficiently detailed, that is, whether it meets these criteria:

  • You mapped a single target segment;
  • You have identified and prioritized at least 3 activities, difficulties and benefits of the customer profile;
  • Each difficulty or advantage has a corresponding difficulty reducer and advantage generator;
  • Your products or services cover customer needs, expectations and problem solving.

That done, all that remains is to spread your product through the right channels and promotional means. Remember that your value proposition, as a promise of value, should appear in all virtual places of contact with your users: newsletter, campaigns of email marketing, website, blog, social media, etc.

When to use the Value Proposition Canvas

Well, now that you know how to use the Value Proposition Canvas, you might ask yourself, "But how do I know when I need it?"

As I mentioned at the beginning, it is a tool you need to put yourself in your customers' shoes and understand what they really need. That said, it is therefore super useful in these cases:

Developing/perfecting a product

Since it helps you understand your audience and its characteristics, the Value Proposition Canvas is critical to undertaking any new production project effectively. Similarly, you can use it when you want to add a new feature to an existing product, which can require large investments, either of time or resources (or even both). Matches between the customer profile and the value proposition result in a product-market fit, which will increase your chances of success.

Enter a new market or customer segment

Another area of application is when you are trying to expand into a new market, to understand whether or not you are really needed and how new customers will receive your product/service. By outlining your offering and people's current problems, using the Value Proposition Canvas can help you make a more informed decision.

Formulating your value proposition

When you can establish a connection between a motivated customer and why they buy your products, there you have your value proposition, that can be tested and validated. Starting from the value map and taking into account the profile of customers, you can succeed in breaking through their emotions and reach them by focusing on the benefits of the product (precisely, in terms of value), instead of its features. You can then find new ways to present what you sell, as well as identify new customers who might like you for different reasons.

Refine your marketing strategy

It may be that, in compiling a Value Proposition Canvas for your product, you realize that you are targeting different customer segments that you have probably tried to reach with the same promotional strategies. Investigating the benefits and difficulties again makes you realize how different customers have different needs and that, to cover all targets, you should therefore fine-tune the messages you communicate.

Let's be clear: Your marketing strategy is not created from the Value Proposition Canvas, but it can be re-read against it so that you consider what you have done so far in a whole new light.

Best Practices.

Finally, here are some useful tips for using this tool in the best possible way.

Consider the big picture

Even if you consider and compile them separately, all the elements of the chart are closely related to each other: the customer profile is about observing the customer's needs and wants, while the value map integrates these to improve the quality of the product. Then it's up to you to figure out how to turn the final product into what people want; the only way, of course, is to offer them a value solution.

Separate customer segments

This is one of the most common mistakes: compressing all segments into a single customer profile, when in fact each is distinct in its activities, difficulties and benefits. As I have already told you, I recommend that you create different profiles (and therefore different charts) for each one and focus on them separately. Otherwise, you will have too broad a focus and may lose sight of the most important things.

Put yourself in their shoes

Another small problem is that you often fail to focus on what customers expect from a particular product, because you tend to want to look only at what your offering is intended to solve once it is launched in the marketplace. The resulting customer profile is therefore unrealistic and ineffective. What you can do is to empathize with your recipient, think about how he goes about his day, what he does, how he feels, and so on. Only then will you know how to meet his or her needs, there where no one else can.

Remember that you can't get everywhere

That is: you do not have a magic wand to solve any problem or difficulty. Remember how I suggested above that you select the first 3-5 items in the various boxes according to their importance? This point is really key: since you can't address everything, the best approach is to target the key factors that customers consider the highest priority. Don't try to address every single need (it's unrealistic to think your product can do that): this will help you identify areas where you should improve and those on which you shouldn't spend too much time or resources, so that you can focus on concrete goals.

Conclusion

So what do you think?

Like all things, it may seem a little articulate at first, but I'm sure with a little practice the Value Proposition Canvas will become your best friend!

As a final point, it is worth remembering that what I have described to you in this article is only the first phase of developing a new project: it will then be essential to validate the assumptions you have made by conducting tests and getting feedback. This can help you revise and refine your plan of action.