As we look ahead to 2018 I thought it may be a good time to go back to marketing basics with a discussion around the value proposition of a business. There are all sorts of businesses that reckon they can:

  • Find you more business
  • Drive leads to your inbox
  • Take your sales to the next level
  • etc. etc.

In actual fact, there is only one thing that will sustainably drive your business forward and that is to have a Unique Proposition that delivers real value to your customers. Before you start talking to the ‘get rich quick’ merchants, ask yourself whether you really understand your own business proposition?

Defining a Unique Value Proposition

Whether you’re already in business or thinking about starting up, you should always be thinking about what sets your business apart? Answering this question is the starting point for defining your Unique Value Proposition.

Words, Words Words

As in most fields, there are lots of ways to say the same thing – and sometimes people can use these differences to bamboozle the uninitiated. In this article, I am using the phrase Unique Value Proposition to define the ‘Thing’ that sets your company apart. Although some may argue differently, I suggest that all of the following are saying the same thing:

  • Unique value proposition
  • Competitive advantage
  • Unique business proposition
  • Unique selling proposition (USP)
  • Business differentiator
  • Unique selling point (another USP)
  • Point of difference (POD)

These are just some, I’m sure you can think of others. Anyway, the point is that they are all essentially the same thing as a Unique Value Proposition. To be honest, although it is ideal to have a proposition that is unique, it isn’t essential. In a competitive market, there are almost always several businesses delivering what is essentially the same product or service. What is critical, however, is that you deliver value. While it is great to have a value proposition that is unique, it is essential to have a value proposition that delivers real advantage to your customers.

What is a value proposition?

Your value proposition demonstrates your business’s ability to deliver real benefit. It defines your position within the marketplace to deliver advantage to your customers. Get your market to listen and you have an edge over other businesses in your field. Your value proposition isn’t meant to appeal to everyone. On the contrary—you want a  proposition that is attractive and relevant to your particular target audience. This will help you market your business alongside competitors while carving out a market share all your own. Just because you believe your business delivers value doesn’t mean you have a value proposition. Your customers must believe it! What is more, you should be able to effectively demonstrate your value proposition to prospective customers too.

Developing a value proposition?

Developing a value proposition takes time and effort. It’s more than whipping up a clever tagline. To create a value proposition, you have to know your customer and your business. Plus, you have to understand how your product or service fits into the world of your marketplace. And, that’s just a start. I’m not trying to frighten you, rather I’m just emphasising how in-depth the process is. Creating a value proposition is time-consuming, but certainly to your advantage in the long term. Here are some tips to remember.

1. Don’t try to please everyone

You want a well-defined audience. Don’t be afraid to alienate a few people along the way. Brands that target everyone, connect with no one. Casting your net too wide for fear of missing an opportunity is a mistake. Focus on the potential customers and markets where you know you can make the biggest impact and have the strongest offer.

2. Differentiate yourself from the pack

Think of a value proposition as a differentiator. Something that will be interesting and relevant to your audience that demonstrates your ability to deliver value to them. Communicating this message gives potential clients a reason to try your business. Whatever your value proposition is, it has to be something that the competition can’t claim, or at the very least something they don’t use as a marketing tool. Remember though that if you target only your local area you only need to concern yourself with other local competitors – and of course, businesses that target your area from further afield – however, in my experience, for many SME businesses, being local can be turned to your advantage!

3. Make a connection

One of the best ways to create a successful proposition is to make a connection with your audience that pushes them to act. It’s not about shouting louder. It’s about marketing smarter. Creating compelling messages that connect with your audience, engage their hearts (not just their minds), and turn them into loyal brand ambassadors who will help you get the word out and build your brand,