We’ve talked about what a unique value proposition is and why having one is so important to your marketing. However, knowing what a value proposition is and understanding its importance doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to create one for your business.
In fact, many businesses struggle to define a value proposition because they can’t uncover ways to differentiate themselves from their competition or communicate a unique offering. If you’re a plumber, you unclog sinks. So does your competition. What’s the difference?
The truth is there may not be that big a difference. What you offer may be more or less a commodity. But that doesn’t matter.
When it comes to marketing your business, you need to at least create the perception of unique value. That perception is a key link to the emotional triggers that motivate people to act. In other words, you need to get your audience to feel you are the best choice for them.
If you leave the choice between apples and apples, your conversion strategy is largely based on luck – which isn’t much of a strategy.
Here are seven things to consider that will help you develop a value proposition for your business. Some are cut and dry, others are more subtle. Choose your angle based on how you need to connect with your buyers.
We’ll start with the most straightforward of competitive differentiators: price advantages.
If you can offer a quality product at a lower price, you have a powerful value offering to leverage. Most people choose to save money when they can.
The thing is, helping people save money as a value proposition isn’t really a marketing strategy. It’s an element of efficiency.
You have the lowest price with equal quality because you can exploit an efficiency in your production, processes, or delivery. Either you have this advantage or you don’t.
If you do, go with it. If you don’t but try to develop lower prices by skimping on your product, customer service, or the way you treat employees, this can backfire.
For example, when people go to “save 15% on car insurance” at Geico, they don’t think their coverage or customer service will suffer because of the discount. Geico leverages their size and efficiency to allow customers to save.
Most people don’t want the cheapest product, and most businesses don’t want to be known as the cheap alternative. What people want is the best deal – high value at a lower price.
Deliver that value and you can dominate the market. Go cheap and you’ll struggle.
Superiority, Exclusivity, & Luxury
This value proposition is the opposite of offering the lowest price. In this case, the value is that you’re the most expensive.
There is a heuristic that plays out with consumers. We believe that if something is expensive, it must be better.
For some target audiences, the value proposition you want to develop is that you offer the most refined, well-developed, high-quality product on the market. Of course you’re the most expensive – because you’re worth it.
Brand messaging is vital when you develop a superior/luxury based value proposition. If you’re selling a luxury item, value may actually be derived from its lack of utility. These are the types of products the average person looks at and says “that’s crazy, I’d never pay that.”
For example, nobody buys a Birkin Bag because of how it holds a wallet and keys:
The truth is the heuristic is rarely true today. What’s most expensive is not the best in terms of utility.
It’s the best because it offers exclusivity, social proof, and the indulgence of splurging.
Target your audience with this value and stick with your story. Discount luxury is an oxymoron.
Superior Quality and Utility
The value proposition of superior quality is, like low price, one that is tangibly connected to your product. In this case, you do – in reality – offer a product that has superior construction or service than your competition.
Note the difference here from luxury goods. With the superior quality proposition, you need to offer maximum utility to justify your pricing and competitive comparisons. For example, a bag from Saddleback Leather is more expensive than something you’d get at Walmart:
Why the cost? Because the durable leather construction supports their value proposition:
There is an exclusivity to Saddleback’s products. They develop a strong brand story that connects to an adventurous, traveler’s lifestyle. The value proposition is more than how their bags will last through generations.
But this is not a luxury item like the Birkin Bag. This type of value needs proof that it’s worth it from a utility standpoint; notice that the leather satchel has 140 reviews, 5-star average.
In other words, you have to live by the heuristic. You’re more expensive because you offer superior utility and quality. You back up your claims with reviews and guarantees.
But be careful. Even the most methodical buyers don’t make purchase decisions on utility alone. Your marketing will need to develop a story that makes an emotional connection to buyers.
Ultimately, tangible value built into the features of a product must sell the benefits derived from those features. Some of those benefits are intangibles connected to how the product makes the consumer feel.
Like luxury goods, people often post-justify buying the best quality not because they need it, but because they feel they deserve it. Tie that thinking into how you craft this type of value proposition.
Today, customer service is a more powerful value proposition than ever. You may provide the most commonplace of products, but if you go above and beyond when you deal with your customers, you’ll have a strong competitive advantage.
In some industries like restaurants or salons, customer service is an integral part of the offering. A restaurant with great food will likely struggle if the service is poor, and one with mediocre food can thrive when the service is excellent.
In 2015, Chick-fil-A generated more revenue per restaurant than any other fast food chain. They feel a big factor is their friendly customer service.
This also carries over to customer support, return policies, accuracy, speed, and always being prepared to give something extra to enhance the customer experience.
A great thing about customer service is how it translates into reviews. When you treat people well, they’ll give you positive reviews, even if that treatment was part of resolving a problem. 5-star review content is powerful online marketing material.
If you have no other way to differentiate yourself, out hustle your competition when it comes to customer service. It’s a winning value offering every time.
Take On the Competition
In some cases, the best way to communicate your value is to make direct claims that you’re better than a competitor’s offer. For example, this is a constant in the never ending battle of American trucks:
Apple used this tactic effectively with their commercial series that compared a PC (an outdated, square, dullard) to the Mac (a young, innovative, hipster).
This roofing contractor ties pricing in with a direct assertion against competing offers:
When you have a distinct advantage over your competition, it’s effective to articulate it. This usually goes the route of stating your direct advantage over a different solution rather than bashing another brand, but sometimes direct brand comparisons can be effective.
If you have a clear way you’re better than a competitor or alternative, don’t be shy. Say it with clarity and conviction.
The digital era ushered in a tactic known as content marketing. This is where you offer useful, informative, entertaining content for lead generation and nurturing. At its best, the content you provide is part of the value you offer.
Red Bull, for example, does two things. They provide a drink that wakes me up and they entertain me with content like this:
Good grief! If drinking Red Bull makes me 1/10 the rider this guy is, I’ll take it!
Red Bull is the undisputed champ at entertaining content marketing, but most smaller brands will provide value in the form of advice, tips, and tutorials that relate to their product.
An early master of this was River Pools. They created a learning center about in-ground pools that became the online authority on the subject. That authority translated into great SEO traffic.
But it works because they provide honest, helpful information that helps people find the right pool for them. That’s a strong value proposition that also fits perfectly into their selling process.
If your customers tend to have information gaps regarding your offer, use content to fill them. It provides early value that engenders trust and makes people loyal to your brand.
Unique Value Propositions
All of the ways of developing value propositions we’re discussing here have a unique angle to them. A value proposition must distinguish you from your competition, so they’re often called unique value propositions (UVP).
But in some cases this more literal.
If you have a service that is commonplace or a commodity, you may need to get creative to separate yourself from all the similar choices.
Some businesses push this to the limits by giving quirky, bizarre, shocking, or overtly sexual twists to their value proposition. For example, this barber in Melbourne, Austraila decided not to pull any punches and go right at the libidos of their male clientele:
This barber shop has a value offering most the competition will be unwilling to match. It pushes the limits of decorum, but it’s effective.
The unique value proposition gives your business a theme. For example, anyone could try and open a bar in New York City. But if you don’t have a UVP, it’s impossibly competitive. This bar owner developed a UVP around a food item: bacon.
If I go to this bar, I expect to get some of the best bacon dishes (and drinks to accompany them) anywhere. Their business stands up and says: When it comes to bacon, we do it like nobody else.
What kind of theme, story, and personality can you infuse into your business? How can you capture attention, surprise, and delight your customers with a service twist nobody else is offering?
Yes, you’re just another plumber…or are you? This plumbing company in LA found a way to separate their services from the competition.
These types of value propositions push the limits of being unique – and they need to. With today’s online consumers, you need to be inventive to stand out from the crowd and get people to pay notice.
The best starting point for creating a value proposition is with your business offering. Consider your product, service, delivery, and people. How are you different? What can you use to create a perception of uniqueness? How can you offer up front value that gets customers to trust you?
Remember that the answer might not come right away. You’ll probably need to test marketing campaigns and content to tap into what motivates your audience.
Also, consider the audience you’re targeting. What type of buyer are they? What value offering fits into their buying cycle? If you’re targeting competitive buyers, direct comparisons work well, as do products that denote status. Spontaneous buyers may be influenced by what’s unique or trending. Methodical buyers always check prices.
Today, the great prize in marketing is attention. One way or the other you need to stand out and get noticed, or you’ll disappear into the sea of content and offers we all swim in.
Create a value proposition for your offer. It’s a key to settling restless digital consumers and motivating them to take action.