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Marketing 360® Blog

8 Ways to Develop A Small Business Value Proposition

Post By Scott Yoder | Content Marketing & SEO

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.

#1.  Low Price

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.

#2.  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:

luxury value proposition

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.

#3.  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:

value proposition quality

Why the cost?  Because the durable leather construction supports their value proposition:

value proposition tag line

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 consumers feel.  This classic Volvo ad demonstrates the point:

volvo value proposition ad

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.

#4.  Customer Service

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.

There is a caveat to customer service as a value proposition.  In terms of messaging, just saying you have great customer service isn’t unique.  In fact, everyone says it with phrases like “Our customer’s are our priority”.  These type of truisms don’t make effective copy.

When you write your value proposition, be specific about how your service helps people.  You save time, avoid frustrations, and increase security.  You ship faster and deal with returns better.  You always answer the phone and follow up on schedule.

If you have no other way to differentiate yourself, out hustle your competition when it comes to customer service.  When you’re specific about what you do, it’s a winning value offering that earns you an excellent reputation.

#5.  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:

competitive advertisement

Apple used this tactic effectively with their commercial series that compared a PC (an outdated, square, dullard) to the Mac (a young, innovative, hipster).

value proposition competition

This roofing contractor ties pricing in with a direct assertion against competing offers:

conversion home page

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.

#6. Informational Marketing

If your prospects need information in a way that connects to your offer, create content that fills those gaps.  At its best, the content you provide is part of the value you offer.

We use this tactic at Marketing 360®.  For example, this video discusses when you should consider updating your website:

We provide value by pointing out problems people may be having with their website, which connects to the soultions we offer.

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.

#7.  Convenience and Time-Savings

Modernity causes people to care about convenience and time-savings as much as anything else.  It’s powerful if you can wrap these into your value proposition.

These elements are similar to price in that they’re largely an extension of your processes.  Their power is only maintained if the overall value you deliver remains competitive in the market.

Still, convenience may be part of you overall business plan.  It’s why we shop on Amazon and eat fast-food.  Gain this competitive advantage and you’ll have a serious edge.

#8.  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 is 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:

barbershop marketing

This barber shop has a value offering most the competition will be unwilling to match.  It pushes the limits of decorum, but it’s undeniably attention grabbing.

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?

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.

Conclusions

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?

Connect this to customer insight.  What motivates people to spend money on the products or services you offer?  What are their needs?  Remember it’s how they perceive value that important.

It’s likely you’ll have to test your content and copy to dial in the best value proposition.  Test offers, word choice, and hero shots.  What you think will work best may not be what acutally resonates with your audience.

Focus on 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 states why you’re the best choice and clarifies why your customers should care.  That, indeed, is an important statement.