So if you’ve been in business for any length of time, odds are you’ve taken the time to figure out what makes your brand unique – and how to communicate that uniqueness. It’s your company’s superpower. The thing that you do that makes you different and sets you apart from everyone else.
You’ve found your unique value proposition (UVP).
Unique Value Proposition: Also known as a unique selling proposition (USP), your UVP is a clear statement that describes the benefit of your offer, how you solve your customer’s needs and what distinguishes you from the competition. (Source: Unbounce)
But the funny thing about your UVP? Sometimes, it has to evolve. While it put you ahead of the game in years past, your strong selling point may not pack the same punch today. Everyone understands the need for differentiation, and more and more companies are using the strategy to stand out in this crowded marketplace to make their mark.
Plus, there’s a good chance that over the last few years (or weeks), several new companies have sprouted up who offer services similar to yours.
And now, pushing past the competition isn’t simply a matter of finding your brand’s superpower, but a matter of better refining your UVP to be laser-focused and relevant— Which is what we’re going to talk about in this post.
First, A Quick Word for Beginners
If you’re a brand-new, fast-moving startup and haven’t laid out your company’s unique value yet, you’ll want to start there. This guide is about better defining a UVP and can help you, but there are a few questions to answer about your brand first.
- What Problems Do You Solve?
- Who Are Your Target Clients/Industries?
- What Makes You Stand Out from the Competition?
Here are a few great guides from around the web that talk about creating your very first UVP:
- Conversion XL: Useful Value Proposition Examples (and How to Create a Good One)
- KissMetrics: The Few Sentences You Need to Dominate Your Market
- HubSpot: How to Write a Great Value Proposition [Infographic]
Of course, as a startup you’ll likely be pivoting quite a bit and will need to stay agile – but having a clearly-defined UVP gives your company a clear sense of mission and helps set a clear path forward when it comes to marketing and decision-making. When you know what you are and what you stand for, it’s a lot easier to say “ no” to the things that are a distraction from your core mission.
Okay, so now you’ve got that UVP. How do you make it better?
Your Brand: Now More Unique-er!
To stand out as a brand, you have to be unique. Okay, I know that’s obvious, but don’t roll your eyes just yet. Why? Because the very thing that makes you different will attract the right leads to your business while making it clear to those who aren’t a good fit. It’s time for an example.
Example: Back in the 90’s, the newest trend in posh restaurants was a seemingly foreign word… “Organic.” If your restaurant only used vegetables and meat that were never touched by a lab, you were different.
As time passed, high-end eateries were practically required to have organic food.
And now, if you’re serving organic food? Nobody notices. There are organic Ruffles, for crying out loud! Everything is organic. It’s just not that special.
So what happens next? The “ Farm-to-Table” movement, where all of the organic food comes directly from a local supplier for peak, seasonal freshness. In essence, the uniqueness had to get even unique-er…
Now that farm-to-table isn’t all that original, there are restaurants maneuvering into really deep territory to differentiate. Just check out the trailer for “ Chef’s Table” (and watch the show if you haven’t yet):
Sure, it sounds pretentious and frivolous, but in today’s world you have to dig deep to find new and interesting ways to stand out. We can learn a ton from these incredible restaurateurs about refining uniqueness. Here are a few takeaways:
- Focus. Ever go to an Italian restaurant and order a cheeseburger? Yeah, it may be time to lose the things you’re not good at to focus on what you do best. Simplify, simplify, simplify… and repeat.
- Passion. If your team isn’t excited about your brand — your leads WILL pick up on that.
- Constant Curiosity. Maybe one of the most consistent traits found in the world’s best chefs – is the fact that they’re never satisfied. They are constantly testing, tweaking and moving. You may be unique today, and a dime a dozen tomorrow – making it necessary to continuously innovate within your wheelhouse.
But Make Sure You’re Truly Valuable
Your unique assets are incredibly important, but it won’t matter if your leads don’t see the value. What sets you apart might be awesome and intriguing, but that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t drive revenue.
Another Example: Multi-colored ketchup. In the year 2000, Heinz had this great idea to repackage their traditional recipe ketchup in a kid-friendly bottle AND change the color of the product. Before their grand experiment had ended, there were over half a dozen colors including orange, purple and pink.
At first, it went incredibly well. The company sold millions of bottles ahead of any other year in their history. But soon, sales completely dropped off. The product was unique and even impressed kids, but like it or not, kids aren’t the customer. “
Kids tired of it, being the fickle little devils that they are. And moms got tired of seeing two or three half-finished ketchup bottles lying around in the fridge.” – Calvin L. Hodock
Multi-colored ketchup: very unique, but valuable? Maybe not so much.
That said, there’s a silver lining to this story.
If you’ve opened a bottle of ketchup in the last few years and noticed that you know longer have to deal the pink/clear ketchup water that runs out onto your hot dog, it could be (in part) due to the success of that kid-friendly lid. Since the early 2000’s one of the UVP’s amongst condiment companies has been how you put their sauce on your food.
Now that’s valuable. Here are some takeaways:
- Make sure it’s not just your marketing bumping up your sales. Really dig deep to see if your unique superpower is more than just a novelty.
- Go over your buyer personas to see what their unique pains are. One of the best ways to ensure a valuable feature is to match it with the common pains of your audience. (e.g. Mom’s hate spilled ketchup, but don’t love blue ketchup.)
- It doesn’t have to be one thing. Technically, Heinz called the colorful condiment “ EZ Squirt” ketchup and focused on the usability. It was a twofer, but only one point hit home in the long run.
Add them together for a Bona Fide Proposition
Once you’re confident that you’re more unique than the other guys, and you know that you’re offering something your customers really desire…
It’s time to close the deal.
Chef’s don’t want their food to get cold, they want you to eat it. Heinz wants their ketchup on your hamburger, not in their warehouses. It’s the logical end of a three-step process.
- Unique – Draw them in by being passionate and different.
- Value – Show them that you have exactly what they’ve been looking for.
- Proposition – Give them a chance to act.
If you’ve done the first two steps right, your ideal clients will be asking for a seat in your restaurant. Or a free trial for your SaaS product, or a strategy session with your consulting firm, or…
As you focus your UVP to make it more specific and differentiated, the number of people you appeal to will go down, which can be terrifying. But it’s a good thing! You can close a higher number of deals with fewer, more qualified prospects.
Plus, a well-defined UVP means you may be worth a premium. When you can communicate your unique value clearly enough to your buyer personas, pricing is trivial and their interest is peaked.
True Story: There are two three-star Michelin Sushi chefs in Tokyo. Both of their restaurants have 13 seats… combined. While your leads will be warmer, sales don’t happen without calls-to-action. Luckily, if you’ve honed in on your UV, the P is just a matter of letting them know you’re available.
What are you doing to take your unique value proposition to the next level?