COMMENTARY

9 steps to building your unique value proposition

What’s the most effective way to persuade purchasers of your services that you’re the firm best equipped to improve performance and solve complex problems?

If you answered “with a strong value proposition,” congratulations — and please move to the head of the vendor line. A unique value proposition (a.k.a., UVP) is usually one or two short sentences that explain your competitive advantage for clients. It clearly describes the value of what you do, and why you do it best.

Simple to define, complex to develop. Here are nine key steps for building your own UVP.

1. Start with value.

If you can’t easily say why agencies should hire you, prospects won’t be able to either. Take some time to identify the value you offer clients, and say it clearly and succinctly — in writing.

2. Know what you do — on a deeper level.

Again, take some time to focus on exactly what services you provide, because these will also be part of your UVP. Be sure to address and incorporate such factors as:

  • Areas of business you serve
  • Types of problems you solve
  • Types of firms your serve
  • Your positioning statement (if you have one)

3. Pinpoint your target audience.

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s more effective to target a narrower audience, because it will be easier for your targeted expertise to shine. Not only will it help differentiate your firm, but prospective clients will also recognize that you are more likely to understand their organizations.

4. Drill down into “how.”

Be clear and specific about how you can help government customers. When you communicate these messages, be sure to describe benefits, not features. Start with a list, and narrow it down. You don’t need to list every benefit, only those with the most impact and those that distinguish you from competitors.

5. Prove what you claim.

Proving your abilities boost your credibility. Show how your approach solved similar problems for others. If possible, find a brief way to highlight key successes, clients you’ve had for years, or specialized expertise.

6. Put it all in writing.

Now you need to blend together your answers to all the questions mentioned above, and put it in writing. It may help to refer to this simple formula (from Consulting Success): Who your customers are + What you provide them + Why they buy from you.

Review your value statement to make certain you’ve addressed all three of these points. Your statement should be clear, no longer than a few sentences, and differentiate your firm from competitors. Your points of differentiation don’t need to be completely unique, but they should highlight something that you do well — and that your competitors’ marketing doesn’t focus on.

What does a strong value proposition look like? Consider this example from http://www.renolan.com/:

The Nolan Company specializes in the insurance, healthcare, and banking industries. We provide operations, technology, and strategy consulting services to help our clients improve operations and technology effectiveness. Nolan consultants are highly experienced senior professionals, all of whom have held senior leadership positions in the industries we serve.

This value proposition includes who their customers are (insurance, healthcare, and banking); what they provide (operations, technology, and strategy consulting); and why clients buy from Nolan (experienced professionals with senior leadership experience in the industries they serve). Note that the “why” statement is also the organization’s differentiating factor.

7. Start telling the world.

Don’t make the mistake of spending a lot of time developing your UVP, only to use it rarely if ever.

Your value proposition is an essential component of your branding, so use it on your website, in presentations, on collateral and social media sites — basically, anywhere potential customers can learn about you.

8. Test to see how well it works.

The easiest way to test whether your UVP will win new clients is at networking events. How do people respond to your value proposition? Is it clear, and do people seem to understand it? And do they appear to believe that you can deliver on what you promise?

If the answer to any of these questions was no, go back to the drawing board. Getting your value proposition right is worth the effort.

9. Keep improving it.

As your organization grows and expands its offerings, it’s a good idea to periodically revisit your value proposition. For technology consulting, this is especially important, as your services and areas of expertise change.

Make this a priority

Developing and communicating your organization’s value proposition is a crucial way to set yourself apart from the competition — and to easily explain to prospects how you can help them. Achieving these goals is far easier said than done, however, so make sure to dedicate the time and focus to develop one that truly delivers.

About the Author

Elizabeth Harr is a partner with Hinge Marketing and leads the firm’s technology and consulting practice. She is the co-author of two books, the Visible Expert and the Buyer’s Brain.

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