There are thousands (probably millions) of “How To” guides on marketing full of lists and ideas and boxes that need to be checked but I have a core belief that none of this will work if you don’t have one thing.
Your differentiation factor OR Unique Value Proposition (UVP).
When I meet with a potential client, THIS is what I’m looking for in our conversation. Without it, we may have a hard time getting you the results you want in your business. Not only does it provide guidance in where and when you do your marketing, but also how and to whom. It inspires our design aesthetic and gives a sense of direction and focus.
But what is it? One way to delve deeper into what your UVP might be is to look at the 4 P’s of Marketing:
First question, what are you selling? Is it unique in and of itself or are you in a large pool of competitors? If you’ve got a product that is a completely original idea without any competitors (such as a new invention with potential for patents) then your UVP may just be your product, assuming there is a real demand for it.
For most of us, our products won’t really be that unique. Sure, we can put our spin on it, but it’s likely that there are other options for our potential buyers out there – especially with the internet providing global competition.
Other ways you can improve your product’s uniqueness is to develop a specific style or focus on a niche industry. Counterintuitive as it may seem, reducing your product variances and options may actually help you to become an expert in your niche and put you in the forefront of potential customers’ minds when they need what you’re selling, making you the obvious best choice. You might want to start a bakery that can sell nationally online, but there’s a ton of competition in this space. Why not become a baker that specializes in (and only offers) a very specific kind of cookie or cake design? This might actually cut out the competition entirely and make you the one and only business of your kind.
Next, how does price affect your image and UVP?
“Never compete on price, because there’s always someone willing to go out of business faster than you.”-Zig Ziglar
Your price gives potential customers a psychological cue to the value you’re providing. Being the cheapest option, they may think your product is cheaply made or that you’re pulling some kind of trick or upsell. Not to mention (from the business side) pricing yourself too low may actually just put you out of business if you are successful in selling without having a good enough profit margin.
Having a higher price than competitors may make you stand out as being valuable, an expert, or of top quality (whether or not you are).
Either of these methods can create a UVP for your business or brand. Do you want to be Walmart or Nordstrom? And how does this pricing strategy align with the other P’s here? If you plan to market a higher priced item, you need to consider the product’s quality, the placement of your business (likely in a higher end store or neighborhood), and where you decide to promote to reach the right audience.
WHERE are potential customers going to find you? This may be your opportunity to find a UVP.
Will your business provide a way to buy online? Or through a social media platform? Or in a high trafficked area of town? Will you be providing a unique service or product in a location where there hasn’t been this offering? Can the experience of the “place” or point of purchase be made into something extra special with amenities to provide an extra convenience to your customers?
Or maybe part of the Place is that it’s a little bit unusual or harder to find, setting it apart from the crowd.
Finally, promotion. Once you’ve got the other P’s figured out, you can decide how to promote your product or service. This, we believe, is one of the key opportunities for success that many business owners overlook or don’t invest enough time or funds into.
Here’s what happens when you start a new business – people come knocking at your door. Some potential customers… but also a lot of advertising sales people. They probably have good intentions, but as a marketer, my gut reaction is always to say “no” until you have a solid strategy in mind. Doesn’t mean any of those promotion ideas area a bad choice, just that it needs to be looked at with your UVP in mind.
There are a million ways to promote your business. You don’t have to do all of them. And you don’t have the budget for it anyway. BUT you can differentiate yourself from competitors by having strong brand messaging, visuals and a strategy. Like, you could sell the EXACT SAME PRODUCT as some person down the street and become more profitable because you had a better marketing strategy.
Part of your Promotion UVP is telling the story of your UVP itself and then finding the right budget and placement for advertising. Whether it’s something more traditional like print ads or sponsorships all the way to social media groups, influencers, and guerilla style strategies. You can create a successful business by having an energetic and thought provoking promotional strategy and message.
If you’ve ever met with us at alder|creative and wondered why we ask so many questions, this is probably why. We’re looking for that lightbulb moment. We need to know and understand the Product, Price, and Placement of your business in order to work out the Promotion.
I believe that the stronger definition you have of your UVP, the more successful your business will be… and it’s one of the hardest things to do in business. Pay attention to those businesses you interact with and consider the question “what’s their Unique Value Proposition?” You might find that more successful businesses have a UVP that is easier to see and understand from a consumer point of view.
Want more help finding your UVP? Set up a consultation with me to discuss over a cup of coffee!
Britta Jackson is a serial entrepreneur, co-owner of alder|creative, providing consulting and graphic design to small businesses and non-profits in Grays Harbor (and beyond) since 2013. She works from her home in Aberdeen with her husband and 1 year old daughter and enjoys live music, reading business books, and vacationing in small towns.