It can be SO TOUGH to identify what makes your business different from your competitors. Coming up with a unique value proposition (UVP) can be challenging because it’s scary to draw the line in the sand and say “this is what we do different”. After all, doing something different MIGHT turn off some potential clients.
Not doing anything ‘different’ is worse.
When you try to compete against market leaders (read: the people or businesses everyone thinks of first) but have nothing to distinguish yourself from them, you end up making yourself ‘different’ in less desirable ways. You compete by offering lower prices or by offering more and more low-quality add-on services. Neither of these options are sustainable for the long-term success of your business. If you’ve thought about either of these – and we all have at least fleetingly at some point – you need a secret weapon to combat the ‘people aren’t buying’ and ‘I’m not good enough’ blues. You need a UVP.
Now, coming up with the almighty unique value prop’ might sound tedious, or difficult, or confusing. It’s REALLY not all that bad because it’s all about figuring out what makes you a special snowflake.
Your unique value proposition (UVP) is your ‘secret sauce’.
If you own a burger chain and are competing against the other burger chains in the area, there needs to be a reason why *some* people choose you over the other guys. You’re going to need to know what makes the other guy special, too. McDonald’s has an actual ‘special sauce’. Burger King flame broils their patties. A&W uses hormone-free meat. Harvey’s tops your burger in front of you.
You could open multiple locations – more than anyone else – and make accessibility your game. You might offer more topping choices than anyone else, or use local organic produce for your toppings. Perhaps it’s gluten-free buns. Maybe it’s not the burger, but the fact that you offer two side dishes to make that fast-food burger feel more like a real meal (side note: I’ve been saying someone needs to do this for years).
The most important thing to consider when defining your secret sauce is to make it authentic to who you are, how you want to run your business, and why you do the things you do. You need to be able to stand behind it and proclaim to the world why your way works better – at least for the people you want to work with.
Some questions that will help you figure out your secret sauce:
WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?
Take a few minutes to think about why you are running your specific business. The reason ISN’T because you want to make money because you could do that in a lot of different, and possibly easier, ways. So what made you choose this? What is it that drew you to what you do? Was there an opportunity you spotted that needed to be filled? Was there a problem you thought you could solve? If you are running a business that is in the same field you studied in college, what drew you to that field in the first place?
WHAT’S YOUR PASSION?
What are you passionate about, both in and out of work? Do you make a point to support small businesses when you shop? Do you volunteer for a community group? Are you a health fanatic? Are your kiddos your life? Are you a party animal? If you had to cut everything but one service from your business, what would it be? What is one thing that you would happily do over and over and over again?
WHAT’S THE NORM?
Who are your competitors and what makes them different from each other? Are they a national company or a small local business? Do they work with a lot of clients or just a few? Do they have a process that you can identify? Do they sell packages or use hourly rates? What is considered normal in your industry, and how can/do you do it differently?
WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE?
What about your previous experiences make you uniquely qualified to do what you do? This doesn’t have to be a master’s degree or equivalent. Maybe you volunteered a lot when you were younger, and so you are well suited to working with charities. You might be great at handling emergency situations with calm focus. You might be great with people, listening and helping them to solve their problems. Or you could be a long-term planner, able to execute the long game to meet giant goals. Is there something that you do that your clients get excited about or thank you for?
Are you getting a little bit clearer about what makes you so incredibly special?
Your marketing strategy needs to start at the top and has to be a part of how you do business every day. Your corporate story is the what, who, where, when, why and how – but if you do everything the same as the other guy, it’s not going to be all that exciting of a story. We cling to ‘industry standards’ when we are feeling insecure or under-confident in what we do. I’m giving you the permission to dream about what your business might be like if you didn’t have to copy everyone else. What do you want to do? Who are the dream clients you want to do it for? Finding your ‘secret sauce’ will help you to set the foundation for the rest of your marketing efforts.
Next, you’ll need to figure out if people really need or want your sauce-omeness. Defining your unique value proposition (ie. secret sauce) and your target market (ie. dream clients) are two sides of the same coin and need to work in tandem, so don’t go telling the world what makes you different until you’ve read my next blog post.