Six Questions to Developing Your Unique Value Proposition
Keeping your hands on the handlebars
Launching a product or service without being clear on your value proposition is like pedaling a bicycle with your hands off the handlebars. You may be going forward, but it’s a real balancing act (pun intended) to steer your bicycle, much less adjust your direction. It’s more likely that you’ll go off-course than reach your intended destination. Whether your marketing efforts are online, offline or a combination of both, make sure you and the team agree on the unique value proposition for your product or service before you start planning your strategy.
Foundation for your strategy
The unique value proposition is the foundation of your go-to-market strategy, your messaging and your overall marketing and sales efforts. It defines what your product or service is, who it’s designed to help, what it does, how it helps them, and why those customers care. The UVP uses clear, concise language to define the customer, articulate benefits and contrast with the competition. It focuses on what is unique about your product or service and what it does better than any of its competitors.
There are a variety of approaches for developing your unique value proposition. The one I recommend breaks it down into six questions to be addressed individually and focuses on content, not wordsmithing. My introduction to this came from Bill Joos (GoToMarketConsulting) who includes this as part of his workshops for entrepreneurs developing funding pitches. Tackle this as early as possible because it defines who your first customers are and will be, why they will be interested and how you differ from your competition – all basic elements that are critical to your strategy.
There are six key questions to answer:
Applying the formula
Let’s use a real-life example here. MedRock, a manufacturer of orthopedic medical devices, developed an independent hip traction medical device called HipTrac™. Here’s a step-by-step on developing the consumer unique value proposition for that device.
1. What is the product or service?
HipTrac is a portable medical device for independent hip traction.
2. Who is it designed to help?
Patients with hip osteoarthritis (OA) who are not candidates for hip replacement surgery.
3. What does it do?
It enables them to apply hip traction therapy at home or on the road to relieve pain and improve mobility.
4. How does it do it?
The custom pneumatic pump pulls on the patient’s leg, stretching the hip joint and relaxing the surrounding muscles and the tight tissue around the joint that is causing the pain.
5. How does it compare to the competition?
Unlike the use of addictive painkillers with multiple side effects, HipTrac directly addresses the cause of the pain in the degenerative hip, relieving the pain naturally and improving mobility at the same time.
6. Why does the customer care?
Hip osteoarthritis (hip OA) is a degenerative disease that can’t be cured. Patients with hip OA waiting for hip replacement surgery become increasingly limited and dependent on drugs to relieve their pain. HipTrac provides pain relief and improved mobility, enabling them to return to social activities, exercise and a better quality of life.
Putting it all together
When we combine all of that: HipTrac is a portable medical device for individuals with hip osteoarthritis who are not candidates for hip replacement surgery, enabling them to apply hip traction therapy at home to relieve pain and improve mobility with a custom pneumatic pump that pulls on the patient’s leg, stretching the hip joint and relaxing the surrounding muscles and the tight tissue around the joint that is causing the pain. Unlike the use of addictive painkillers with multiple side effects, HipTrac directly addresses the cause of the pain in the degenerative hip, relieving the pain naturally and improving mobility. The patients care because HipTrac relieves pain and improves mobility without addictive drugs, thus enabling them to resume activities and improve their physical condition.
A mouthful? Yes, but you can refine and re-purpose it later on, as you develop the different types of messaging you need. For now, the most important thing is to ensure that it is complete. That is, it includes the benefits, comparisons and reasoning that define the product, the customers and the competition.
The little man on your shoulder
There are a few cautions to keep in mind as you work through this exercise. First, it’s important for you to understand the value and benefits your product/service offers from the customer’s perspective. The key question is “why does the customer care“. Bill Joos described this as the little man sitting on your shoulder asking skeptically “why do I care” after each benefit statement. (If you ever have a chance to attend one of Bill’s workshops, I highly recommend them.)
Different unique value propositions for different markets
Next, if you sell the same product to different markets, there is likely a different value proposition for each market. This is often true of products that have both B2C and B2B markets. Building on the example I used above, HipTrac is also sold to physical therapists who perform manual hip traction therapy. They benefit because HipTrac enables patients to apply hip traction independently in the clinic, allowing the therapist to work with other patients and providing an additional income stream for the clinic.
Walk in your customer’s shoes
Similar cautions apply if you sell through resellers, distributors or OEMs. Your direct customer – the reseller – may value different things in your product or service than what the end-user values. Walk in the reseller’s shoes, consider what’s important to them, and see their perspective.
Finally, earlier is always better. When you understand what your customers value most and why, you can better focus your development, go-to-market and early sales efforts.
Have you run into problems putting together the unique value proposition for your latest product or service? Share your issues in the comments below.