What sets your organisation apart from all the other companies that are competing for your prospect's attention and - ultimately - their budget? If I may offer a suggestion, it's probably not your latest clever feature or function, even if that can make some modest contribution to the story.
No: it's your ability to help your customer solve a problem that they cannot afford to ignore, better than any other option available to them. This is your unique value position. And if you can nail it, it will dramatically amplify the power of your marketing messages and your sales conversations.
It's a simple idea, but often deceptively hard to put into practice. Here's how you can craft one for for your organisation that enables you to stand out from the crowd...
Note that I have intentionally used the word position, not proposition. According to the dictionary, a proposition is merely a "statement of opinion" - something that can stand (and fall) in isolation. A position, on the other hand, describes your relationship to other things that are important to your prospects.
Ultimately, positioning happens in the minds of your audiences, supported or distorted by how you communicate with them. It helps them relate what you do to the things they want to achieve, and against other approaches they may be considering. And it can help them to decide between action and inaction.
In "Crossing the Chasm", Geoffrey Moore shared an approach that I've used with only minor modifications. My preferred unique value position formula is based on two short sentences that succinctly describe what you do, who you do it for, why they need to do anything, and what sets your solution apart
"For [primary target customers] and others who are dissatisfied with [their current situation], [solution name] is a [category name] that [compelling reason to buy]. Unlike [their primary alternative options] what really sets [company name]’s solution apart is [your primary differentiation]."
The statement is intended to define the centre of your target market, rather than the boundaries. It focuses on the critical problems that you are best at solving for your most promising potential customers. You may never quote it verbatim in your marketing messages. But it should serve as the foundation for everything you seek to communicate.
If you have multiple target customer clusters, you will probably want to develop subtly different value positions for each of them. For example, the current situation, compelling reason to buy and primary alternative option to buy may vary from one target customer cluster to another.
The structure is merely a guide: you may find that your value position comes across more naturally or clearly if you use a different sequence or form of words. But every element of the formula has an intentional and has a specific role to play in positioning your offering.
Now let’s break this Unique Value Position formula down into its key component parts:
Primary target customers: this describes the common characteristics of the ideal customer for your solution. This may describe the type of organisation, the type of role, or a combination of the two. This section is important, because it enables you to target your marketing messages and your sales conversations on your most promising customers.
Current situation: this describes a key point of dissatisfaction with your primary target customer’s current situation. This defined issue may be a goal or problem, or an existing but unsatisfactory solution that they are compelled to do something about. This section is important, because it identifies a reason for them to act.
Solution name: this defines the name you market your solution under.
Category name: this describes the market category within which your solution can be found. When prospects go searching for answers to their defined issues, they often tend to think in terms of well-recognised solution categories. This section is important because customers tend to think in terms of categories of solution, and can struggle to position you if they can’t work out what type of thing you are offering.
Compelling reason to buy: this defines the key benefit of using your solution - normally related to your role in addressing the defined point of dissatisfaction with their current situation. This section is important, because without a compelling reason to buy, they are likely to stick with the status quo.
Primary alternative options: this defines the primary alternative options for addressing the defined issue - this may include in-house solutions, obvious competitors, or radically alternative ways of solving the problem. This section is important, because it defines your point of competitive comparison.
Company name: your company name.
Primary differentiation: this defines what uniquely sets your offering apart from the other options open to them. Your distinctive approach to solving the problem is usually far more powerful than a single product feature. This section is important, because it memorably nails why the customer should do business with you.
One of the most common challenges in developing a unique value position lies in deciding what to leave out. Lengthy value positions serve to confuse, rather than clarify. Great value positions reflect simple memorable themes, rather than lengthy lists - that’s why focusing on the centre of your target market is so important.
Simplicity is hard work as Blaise Pascal, Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Cicero and a raft of other talented writers have long recognised ("forgive me for writing such a long letter, but I did not have the time to write a short one") but the effort is worth it: simplicity resonates and complexity confuses. It's absolutely worth putting in the time to get this right.
So - what's your unique value position? And is it reflected in every marketing message and sales conversation?