What’s your value proposition?

Janet Arrowood

What sets your business apart from all the similar businesses out there? Do you have a unique value proposition?

Put yourself in the places of your clients, prospects or referral sources. What do you think they consider to be your value proposition? Have you ever asked them what they view as your company’s best or most valuable advantages? What did they say? Did you take their input and use it? If you haven’t asked, then why?

What’s a value proposition? Perhaps the best way to explain the concept is through a few examples.

If you provide a service, the value could be harder to define. But quantifying something you do better than similar companies will set you apart. If you operate a staffing company, providing a 30-day money back guarantee might be an option. Or guaranteeing to provide certain hard-to-find employees within a short time frame could be of great value. Maybe you’ve won industry awards or peer recognition. Those set you apart as well.

If you provide goods, you need a value proposition that’s both interesting and quantifiable. If you operate a restaurant, perhaps you offer a selection of menu items guaranteed to reach the table within 15 minutes of placing an order or the food is discounted or free. Maybe you’ve maintained top ratings from the county health department for food safety or been named for the past 10 years as the best in some category by a recognized rating agency. Maybe you offer a return or exchange policy more liberal than competitors.

Think about companies that have distinguished themselves from the competition. Uber makes it easy to request a ride, easy to pay and easy for the driver to find your location and destination. Other ride-hailing services offer their own value propositions.

There’s one thing value propositions have in common, though. They don’t say anything about other companies. They give customers the means and opportunity to reach the desired conclusions. Running down the competition is not a value proposition. In fact, it’s often better to convey your company’s value and strengths without even acknowledging competitors. Telling customers, prospects and referral sources what the other person does wrong or poorly won’t make people think more highly of you and your company or value more your services or goods. This is particularly true in the bid and proposal process.

If you have a truly unique value proposition, you can turn the competition into referral sources. How? By serving a niche you clearly articulate and supporting competitors in their pursuit of market segments on which you don’t focus. A willingness to support others in your field — whether through mentoring, referrals or references — could be a large part of your value proposition. This approach would certainly make you unique.

Here are three tips to help develop your value proposition:

Write a headline.

Use no more than three sentences to describe what sets you apart — what’s quantitative and simple for current and potential clients and referral sources to understand and explain to others.

Test out your value proposition on current clients, referral sources, centers of influence and your advisory board.

Remember, your company slogan isn’t your value proposition — although it might make a good starting point to write a headline for your proposition.