What is a Value Proposition and a Unique Value Proposition?

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Very few business leaders know what a value proposition (known as a VP) is and even fewer understand what a unique value proposition (known as a UVP) is. We’ll try to unpack what they are, why you need one of them and why they have to be good in order for you to stand out.

Why you need a value proposition

Your value proposition is perhaps the most essential piece of information that you have to display to your target audience. It can be displayed on marketing materials such as websites and brochures and it should be the first bit that people read to understand what it is that you offer. Placed high up in the content on your website or other marketing material it should be the first bit that people read.

It is essential that your value proposition is very quick to read. Again, it should be abundantly clear to your target audience and explain exactly what it is that you offer. It explains what your potential customer will get from you and why they should care that they’re spending time reading your website or marketing material. Your value proposition can communicate the benefits you offer directly to your target audience. However, it absolutely must be quick and easy to understand.

Your value proposition is an essential component in the arsenal that your business uses to communicate its impact and true values. If this post / article can help even a few businesses to arrive at a true UVP for their business it has been time very, very well spent. I would love to speak to you if that’s the case!

The difference between a value proposition and a unique value proposition

A ‘unique’ value proposition is simply turning your value proposition into something that your competitors cannot have. Essentially, a unique value proposition is a big upgrade to a value proposition. Though we recognise that this ‘uniqueness’ can be extremely tricky to achieve in a simple statement.

The question of what a value proposition is and actually having one, should be understood and addressed by every business. However, with the array of marketing tactics out there and the rise of shiny object syndrome, this often gets missed unfortunately.

A unique value proposition is extremely difficult to create and often too much of a stretch for many small businesses. Especially, those who have not gone through a proper process to understand what it is that makes them different internally first. Therefore, simply having a really good value proposition will still work really well for the business in question.

What a value proposition is not

So many people consider a value proposition to be a tagline. It is not, even though a tagline can be part of a unique value proposition. Your tagline must be be a short, catchy and easily remembered phrase by which people can recognise your business. 

Your value proposition on the other hand should be used to inform your tagline. It must be more extensive than the constraints by which a tagline has been created. It must be more descriptive and able to better communicate the real value that your business provides over being cute and catchy.

The unique value proposition – a definition

In a nutshell, your unique value proposition is something that clarifies the following in a simple statement:

  • the main benefit your product / service / business provides
  • how that main benefit solves your customer’s needs
  • what distinguishes you from the competition and why that is important

A unique value proposition can be delivered in one sentence or a series of headlines and a paragraph. However, extensive it is, you need to be abundantly clear about your offering, the benefits and to whom they apply.

Your UVP is integral to your brand and you need to be able to live and breath the unique value proposition that you offer. You cannot offer a false UVP and hope to get away with it for long. It soon becomes obvious if your UVP is not genuinely what you strive to achieve every day.

All clear? Well that’s us done with this post then, off you go to create your killer UVP…

Oh, you’re still here? Are you still not completely clear on what your UVP should be? Well, no, I guess it’s easy to sum up something as fundamental as a unique value proposition in a few bullet points. However, I’m sure the bulleted definition above comes across as legalise to those not already acquainted with the concept. That’s exactly what we have outlined above – a concept – of what a UVP should be. I intend to write a followup post showing you the specifics on how to write a strong unique value proposition. But first we need to understand it a little more deeply. But first, let’s dive into the definition a little more and break this down a bit.

The components of a unique value proposition in more detail

Let’s start by breaking the definition down into more detail. We’ll assume that you are writing your UVP for your business (rather than a product or service). We’ll also start flipping the definition above from being statements into questions directed at you.

The main benefit your business provides is?

To answer that question you really need to understand your target market and become laser sharp in your communication to them about the primary benefit that your business provides:

  • What is the focal point that your business is striving to achieve for your customers?
  • What are the one, two or three thing that you offer that all work together to form a single benefit for the customer?
  • How does that translate as a benefit to your target market in their language?

How that main benefit solves your customer’s needs is?

We need to understand our target market well enough to state how the main benefit provides improvement for your customer. For example:

  • How do we deliver quantified value? Let’s be as specific as we can here.
  • Can we put that into language that they will understand?

Addressing the specific problems of your target customers and articulating a solution here will ensure that your message resonates. You will then attract the right people to your business and brand.

What distinguishes you from your competition and why is that important?

This part is about your uniqueness and it is the bit that businesses struggle with the most from personal experience. I can see why too, as most markets nowadays are crowded with ‘me too’ products and services.

What can you extract that you do that is in any way unique or even just a bit different from your competition? You don’t need to be unique in the wider world, just in your industry, or within your target customer’s mindset for their particular problem. How does your offer compare favourably to that of your competition? How does this uniqueness relate to your main benefit and your customer? You could be unique in the niche of your market that you are appealing to. You could be unique in the number of people who put their trust in buying from your business (social proof). You could be unique in the experience that you provide. There are literally an unlimited number of ways in which you can find uniqueness in your market.

Whilst many businesses miss the uniqueness part and have a ‘value proposition’, you really shouldn’t. Most businesses have a value proposition in some form, if you can create a unique one, you then stand above them or at least attract a specific part of your market to you that they don’t.

What makes a good unique value proposition?

By now you might be aware that a good UVP is very hard to create unless you can already intuitively grasp your business as a snapshot and the mindset of your customers. Most people are not that lucky. It takes a lot of deep introspection, discussion and understanding of your target market in order to arrive at a winning UVP.

Ultimately, your UVP should be for your target market to read and understand. It should be absolutely clear about what makes you different and what is your customers will gain by working with you or buying from you. Being clear can often mean being specific. Again, this all comes back to knowing your target customer and understanding their language. You’re addressing their pain points and making sure they know how valuable and unique you are to their problems.

Some examples of good UVPs:

Click the thumbnail images below to enlarge them to see and read the unique value propositions. Each of the UVPs below are very well reinforced by images and video (in the case of Skillshare).

Why do I need to know all of this?

Some people arrive at a unique value proposition intuitively, not really knowing what the label is for the phrase they have coined for their business. Some consider it to be a USP (unique selling proposition). Most, just cannot discern what is different about their business at all and it is this last experience in talking with people that concerns me the most.

The problem we have here for those who cannot arrive at a unique value proposition is that they are essentially saying that their business does not stand out from the crowd in any way and that they struggle to communicate the value that their business offers. Unfortunately, that’s a business that will never progress very far and cannot grow by any other means than pure accident, thus becoming a victim of the changes in the wind in their industry.

Being able to communicate your value and point of difference to your market is the most critical component of marketing. It enables you to start building enduring relationships with the right customers for your business by starting off on the correct footing. Without that ability to communicate what it is that you really provide, benefit and do you are blind to what it is that you are really offering, and unfortunately so will be your customers.

Still not making sense?

As mentioned above, I fully intend to follow this up with another blog post on how to actually write a unique value proposition. This should help to clear any remaining fog on what is a vital issue for your business. However, if you need to run through this in person we can help in the following ways:

  • Schedule a coaching call with us to pick our brains on creating your own killer UVP.
  • Arrange a strategy workshop with us where we can take you and your team through an intensive online business strategy workshop.

Ray Dale

Brand Strategist. Web Designer. Web Consultant. UX Designer. WordPress Specialist. Creative Director. Co-founder of The SeedMill. With 20 years of commercial experience in web and design industries, Ray is fascinated with all forms of design and business strategy, whether that is web design, video or data driven design. Having worked for small design agencies and large corporate companies, Ray has seen all sides of the web design and marketing industries. With a head full of ideas & strategies and a skillset that is rare to find, Ray is extremely passionate about helping businesses to achieve growth online through strategy and design.