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When Howard Schultz became the marketing director for a then unknown coffee company called Starbucks, portable coffee was dominated by chains like Duncan Donuts.  After a trip to Italy, Schultz reimagined Starbucks as an iteration of the European coffee bar experience complete with baristas in aprons, steaming espresso, cappuccino, and a destination where people could simply ‘hang out’ as opposed to drive thru. The value proposition with Starbucks wasn’t about the product, it was about the experience – specifically “to enhance the customer experience while drinking coffee.”

A value proposition, by definition, is a marketing term which simply means highlighting an innovation, service, or feature, which makes your product, or service, attractive to potential and current customers.

Schultz bargained correctly, that people in the 80’s wanted the European coffee experience and although critics dismissed the higher pricing and what they believed was irrelevant to the consumer, Starbucks continues to be a dominant coffee brand with little change to the original value proposition as remote workers, and those in the You Economy, tend to use their favorite coffee chain as an extra office for work using the free Wi-Fi and meetings.

All solid brands, and individuals, must have a unique value proposition that compels people to want to work with them.  One of the biggest mistakes anyone in business can make is not creating a solid value proposition and using it as a gauge with which to do everything from product design, system creation, hiring, firing, and even knowing which clients not to take as they do not fit into the realm of the value proposition.

Regardless of the industry you are in, having a unique value proposition will set you apart and will be the catalyst to attract more of the right people to you.

If you already have a value proposition and are not growing your business, you will definitely want to revisit it as either you have shifted, or the value proposition is no longer relevant.  By simply taking about fifteen minutes to use the following steps, you can create a unique value proposition that will guide your marketing and help you attract more business.

5 Steps to Creating Your Unique Value Proposition

 Step One – Identify Your Ideal Client

 Who do you really want to do business with?  How old are they?  Where do they hangout on line?  Do they have kids, pets, aging parents?  What keeps them up at night?  What is their household income?  Did they go to college?  Why do you believe you can help them?  Why do you care?

Every business and product you create must have an ideal client.  At my digital agency – Agency 8, we call this the avatar.  Every product we have has an avatar.  Every class I teach has an avatar.  Knowing the avatar helps us target market and write copy.  It also helps us align the value proposition of the that product to that avatar.

When Starbucks was really just starting in the 80’s, the avatar was called a ‘YUPPIE.’  The term meant young urban professional; someone upwardly mobile, fashionable, and with disposable income.  These were the people willing to pay more for designer espresso drinks and early marketing was targeted to them.

As the brand evolved, and Generation X came on the scene, equally willing to spend money having gone to high school wearing 2 and 3 stacked Ralph Lauren polos, oxfords, and sweaters, at a time, and watching their older siblings sip their Starbucks, the next generation of consumers came along.  Gen X children watched their parents consume Starbucks and thus the birth of non-caffeinated Frappuccino’s was born.

Although the value proposition of the coffee experience remained, it was extended as new generations of avatars emerged.

Take a moment and define your avatar.  Write out everything you know about them.  Name them if you like.  At my agency, we have names for them and ask ourselves questions like, ‘does this help Annie?’

Step Two – Define Your Macro Space

The macro space is your broad category.  For example, if you are a health coach, your broad category would be health and wellness.  In the case of Starbucks, the broad category was coffee.  This broad category is a very competitive sector and your unique value proposition is not likely to get a lot of initial traction unless you are already a celebrity in your field (see Step Three).  That being said, you must start with your macro category because this will allow you to explore hashtags, trends, and see what other people are doing in this space.

Step Three – Create Your Micro Category Using Answer The Public and Google Trends 

Answer The Public has a free and paid version.  You can type in your macro category and see what people are asking about your particular area.  From here, you can niche down and pick a target area that you will become an ‘expert’ in.

After you do this, go to Google Trends, and compare topics to see which is trending higher.  You can look at a particular geographical area also to see if there is potential traction for your micro category.

Create a document and list some potential hashtags that can help you with your micro category.  For example, instead of #weightloss you might say #weightlosscoachboise if you live in Boise.  People do search hashtags for their area and it is a great way to set yourself apart.

Step Four – Establish Credibility.

Do you have special customer service?  Do you go the extra mile with clients?  Do you have a free e-book, video series, SMS coaching, or some form of bonus that people get when they buy your product or service?  Do you have some form of credibility?  For example, you might be a physician, an attorney, a CPA, a nurse practitioner, a chiropractor, a self-made millionaire, a best-selling author, or have some form of certification that you can highlight.

Another way to establish credibility is with client testimonials.  Always collect testimonials in writing or video format.  Ask permission to use the testimonials in your marketing.

Make a list of at least 3 things that can set you apart from your peers.

Step Five – Establish Real Value.

I teach my clients to create real value and not contrived value.  For example, one of my clients is a life coach.  She creates real value by offering a free 20-minute coaching session with a value of $100.  She is filling her calendar with these qualified leads who know that her time is valuable.  Contrived value would be if she was offering a free 20-minute coaching session worth $500,000.  She is not Paul Tudor Jones, Warren Buffet, Oprah, or anyone who has a net worth in the billions so creating such a ridiculous contrived value is absurd.

Your value proposition must have real value.  What is it that you can promise and deliver on?  Why would that be attractive to your ideal client or customer?  Some ideas for value propositions:

  • Give me 90 days and I will help you transform your health.
  • Make $500 your first month with my trading techniques or your money back.
  • I will sell your house in 90 days or less.

 Customers are ultimately attracted to certainty and your unique value proposition should reassure them that you are the person that can help them get what they are looking for.

Here is one I use with Organize Your Life:

  • If you do not find, or make, the money you invested in this program over the 6-weeks, I will give you your money back.

 A great value proposition should have a promise and a timeline.  This should be the rally call for your company, your sales team, and any marketing you do.

Susan Sly

Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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