Your Unique Value Proposition
By Judy Bradt
This article is based in part on interviews with Scott Lewis, Principal, PSPartnerships, and Gabe Batstone, Vice President, NGrain Technology.
The Unique Value Proposition is a concise appeal in the audience’s language, that focuses on their needs, problems, issues. Here's how to develop it -- and why you might want several!
Let's start with a lesson from NGrain, now a 75-person military training company headquartered in Vancouver. Founded in 2000, the company was recently named one of the top 20 Canadian defence companies, and is counted among the top 100 military training suppliers to the United States.
How did they do it? Great technology wasn't enough. "We also had to learn to talk in their language, not ours," explains Gabe Batstone, Vice President, Business Development & Professional Services. He recounts describing their solution to a senior US military officer as offering "improved comprehension."
"He said ‘Son, what's that mean?' We put away our marketing brains, asked our clients what they wanted to hear, and shut up and listened. We had to turn our language and solutions into solving their problems with their metrics."
So how well do you walk your talk? I wondered. "Tell me in one sentence what NGrain does," I asked Gabe. His answer was immediate.
"Our interactive 3D maintenance training aids allow people who maintain and repair military equipment to accelerate learning in complex equipment and enable first-time-right repairs and optimize operational readiness at a lower cost."
That's a Unique Value Proposition:
- A concise appeal
in the audience's language, that
focuses on their needs, problems, issues.
Scott Lewis, Principal of PSPartnerships, talked to hundreds of systems integrators when he was publisher of Washington Technology. In his experience, "A good Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
- "Creates interest, so you can talk - that is, it opens the door so that someone might be willing to meet with you.
- "Communicates easily how and why you stand out - by the value you deliver, as distinct from your competition."
As you develop your Unique Value Proposition, you'll do three valuable things:
- Determine areas of focus, such as business problems you solve best or solutions you best support.
- Use those areas of focus to draw up a profile you can use to determine your strongest prospects - both among ultimate customers as well as systems integrators who could be potential partners.
- Narrow your selection of those you approach, which in turn makes it easier to:
o Get in front of the right people
o Get the right meeting
o Communicate your value to the buyer and/or systems integrator (why should either one spend time with you?)
o Present what you're doing and how in a way that captures the integrator's interest.
- Be honest about how you fit into the marketplace. Every company has problems and weak spots, so own up to yours.
- Focus first on the audience and their problems/issues, not on your technology, and use their language, not yours.
- Follow-through on your UVP efforts: be realistic about what you can actually deliver.
- Once you start, be committed to the effort to create and deliver a UVP to stakeholders. In Lewis' experience, " If you spend money on this process, you're more likely to follow it through to a conclusion."
- Expressing your value in terms of what it means for the client - e.g.:
- o We Support ... you
- o We Develop ... for you
- o We Provide ... what you're looking for
Some companies hire someone to lead a $20-$30,000 process to create Unique Value Proposition statements that they use to ensure consistent communications to the marketplace as well as internally. Others do it themselves.
Either way, your goal in creating a UVP is to relate your technology or offering to a business problem or issue that you help solve, and then communicate that connection to your targeted audiences or stakeholders.
- Self assessment
o What business have you won?
o What patterns show up in where you sell?
o What environments can you communicate into?
o What business problems do you help solve?
o Take out the sales language: what are your real offerings and to whom?
o What do you do really well?
o Which of your offerings need work?
- Competitive Analysis & Positioning
Map out the competition, and how the competition presents itself, how they communicate their value proposition:
o What's their technology?
o Who do they see as their competitors?
o How do they communicate?
o What's their UVP?
o Where have they sold, what communities do they connect to?
o What environments and business problems do they support or help fix? For example, "more data through the portal" is a technological proposition. "Better customer service" is a solution to a business problem.
o Look at what the industry leaders say: "We help the government deliver X"...and notice that they change the language every couple of years.
o Collect the examples and case studies that best demonstrate your UVP.
o Edit those into concise, compelling stories that make your company stand out from the competition.
If you don't have the right communications team, consider engaging professional help to:
o Craft, test, and clean up language
o Suggest ideas and priorities for making the best use of your marketing budget, if you only have limited funds, and identify highest-return opportunities on the investment you make in UVP, if you can't afford to craft variations for all your audiences.
- Define Audiences
You might need to develop several variations of your Unique Value Proposition, because you want to communicate different messages to different stakeholders. For example:
UVP's for System Integrators
- When you're trying to get a meeting with an integrator, a strong UVP gives you a short, sweet intro that can open the door.
- Statements about being a small business don't represent added value.
- You may want slightly different versions for different audiences even within the Integrator - business development has different needs than the Chief Technology Officer, for example.
- What have you got that will allow them to win more business?
- Will you help them perform at a higher level for their customers, and at a lower cost?
- How will you make the integrator stand out, make a unique solution set they can deliver?
- What relationships and opportunities do you bring?
- How do you improve on their current contracts?
- How could you help them improve performance on their service level agreements?
- Systems integrators must deal with requirements and mandates - HSPD-12, security clearances. What clearances, qualifications and certifications do you have in place already?
UVP's for the Government Agency
- Your business development staff must know the agency's budget, and their pain, their current leading problems and challenges.
- Sometimes, Requests for Information (RFI's) offer clues. Watch for signs of:
- A developing opportunity
- A mandate for change
- Some UVP's will be unique for a single agency
- Some UVP's will address requirements that all agencies must meet, like:
- o HSPD-12
- o Lines of Business as defined by the Office of Management and Budget
- o Enterprise Architecture
- o IT Infrastructure support for geospatial, financial, procurement, human resources
Other possible audiences might include:
- Non-technical executives
- Chief Technology Officers
- Channel Partners
- Solution Providers
- Internal team / Employees inside your company
- Options for Testing
- Professionally-run Focus groups - About $10,000 per session
- Consulting with your corporate Board of Advisors
- "Friends and family" - ask for comments from friendly partners, use them as a sounding board