Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) identifies exactly how it is that you are different from all the other people in the market place providing the same or similar products or services to you.

You must be better, different or cheaper, or you won’t be around for long.

Unfortunately most business people have never spent the time to think about this, or if they have thought about it they often stop before they have identified a genuinely unique value proposition; with claims like “we give great customer service”.

There is only one real test for a genuinely unique value proposition: ask yourself: “Can the competition say the same thing?” Note: I did not ask “can the competitionhonestlysay the same thing?”,  Beware of UVPs which focus on being better or best at things anyone can claim… customer service, speed of service, quality, guarantees. Nobody says they provide slow service, poor quality or bad customer service do they?

If the competition can say the same thing as you, without it being obvious to blind Freddy that they are lying through their teeth then you do not have a UVP.  Just take a few minutes to look at the web-sites and marketing material of your competitors and you’ll see what I mean.  Please don’t use any of those motherhood statement platitudes as your UVP.

So if you can’t claim to be the best and you don’t want to claim to be the cheapest…. (Nobody in small business should be competing on price, because someone bigger can always do it cheaper). What can you do to be different?

Think about this example for a moment… there are two coffee shops on Main Street.

  • Both serve great coffee.
  • Both have a great atmosphere and outstanding customer service.
  • Both charge the same.

Neither one can use coffee, atmosphere, customer service or price as a UVP,  and neither should they try. But both coffee shops have come up with their own UVP.

In one coffee shop the baristas have all learned to draw great pictures in the froth on the top of the coffee, customers can choose their own pictures from a list or wait to be surprised (and delighted).

In the other coffee shop they give a meal to feed a hungry child in Africa every time you order a large coffee.  Both are unique, each coffee shop will attract its own set of clients based on what those clients value the most.

Then a third business decides to open a coffee shop on Main Street. Right in between the other two.  Surely not you say!  But this coffee shop is different again. It has a sheltered courtyard with play equipment out the back and an indoor playroom for rainy days. There is a qualified child care attendant on duty at all times.  Mums can enjoy a relaxing coffee while the children play safely.

Which coffee shop will you frequent? “The coffee shop with art”, “The Coffee shop with heart” or “The Coffee Shop for Frazzled Mums”.

The really exciting thing about this situation is that all three coffee shops benefit. They can leverage each other’s uniqueness to attract more customers to all of them. Rather than each piece of the pie getting small, the pie gets bigger.   It’s why restaurants cluster together and why we so often see a number of fast food outlets in the same locations.

 So what can you do to stand out from the crowd?

Remember it’s not about being the best and it’s not about being the cheapest. When you’re a small business in a crowded market place it’s hard if not impossible to be either of those unless you look at things differently.

Don’t try to complete where everyone is already playing… think about ways you can redefine the market. The answer is to become the best at something no one else is attempting.

And you don’t always need to find a rational point of difference as long as there is room to be emotionally unique.

Here are some ideas to help…. This list of ideas is not intended to be exhaustive, it is a prompt to get you thinking about how you can stand out from the crowd.  It may be one idea or even be a combination of factors…

  1. Can you stand out in relation to the results you deliver?. The famous Fedex line “For when it absolutely has to be there overnight” is a good example of this. Just make sure you really can deliver and that no-one else can easily claim the same thing.  But be careful with this one… if you are going to claim results you need to be able to back them up with hard facts and evidence. Don’t fall into the good, better, best trap.
  2. Can you be like the coffee shops and find a unique approach to the way you offer your particular product or service? For example “The lawyer who makes house-calls” or “The financial advisor who helps you access ethical and sustainable investment options”.
    Can you find a differentiator that no-body has bothered to talk about before and make it your UVP? A great example is M&Ms “melts in your mouth not in your hand”.  The other guys with the product beginning with S… could probably have claimed exactly the same thing but they didn’t think of it first and they can hardly use the catchline.. “The other one that melts in your mouth not in your hand”.
  3. Can you stand out in relation to the particular niche market you service?  Your business or profession may be quite unexceptional but what makes you stand out is that you specialise in servicing one specific niche market.  For example “The Business Coach for Tradies” or better still “The Business Coach for Plumbers”.  The tighter the niche the better… more on that in the next section.
  4. Can you stand out for a particular specialisation?  People love specialists, it makes them feel that you must know more or be better.  Which do you think would be easier to stand out for?  Being the best restaurant in town or being the place to go for the best hamburgers in town?
  5. Perhaps you can be unique in relation to your geographic location.  What you offer may be a dime a dozen in some locations but you may be the only business providing a particular product or service for a specific geographic location. This may be a country, a state or even a town or suburb. If you use this one and somebody else jumps on the band wagon later you can always claim the UVP of “first” and no-one can ever take that away from you.

An absolutely brilliant place to look for ways to stand out from the crowd is Andy Sernowitz’s blog.  “Damn, I wish I’d thought of that” Last time I looked he was up to issue #1027, every single post has two or three unique ideas for ways businesses can stand out from the crowd. They’re all brilliant marketing ideas and loads of them translate into brilliant ideas for finding your UVP.  Google it!!!

Now it’s over to you.  What is or can be unique, inspiring and different about your business?  Have courage – don’t be beige!

Click Here to download the complete help file on how to find your Unique Value Proposition and hone in on your niche market.


Brenda Thomson: Business Connections & Relationship Specialist
Helping Small Business Owners Create Powerful Networks & Communities

SMART Connect and SMART Small Business Alliance
LIN: Brenda Thomson
F: SMART-Connect Alliance - SSBA