Key for any business: Unique product or service

Black Friday started on Thursday this year. Just when you are free of the multitude of confusing and distorted political commercials that filled the media, along come the multitude of confusing and distorted holiday commercials.

Let me be clear: I am not against advertising. It can provide a most helpful service for any business that presents a clear Value Proposition. But … therein lies the catch.

“Value Proposition” is a term bandied about among marketing gurus, but has little meaning to the typical business person. At its most basic, it is a statement that presents why a customer should buy your product or service – why your solution will add more value or reduce risk for your customer better than other solutions that are available.

Most businesses confuse a list of benefits with a Value Proposition. There is a huge difference. A benefit list is a general listing of advantages that may accrue to the user of a specified product or service, but a Value Proposition is specific to target prospects who will benefit the most from your specific product or service. The benefit list is a shotgun while the Value Proposition is a rifle.

Benefit lists vary little between businesses and products while Value Propositions enable you to stand out from every competing business that claims it does what you do.

If you cannot offer a strong reason for buying from you, you will have no choice but to compete on price. The Value Proposition answers the unasked question, “Why should I buy from you?” Generic answers such as “quality” or “good service” will not cut it. Everyone promises quality and good service, but few actually deliver.

As mentioned earlier, a clear Value Proposition allows your advertising message to stand out from the crowd.

To be most effective, however, your Value Proposition must be clearly communicated to your staff members so their actions are consistent with your proposition. It must be part of every communication, message, process and action that emanates from your business. It must be consistent and constant.

A number of elements may be part of your Value Proposition. Specifically define your target market and explain that you are the expert in that market. Show your prospects that you have a better way to meet their need.

Do you customize your product or service to solve their problem? How do you make it easy and convenient to buy or use your product or service? Will you save your customers money? Note that this is different from having the lowest price. People will pay more for a product or service that saves them money over time, or reduces their perceived risk of ownership.

Make your proposition concise and appeal to the strongest components of that proposition.

Make sure you have a Value Proposition, and communicate it in all your messages, externally and internally. If you don’t have a Value Proposition, you are accepting the default position of competing on price. Competing on price tells your prospects that you are no different from your competition, and price is the proper way to evaluate your products or services. Dan Bowser is president of Value Insights, Inc. of Durango, Chandler, Ariz., and Summerville, Pa.

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