What’s Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)?
This is the second article of a three part series that discusses why “Competitors Are Not Your Enemy. Part 2 focuses on your Unique Value Proposition (UVP), one of your most essential messages for you and your business. A UVP is a powerful, succinct statement that will:
- Describe how you are unique, and therefore differentiate you and your product / service from your competitors in your market.
- Resonate directly to the company brand – yours and your prospects (yes, even as individuals, we are a brand).
- Give you insight about how to effectively market your product / service.
Customers want to work with ‘special professionals’. You can show customers that you are worth more and that they should choose you by knowing and using your Unique Value Proposition. If you are having difficulty defining your Unique Value Proposition, you can be sure that your potential customers are as well. How can customers choose between you and your competitors if they are unable to quickly understand what’s unique about what you do, why it should mean something to them and why they should choose you over the competition?
To establish your UVP, talk to your competitors. Learn what and how they do things so you can incorporate what you like, omit what you do not like, and create a strong and personalized Unique Value Proposition (UVP).
Talk to the Competitors
If you are not comfortable talking with local competitors, reach out to companies in other cities or states. They may be more willing to open up when you are not a direct competitor so be prepared with questions before talking with to them. These questions should be used to obtain information, build a relationship, and learn more about their business’s successes and challenges. Be sure that the majority of your questions are open ended for longer more informative answers, so you get more than just a “yes” or “no” answer.
Some generic personal questions are:
- What do you do when you are not working?
- Do you have a hobby?
- Where are you from?
Tip: Avoid asking directly about their family or personal matters as this could be a sensitive subject that could derail or end the conversation.
Some general business questions are:
- How long have you have been in business?
- Why did you get involved?
- Have you done something like this in a job or other business?
- Why did you buy or start it?
Tip: Focus on neutral questions they should not have any reservation answering. As they become comfortable with you they will begin to open up and share more information.
Once the business owner becomes more comfortable you can begin to insert more probing questions. The probing questions are to get into more details that apply to your business. The answers should be more detailed with expectations of both positive and negative feedback. Some probing questions are:
- How many employees do you have?
- What are a few things going great (people like talking about accomplishments)?
- What is one of your greatest challenges (not implying there are any problems)?
- With what you know and have learned about running your business, what would you do differently today?
Tip: You will be getting a large amount of information. At the beginning of the interview take out a pen and paper and ask if you may take notes.
Now that you have prepared your questions, don’t just call on them and start asking a bunch of questions, make an appointment. Remember to keep the questions conversational, don’t make it a grueling Q & A session, mix the different types of questions and avoid sounding like it’s a canned interview.
With the first call, introduce yourself and tell them you are starting a business in (your city) and you are looking for some information. Even though you may have an appointment verify the amount of time they have to speak with you. They may have time now, if not reschedule and offer a couple days and times, especially if you are employed and have a limited schedule.
During the call, be respectful of their time. Acknowledge when you are close to the pre-determined amount of time they have allotted to you and wrap up the conversation. They may continue the conversation to be polite, but as an owner or manager they probably have tasks to do. If they start to fidget or continually look at their watch or a clock give them an easy way to end the conversation such as – “You must be busy, can we continue this conversation on (pick a day and time)?” and make another appointment that works for the both of you. If they want to continue, ask every 15 – 20 minutes with a variation of “Do you need to do something else?”
Tip: Share your experiences IF they ask. Open up about what you are doing and some of your challenges. They could offer you some advice. Never offer your opinion on what they should do unless they ask and you have some knowledge and expertise.
Building this strong and mutually beneficial relationship can pay huge rewards in starting and operating your business, they may be willing to mentor or coach you or even better become an ally in the furture. Remember to thank them for their time and information. Consider sending a hand written a Thank-you Note or deliver something such as a flower arrangement or basket of something. You could get an idea of what they like during the conversation. They may not drink so don’t assume sending them an adult beverage is appropriate.
In the end your Unique Value Proposition needs to be in the language of the customer. Use your UVP to plan your your advertising strategies, build your elevator speech or used to easily join the conversation that is already going on in the customer’s mind. Remember your Unique Value Proposition is not a slogan or a catch phrase, it’s what sets you apart from the competition.