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What is a unique value proposition? And how to write one

This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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Kathryn Uhles, Dean, College of Business and IT

Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

At a glance

A unique value proposition (UVP) is a single sentence that clearly defines your product’s or service’s specific benefit, how it answers your buyer’s needs and what distinguishes it from the competition.

As part of a company’s brand messaging strategy, a UVP acts as a beacon statement, like a slogan, drawing customers to your marketing message amid the flood of competitors with their own propositions. A well-crafted value proposition makes your brand stand out and creates a strong connection with your target audience.
 

Headshot of Joseph Aranyosi

Joseph Aranyosi
Associate Dean,  College of Business and Information Technology 

Here, we speak with Joseph Aranyosi, associate dean of the College of Business and Information Technology at University of Phoenix, about how creating a solid UVP can boost your business or organization.

Aranyosi explains: “The concept of a ‘unique selling proposition [USP]’ was first introduced by Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Co. in the 1940s. Michael Lanning and Edward Michaels first spoke about value propositions in a 1988 McKinsey paper where they defined it as a key component of a sustainable business strategy. UVPs should be strong, simple and memorable enough to attract new customers and reinforce your existing customers’ beliefs that they made a good buying decision (i.e., it helps to build customer loyalty). Your UVP should also align with your business mission/vision.”


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Elements of a unique value proposition 

Aranyosi continues: “A unique value proposition focuses on three main things: what you do well, how that meets your customers’ needs, and how your product or service is better, or substantively different, than what your competitors are offering. Building a successful brand is all about distinguishing yourself from others in the same space and highlighting the specific benefits that you provide to your customers.”

To write a value proposition that’s compelling, focus on four core elements:

Relevancy

Relevancy refers to how well your brand addresses customer needs. Make sure your UVP speaks directly to what problem customers are trying to solve and why you are uniquely placed to help them do it. Consider the following:

  • Know your customers: What are their wants, needs, pain points and problems? The better you understand your customers, the more relevant your value proposition can be.
  • Speak their language: This means keeping your UVP simple and relatable.

“Your message should align with your target markets and customer base so that it’s relatable,” Aranyosi says. “UVPs shouldn’t measurably change over time; however, the slogans, images and language used should resonate with your customers and may need to be updated over time in accordance with changing market and societal needs.”
 

Benefit

A unique value proposition defines product features and uses simple, easy-to-understand marketing language to answer your customers’ burning question: “What’s in it for me?”

For example, let’s say you’re selling a revolutionary new vacuum. A feature of your product might be its cyclonic suction technology. One benefit your UVP might include could be that the vacuum picks up pet hair other vacuums leave behind, leaving customers’ homes spotless and allergy-free.

Here are some ideas for highlighting customer benefits:

  • Identify which value claims are most impactful and put those front and center.
  • Try to quantify the value claims where possible. “Cut your cleaning time in half” is a powerful and tangible marketing statement, for example.
  • Define your product’s use-value in a way that connects with your target audience emotionally.

When it comes to defining your product’s use-value and connecting to your audience, Aranyosi shares the following:

“All successful marketing campaigns emotionally connect with customers since buying behavior is largely influenced by emotions rather than logic or objective product analysis. For example, [a popular shoe brand] supports inclusivity and the idea that everyone can be an athlete while at the same time promoting exclusive benefits of membership, such as early access to new styles/merchandise, free shipping and brand loyalty rewards. Customers can feel good about self-betterment as well as about paying a little extra to be stylish while they do it; i.e., it’s OK to reward myself a little when I’m also putting forth the effort to improve myself and society as a whole.”

The more specific and relevant a value proposition is to your ideal customer, the better it is.
 

Convenience

The definition of value is that your solution must outweigh the energy or effort your buyers have to expend to use it. This energy could be anything from time or money to learning a new system or changing established habits.

Imagine that you sell a meal delivery subscription service that offers a value proposition based on convenience and ease of use. Customers are unlikely to be enticed, however, if it requires them to spend hours cooking the meal or frequently update their menu preferences.

Your UVP, in this scenario, should focus on:

  • Highlighting the quick-and-easy approach to signing up
  • Emphasizing the time saved by ordering meals rather than planning and shopping at a store for each meal’s ingredients
  • Underscoring the provided recipes, user guides or tutorials that make preparing each meal exciting and easy

An effective value proposition communicates a clear, easy path to reach a desired solution or outcome.

“Market testing is key to determining which product/service features resonate most with buyers. If the message is short enough, then listing multiple features is fine, but in most cases there will be specific features that stand out as most important, especially in relation to your competitors since product differentiation is still important here),” Aranyosi says.
 

Risk

When customers consider a product or service described in a value proposition, they may weigh the potential rewards against the risks. These risks could be financial, like wasting money on a product that doesn’t deliver on its promise. Or they could be functional, like the risk of a new software system disrupting an established workflow.

Your value proposition should assure customers that the risks are minimal. To do this, it can:

  • Offer incentives, such as a money-back guarantee or a free trial period, to reduce the perceived financial risk.
  • Showcase testimonials and reviews and reassure potential customers that others have taken the plunge and come out smiling.
  • Provide clear and comprehensive information — the more customers know, the less uncertainty and perceived risk they experience.
  • Don’t hide the potential challenges or downsides. Honesty can build trust and make customers more comfortable with taking a risk on your brand.
  • Show customers they won’t be left in the lurch if something goes wrong. Detail your customer service, troubleshooting guides or other resources.

Every buying decision involves a leap of faith. Make that leap as small and safe as possible.

“Customer testimonials, loyalty programs, online communities and influencers/spokespeople are also great ways to reduce buyer fear; i.e., if others seem satisfied with the product/service, then the potential risks won’t seem so bad,” Aranyosi says.
 

How to write a compelling value proposition statement

Here are a few tips to help you create an effective value proposition statement:

  1. Aim for one or two sentences that pack a punch.
  2. Generic claims, like “high quality” or “best service,” are easily forgotten. Instead, focus on the unique aspects of your product or service. Tangible and easily verifiable statements work better than intangible, ambiguous, or subjective or contestable statements. It should come across as self-evident.
  3. Avoid hype and overpromising. Your statement should be bold but also genuine and credible.

Imagine you’re selling ecofriendly, reusable water bottles. Instead of “High-quality, reusable water bottles,” try something like, “Sleek, leak-proof bottles that save the planet, one sip at a time.”

“You want to highlight characteristics of your product or service that your consumers want to highlight in themselves; i.e., you should make it easy for buyers to see themselves using and benefiting from the product or service in a way that they can feel good about it,” Aranyosi says.

Brainstorming ideas

You can develop unique ways of communicating the value by jotting down your product’s or service’s features and benefits and your customers’ needs. Then, by engaging in thoughtful discussion with team members, you can enrich and fine-tune each idea until you’ve crafted an impactful UVP.

A few brainstorming techniques include:

  • Round-robin listing: Have each team member list ideas until all ideas are on the table.
  • Mind mapping: Draw out your ideas in a visual map with branches for different features, benefits or customer needs.
  • Thinking aloud: Start with one idea and see where the conversation takes you.

You can create a strong statement by tapping into the power of collaboration and ideation.

“A good rule of thumb is to never work alone without feedback. You want your UVP to resonate with the largest group of people, so it will generally go through several iterations until you’ve refined it to just the right key components that appeal to the widest audience,” Aranyosi explains. “This should also be done while keeping your target audience in mind; i.e., you’re looking for that common space between your product/service and audience that puts them both in the best possible light.”

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The importance of mission, vision and values for business strategy

Identify customers’ problems and pain points

You’ve been a customer, so you know from personal experience that when selecting a product or service, customers are looking for solutions to their problems. Therefore, you must understand your audience’s pain points and how to address them. Ask yourself questions like::

  • Am I fulfilling a need?
  • What are my customers’ biggest problems?
  • How can I help them find the answers they’re looking for?

Think about what led you to create the product or service in the first place and use that to craft a value proposition that truly resonates.
 

Identify your specific differentiators 

It all boils down to identifying and communicating the value of your offer. Sure, features are important, but “high-tech” and “innovative” don’t mean anything if customers can’t see how those features will solve their problems. Consider the following:

  • Your value proposition should highlight the problems your product solves and explain the positive outcomes customers can expect.
  • Your value proposition should explain in simple terms how it works.
  • Your value proposition should describe unique benefits or find new ways to explain familiar ones.
  • Your marketing team should get feedback and measure results to ensure your value proposition is hitting its mark.

If there’s no clear benefit, your value proposition will fail to generate customer interest.
 

Describe how your offer is valuable

Your value proposition should describe your brand’s differentiators in a context that illustrates to customers why what you’re selling is worth their time, money or attention.

For example, instead of saying “We offer the highest quality,” try something like, “Our products exceed industry standards and come with a satisfaction guarantee.” Your value proposition should clarify how what you’re selling is tailored to customers’ needs.
 

Connect value with your customers’ issues

When your value proposition connects your product’s or service’s value to customers’ issues, you incentivize them to purchase. For example: “Our ecofriendly, reusable water bottles are leak-proof and easy to use — so you can reduce your plastic consumption and feel good about your daily hydration routine.”

That marketing statement emphasizes the practical benefits of the product and tells customers how it answers another, sometimes unspoken desire; in this case, making a positive environmental impact.
 

Differentiate yourself from the competition

Plenty of competition exists, so you must ensure your UVP stands out. Think about things like:

  • Is your product more affordable than others?
  • Does your value proposition show that you have higher quality standards than competitors?
  • Is your value proposition offering something that competitors can’t?

Product innovation can also help you differentiate your offering. By staying on top of trends and leveraging new technologies, you can offer products or services that make writing an effective value proposition even easier.
 

Examples of successful value propositions

A good value proposition statement may be the key to a successful brand, so it’s important to craft one that will make consumers stop and notice. Here are some examples:

Technology

  • “Experience cutting-edge technology that simplifies your daily tasks and enhances productivity.”
  • “Seamless integration and intuitive design for a hassle-free digital experience.”

Fitness

  • “Achieve your fitness goals with personalized workout plans and real-time performance tracking.”
  • “Unlock a healthier lifestyle through engaging and fun exercise routines that play to your strengths.”

Food delivery

  • “Enjoy the convenience of restaurant-quality meals delivered to your doorstep, saving you time and effort.”
  • “Wide variety, fresh ingredients and speedy delivery — bringing the best dining experience to your home.”

Subscription services

  • “Enjoy a curated selection of premium content delivered regularly to your doorstep and tailored to your preferences.”
  • “Subscription that goes beyond products, offering an immersive and customized experience every time.”

These UVPs are short, direct and creative. While each has its own style, all of them effectively explain the benefits of a given product or service and how it will help customers.

While anyone can create a value proposition statement, having business and marketing knowledge can go a long way toward making your statement powerful and effective. 

Business programs at University of Phoenix

To write a successful UVP, it’s important to understand the basics of marketing. If you’re looking to learn more about business and marketing, consider the following online programs and certificates at UOPX:

UOPX also offers several other business degrees and certificates, including those that emphasize project management, business analytics, accounting and more. Visit the University of Phoenix website to learn more!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.

 

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