by Tony Vidler
Creating a value proposition that truly differentiates a professional and resonates with the target market audience is one of the hardest things to create, and one of the most important.
It is THE thing which sits at the centre of all your marketing if you get it right. It becomes embedded in tag lines or positioning statements, referral and networking conversations, marketing collateral – both physical and digital – and extends through to introductory conversations with new prospects.
Professionals can (and do!) get through an entire career without ever truly understanding what makes them different to their peers, let alone being able to express that difference succinctly. For them, their career is one where they are continually competing on price and convenience and struggling to be valued to the extent they should be. To break away from the competition based on price or convenience and to maximise the value that prospective clients place upon you there must be a clear point of difference which is desired. It has to result in an outcome that the target market clients want.
When struggling to define he point of difference it is helpful to map out possible areas of differentiation, such as the ones following:
This is essentially a brainstorming exercise to begin with, and there are 6 “big” areas provided to start the thinking. These are more strategic or thematic as beginning points. You might for instance believe that your ability to differentiate is going to be built around how you deliver your advice, or perhaps in the post-engagement area of the ongoing experiences that clients have with you and your firm. (I have chosen these 2 as examples because they are quite different, yet often confused as being the same thing).
If you were choosing to differentiate based upon “delivery”, then a little bit of further thinking might suggest that price or terms that reduce barriers or beat market expectations could be a competitive point. Equally, how you package and deliver the advice may be done quite differently to the mainstream. Perhaps the standard or quality of the advice might be where you are best in creating a value proposition – and that quality might be deliberately higher or lower than the standard in the marketplace. An actual example of how this type of approach works is the financial advisory firm which does not meet clients in person….re-defining the accepted standard for delivery of advice. I know of advice models where the advisers do not physically meet clients at all, choosing instead to engage electronically with a transactional approach, or choosing to engage electronically with a highly personalized advice process that simply minimises travel and meeting time and delivers higher levels of convenience because clients can be sitting at home in their pyjama’s. For these advisory firms they have created a clear and compelling value proposition by choosing to deliver advice differently.
Some firms of course choose (or are forced to choose by compliance departments!) to deliver advice precisely the same way as everybody else. For such a firm they may form the view that their best opportunity to differentiate meaningfully for clients is to provide unparalleled client experiences. Make the professional experience so superlative that clients are continually wowed! Or at least sufficiently wowed that they don’t consider ever switching to some other firm that promises to be more convenient, or perhaps have better pricing….
If the “client experiences” was an area of competitive difference, there are once again a number of ways one might look build the offer. It may be in the form of an outstanding rewards or loyalty offer….perhaps the functions and social aspects of the ongoing service are the wow factors…..maybe it is the professional positioning and ongoing business-building opportunities that your firm can create for your clients which is the differentiator.
Ultimately what matters in creating a great value proposition is that it explains a desirable outcome that your target market wants. Any professional can expect that any other competent professional is able to compete with them based on the simple behavioural standards or generic technical knowledge – so common knowledge and common standards within the profession are…well…”common”. They are not points of difference at all, let alone something upon which to build the business reputation and become the centre piece of future marketing efforts.
To define and then refine your value proposition begin by figuring out the possible thematic areas of differentiation. Then from those figure out the different ways within each of those themes that differentiation could be pursued. Then settle on your desired strategy. Once that is done it is simply a matter of putting that difference into words – and then executing the strategy.
The first step in creating a value proposition which will resonate with prospects and work for you is to brainstorm and figure out the possibilities first. It really is that simple – to begin with. But then the hard work will start, because you have to be able to deliver and live up to the promise you made to the market.