It’s the single most important question for you and your customers. What makes your business truly unique? Or to put it more bluntly--why should shoppers buy from you versus one of your competitors? Do you know?

Although the answer is crucially important, it’s often one area that companies struggle to clearly and effectively communicate.

Why Your Unique Value Proposition Matters

In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace consumers have a lot of choices as to where they spend their money as well as instant access to online reviews and product information.

Whether you’re competing against big box retailers, Amazon, or other brick-and-mortar businesses in your area, your ability to uncover and articulate your unique value proposition will have a direct impact on your marketing campaigns, lead generation, and ability to grow your business.

To help you get started, we've created a step-by-step guide.

Step 1. Ask Your Customers

When we work with clients we always start by pouring over customer feedback--a core part of our discovery process. We're looking for one of two things. 1) to ensure alignment between the company and the customer as it relates to value proposition 2) to uncover new areas of competitive advantage. We then distill all of the information down and share specific recommendations with their marketing team.

In cases where feedback is somewhat limited, we help to develop a process for soliciting input including organizing small focus groups, creating customer surveys, and conducting short phone interviews.

Step 2. Ask Your Employees

Although we often think of customers first, your employees should also have a seat at the table. They’re often the ones who are having the most face-to-face conversations with your customers and hearing what sets your business apart from others in your space.

Look for opportunities to gather structured feedback from your team.

For example when we first met with management and the marketing team at Printscape, their primary goal was to generate more leads/business from their large-scale printing business (wall murals, retail and office signage, etc.)—an area where they were already producing incredible work.

However, their marketing materials including their website and print pieces all focused heavily on black and white printing—something you would expect to find at any other printing company regardless of size or perceived capabilities. This became even more obvious as we started to benchmark against their local/regional/national competitors.

Once we were able to fully align their marketing focus with their top-level business goals, they were able to rethink how they were positioning their offerings and realize a significant increase in leads generated from their website. You can view Printscape’s B2B marketing case study.

Step 3. Research Your Competitors

Targeted competitor research can provide a treasure trove of information and give you an immediate sense of who and what you are up against. For example, if you’re running a Google AdWords campaign and you tout “reliable internet” as a key feature but one of your competitors mentions “Super-Fast WiFi,” if WiFi speed is important to your target audience you’re going to lose that particular battle every time.

Compare your listings in organic search results. AdWords campaigns. Website copy. Brochures. Any information you can easily get your hands on can help paint a clearer picture of your competition through the eyes of a potential customer.

Ultimately if you look and sound like everyone else, your marketing campaigns aren’t going to be successful.

That was exactly the case with a product-focused B2C client. They are the inventor and manufacturer of a popular product in their space. They have an established network of authorized dealers throughout the country. Yet as they continue to look for opportunities to grow their direct sales through their official online store, they find themselves competing with the likes of Amazon and others.

When you’re competing in an overly saturated online marketplace, you need to be able to answer the question “Why should a customer buy from your business?” What makes you different? In many cases these are questions small businesses aren’t always equipped to easily answer.

With this particular B2C marketing client, we spent time exploring possible areas where they could provide added value. We used guided questions to give them a launching off point during our brainstorming sessions. We then pulled in examples from other online retailers in the space to provide tangible examples to show points of parity – an eye opening exercise for their team.

Step 4. Articulating Your Value Proposition

Once you’re able to identity the 3-5 key themes at the heart of your unique value proposition, you can leverage those insights to help shape your interactions with customers as well as your marketing message.

In most cases prospective customers won’t come out and directly ask “why should I buy from you?” but that doesn’t mean they’re not thinking it. Whether you decide to address the topic directly by including a specific “Why Choose Us” area on your website or intertwine your unique value proposition throughout your online and offline marketing campaigns, the key is to always have those themes top-of-mind during every customer touchpoint.

One point of clarification: a unique value proposition doesn’t mean you have to deliver something completely different from one of your competitors. You can just do it better. Customer service is a great example. Every business offers some level of customer service. That’s not unique. But what is unique is your ability to over deliver and turn a point of parity into a clear competitive advantage.

Step 5. Test

We can’t stress this step enough. With your unique value proposition identified, create a series of highly targeted marketing campaigns to see which selling features and messaging generate the best results. Similar to customer feedback mentioned earlier, this will also be crucial in helping you validate whether your points of differentiation are resonating with your target audience.

What to Do Next

Ask yourself what makes your business unique. If you can’t quickly and easily rattle off 3-5 (or as many as 7) traits, one of your competitors likely can and will.