Consulting Value Proposition Strategies

Each month I spend a few hours of my time providing coaching for consultants.

One of the first things I look at when working with a consultant is their value proposition – or lack of one.

What Is A Value Proposition

A value proposition (aka. USP, Unique Selling Proposition) is typically a short sentence or two that communicates your competitive advantage and why a client should do business with you.

2 Questions For You

Before we go any further, let me ask you a question: Have you heard of a value proposition or USP before? I’m guessing most of you reading this article have. But let me ask you another question: Do you have a well defined value proposition that you use consistently?

This time, I’m going to guess that the vast majority of you will respond “No”.

You need to come up with something that really sets you apart. Give thought to how you deliver your product or service. Your guarantee.

Ever heard the story of the shoe maker’s children? You know, the ones without shoes!

As a consultant, you may very well advise your clients on developing a competitive advantage and possibly even the need for them to have a value proposition…while you lack one of your own.

This is a common issue and is the reason I always start by digging into this in my coaching sessions.

Why You Need A Value Proposition

You see, a value proposition is the fastest way for you to cut through the clutter, stand out, and get the attention of your ideal client.

When you’ve created an effective value proposition, the moment you communicate it to a prospect, you’ll have their attention, their eyes will light up and they’ll want to know more…and jump starting a conversation with an ideal client is half the battle in this game. Once you have that going it becomes much easier to build the conversation and relationship…and ultimately land the client.

What Do You Actually Do?

I have a challenge for you. Before I get to it, let me says this…I know you have a lot to do today. You have all kinds of choices of other blogs and websites to be reading. So before you run off somewhere let me say that taking this challenge will be well worth your time.

Get out a piece of paper, or open a notepad on your computer. Now here’s the challenge:

Write exactly (word for word) what you tell people that you do? You know, when someone asks you what you do…write down what your response is. Don’t cheat and try to make it sound all good now. I want you to be honest here and write what you currently tell people.

Have you done that?

Still reading? Did you write it down?

Okay, great. Now take a look at what you’ve written down and put yourself in your ideal client’s position. Would they honestly find what you’ve just said compelling enough to want to learn more and do business with you.

What separates you from the competition? This one causes the biggest challenge for most consultants.

75% of the time, if not more often, I find these statements to be pretty dismal when I review them.

Don’t worry if yours falls into that category. You’ll improve it on just a minute.

The reason so many of these statements are weak…is because most people just talk about what they do and how they think they can help the marketplace.

They don’t get specific enough.

They don’t address the pain points your ideal client faces.

And they don’t offer real benefits.

When you create a strong value proposition it solves this problem.

Examples Of Strong Value Propositions

TOMS Shoes – “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One.”

Zappos – The company offers a 365 return policy and free shipping both ways. They dedicate a whole page to reducing the risk and increasing trust so people will buy from them here. (http://www.zappos.com/shipping-and-returns).

FedEx – This company is famous for “Federal Express: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” This literally launched their business success.

Dominos – At a time when pizza delivery was slow and everyone was concerned with cold pizza Dominos came out with this “Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free.”

Mailchimp – The hesitation that people have with email newsletters is that they are hard to set up. Here’s one company’s response: “Easy Email Newsletters. MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. It’s like your own personal publishing platform.”

Are you starting to get the idea?

Do you see how a strong value proposition speaks directly to the ideal client. It’s clear and easy to understand. And it communicates the core benefits the client wants.

Create Your Own Value Proposition

Now it’s time for you to create your own value proposition.

I always like to use a formula for this, which is:

Who your customers are + What you provide them + Why they buy from you

Let’s break this down:

Who your customers are – The more you target a group the more receptive they will be to your message. Rather than saying “I help companies with their management strategies.” Think about getting focused and saying something like “I help technology companies with 50-500 employees in the Arizona area to….” Compare those two sentences. Do you see how much more relevant and powerful the second one would be if that was your target audience?

What you provide them - What is it that you do? What is your product or service? When you consider this, again, put yourself in your clients shoes. Think about what is the real product or service you are providing that they care about…not that you think is important. Use language that your customers use.

Why they buy from you – This one is critical. What separates you from the competition? This one causes the biggest challenge for most consultants. Why? Because things like ‘high-quality’ ‘best service’ ‘lowest price’ and the like are not differentiators anymore. Everyone says they have the highest quality products and services and that they have great service. That’s a load of BS! and clients know it.

You need to come up with something that really sets you apart. Give thought to how you deliver your product or service. Your guarantee. Or maybe there is some other unique benefit you provide that others don’t.

It’s important to remember that your differentiator doesn’t have to be completely unique. Even if your competitor has the same capability as you do…if they are not communicating and promoting that uniqueness…then you can take hold of it and own it in the marketplace.

The famous example in direct marketing circles is Schlitz Beer. The company was having a hard time with sales. In came advertising legend Claude Hopkins. He spoke with the technicians in the brewery and learned all about the filtration and purification process the brewery was using. In fact, all breweries were.

But all breweries were not communicating that point to the marketplace. Hopkins took hold of that information and created a series of advertisements with this knowledge at the center of the companies’ value proposition. They moved their market share from 5th to 1st.

2 Approaches To Writing Your Value Proposition

There are two ways I advise consultants to write their value propositions.

1) The first is in long form. Take a paragraph or two to answer the above (3 formula questions) in as much detail as you can. Maybe you’ll even use half a page. You can then edit it down and be left with some great copy that speaks to your ideal clients. You can place that on your website and use it in your advertising.

Put all of this into practice and start enjoying the benefits of standing out in your marketplace, increased leads and new clients.

2) The second approach is the short form. Taking what you’ve written above and looking at the formula I mentioned, try to get your value proposition down to a single sentence – or two maximum. This is what you will use when meeting new people to explain what you do.

Where To Use Your Value Proposition

You’ll place it on your website, business cards, brochures, online ads, voicemail…pretty much anywhere and everywhere you can.

Testing Your Value Proposition

You may be wondering…”How do I know if my value proposition is going to work?” That’s a great question.

Here are a few options:

1) You can schedule a consultation and together we’ll go through your value proposition. This will cost you and it won’t be your cheapest option. Plus, I usually have a 2-3 week wait list for one-time consultation calls like this.

2) An effective and no-cost way is to start using your value proposition when meeting new people at networking events. You’ll pretty quickly be able to see how people respond to you. And based on their response you can make slight adjustments in your wording. As you continue to do test this out you’ll refine and improve your value proposition. And you will see that more and more people show interest in what you are telling them.

3) Another highly effective way to test your value proposition is with Google Adwords. This will cost you, but for $50-$100 you can usually get some great data. Here’s how this works. You put together 2-3 different variations of your value proposition as ads. You then run them all at the same time directing that traffic to your site or a landing page. You will start to see which ads (and corresponding value proposition) is receiving the most clicks and highest CTR. You then know which one speaks to your target audience most effectively.

Put all of this into practice and start enjoying the benefits of standing out in your marketplace, increased leads and new clients.

I hope you enjoyed this article. I’d love to hear your feedback, thoughts and questions below…

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  • Automatika

    Excellent post. This definitely helps to focus and define my marketing approach.

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Automatika – glad you found this helpful to focus your marketing. Having a strong value proposition is important and I hope more consultants will give their own value prop some thought after reading this post.

  • Malcolm McLelland

    Michael, Thank you very much. I’ve read a number of articles on developing value propositions (about a dozen or so), and your is by far the clearest, most succinct I’ve read. And your article is eminently more practical as well since you explain how to test the effectiveness of the value proposition(s). Very helpful! Cheers, MMc

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Malcolm – happy to hear that and thanks for letting me know! Please do share it with your network as well.

  • Cynthia R

    Wow! This is a great post with so much detail. Thank you!!

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Please Cynthia. Glad the detail helped.

  • Bob Chaworth-Musters

    Everyone should read this article

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Appreciated, thanks Bob!

  • Dave Poulos

    Best post yet – specific, to the point, applicable and actionable! Love you guys!

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Dave – happy to hear that, thanks so much!

  • http://twitter.com/gbrim Gerry E Brimacombe

    Michael, this inpired me to tweak our (recently tweaked) UVP. Thank you! “We reduce your knowledge worker’s daily frustrations and
    increase their productivity by building practical information systems and
    training people to use them well.”

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Gerry – cool! That’s exactly what I was hoping to see – that people would take this information and put it into action. Great stuff! Re your Value Proposition, always think about whether the words you are using are the same words that your ideal client uses. You need to speak their language. For example, does ‘Knowledge Worker’ make the most sense? Can you be more specific and hone in on your market by saying something like ‘We reduce daily frustrations and increase productivity for employees at manufacturing companies by…”

  • Rajdeep Lalvani

    Very Interesting and Insightful! Simple & Straightforward Tips!

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Rajdeep – glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Rae-Anne Alves, PMP

    Good read. Straight to the point

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Rae-Anne – thank you!

  • VINCENT AWALA

    This is a fantastic article with useful and time tested tips.

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Thanks Vincent :)

  • Steve Ruder

    Thank you this was very helpful

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