If you’re online, you see ads for dozens of products and services every day. When shopping, you may even see hundreds of products. Most of them you’ll ignore and never buy. But for a select few, you’ll take that next step and make a purchase.
What’s the difference between the products you buy and the products you ignore? More often than not, it’s the unique value proposition (UVP).
As a business owner, a well-defined UVP can be the key to unlocking success against your competitors.
What is a unique value proposition (UVP)?
At its essence, a unique value proposition, sometimes called a unique selling proposition (USP), explains to your target audience why they should buy your product or service over a competitor’s.
However, this seemingly simple idea is easy to misunderstand.
A UVP is customer-facing, but it isn’t a catchphrase or a slogan. It also isn’t an internal document, such as a mission statement or positioning statement. Its goal is to provide your ideal customer with a clear understanding of three things: what your product/service provides, why they need it, and why yours is different from that of your competitors. In short: what?, why this?, why us?
What is the purpose of a unique value proposition?
Consumers are flooded with choice. Say you’re shopping for a new pair of headphones. There are hundreds of headphone brands and models to choose from, and hundreds of websites dedicated to rating and reviewing them.
The UVP helps customers understand why the option you provide is right for them. When you include it in marketing materials and integrate it into your customer experience, it helps customers make a decision and, at times, helps them explain their decision to others. A well-articulated rationale can give them confidence in their purchase—and even help turn them into a brand advocate.
Ultimately, as a business owner, your UVP distinguishes your business’s offer from others.
How to create a unique value proposition
To figure out your unique value proposition, you need to understand what you do well, what your customers want/need, and how you stand out. The following four-step process walks you through ascertaining these things and translating them into drafts of your UVP.
1. List out your product’s or service’s benefits
Make sure you understand what you do well. One way to do this is with a “FAB statement” exercise: features, advantages, benefits. List each of your product’s or service’s features, then for each one, list what the feature accomplishes (advantage) and why a potential customer would value that (benefit).
For example, one FAB for a headphones brand might be:
- Feature: cushioned ear pads
- Advantage: more comfortable use
- Benefits: longer, more enjoyable listening sessions
2. Research your customers
Customer research helps you understand what your customers want and need. Start by doing market research on your target audience, and if you have existing customers, interview them about why they bought from you and what their pain points were. This can take the form of a buyer persona.
Make sure you understand their true needs. Often, customers will first say they bought something for practical reasons (“I needed headphones to listen to music while I work”), but their real drivers are more emotional and based on either goals or fears (“If I can tune out the distractions in my noisy office, I can do better work” or “I worried that if I bought cheap headphones, they’d break”).
Also ask them about the alternative products/services they considered—this will inform the next step.
3. Research your competitors
Researching your competitors is an important part of crafting your UVP—it informs how your product can stand out. You may have found an incredible customer need, and a great product to fulfill it, but if another product’s benefits already fulfill that need in the same way, you’ll have a hard time succeeding.
For example, if you are a new entrant in the headphone market, you might find customers asking for seamless Bluetooth connectivity to their phones. But if your customers are Apple users, you’ll have a hard time breaking in next to Apple’s AirPods line, which is a core part of Apple’s UVP.
As you research, aim to dig into at least three well-known competitors your customer would consider. For each, list its features and how they communicate them. When you’ve done that, look for gaps: What benefit does your product/service have that your competitors’ products/services don’t? This is your starting point for the next step.
If you struggle to identify unique benefits, you might need to reframe how you think of “benefits.” For example, maybe your product’s practical benefits are the same as your competitors’, but what about the less tangible benefits, such as brand feel? If your product’s brand experience can make a customer feel a certain way that other products can’t, that’s a powerful UVP.
4. Write it and test
Once you’ve completed the three exercises above, you should have a clear sense of what you do well, what your customers want/need, and how you can stand out. Now, it’s time to put it all together in a UVP statement.
A written UVP can take many forms. Some marketers prefer a full one-pager, and some prefer a headline supported by a paragraph. The simplest, and often most effective, form of a UVP is a two- to three-sentence description.
It’s hard to nail your UVP on the first draft, so try workshopping it over multiple versions. Focus on being clear over being clever, and make sure you cover the three key points: what, why this, why us.
Once you have a few solid versions, test out your UVP to see what resonates best with your customers before finalizing it. The test can be through showing it to customers in interviews, but to get even more accurate results, you can also take a more scientific approach by testing versions of the UVP on product pages, or split testing ads on a PPC campaign and the corresponding landing page.
Three real-world examples of a UVP
Onsen towels: “More towel, less fluff. Lightweight, absorbent, and a satisfying texture.”
Onsen is known for its “waffle weave” towel design, but that’s just a feature. The UVP focuses on the specific advantages and benefits that feature provides the customer.
Gantri lights: “These gorgeous, 3D-printed lights are the anti-Ikea.”
Gantri’s point of differentiation is about being unique. It has many features to prove this: its creator partnerships, its 3D printing, its designs. But in this case, nothing says it as strongly as the word “anti,” positioning the brand as the antithesis of the place all of its customers used to go to. A competitor comparison doesn’t always work in a UVP, but here, it does.
Ember mug: “Ember’s patented technology allows you to set the precise temperature of your hot beverage, so you can enjoy your drink from the first sip to the last drop.”
Ember’s self-heating mug is a relatively new type of product, so it needs to put more emphasis on the why this (“first sip to last drop”) over the why us (brief mention of “patented technology”).
Unique value propositions FAQ
What is an example of a unique value proposition?
One of the most iconic examples of a value proposition is from running shoe brand Hoka: “Hoka makes you feel like you’re flying.” It sums up its top features, fulfills a customer need, and frames it in a way that stands out from their competitors.
What are the different parts of a value proposition?
There are multiple ways to express a value proposition. The three most common are:
- Two- to three-sentence summary
- Header and supporting paragraph
Lists of features, advantages, and benefits (or FAB statements)
How do you create a unique value proposition?
Review your product’s benefits, your customers’ needs, and your competitors’ shortcomings. Craft a description of your product that is true, resonants with your customer, and is something that your competitors couldn’t or wouldn’t claim. Then, test that description to be sure it drives sales.