About this column
In the toolbox of every values-based business creator, there are some tools we enjoy using more than others to tell our brand’s story.
Ooh, I get to have a new color palette! we marvel when it’s time to collaborate with a web designer.
OMG, I am so ready for a new About page! we tell our newly hired copywriter.
Pinterest? Sure! I’ll try it out, we think, after reading the 5 Best Pinterest-For-Business Tips article everyone’s been circulating on Twitter.
As a branding specialist, I get excited about these elements, too. But I’d like to share with you the TWO unsexy-sounding business tools every values-based brand creator absolutely needs to cozy up to — the sooner, the better.
But first, what are the signs that you could stand to have a better relationship with these two unsexy-sounding tools?
- You find explaining what you do in one or two sentences to be really difficult.
- You’ve been investing in all sorts of courses and programs that address the different pieces and parts of doing business, but you find it tough to implement because you know your foundation isn’t as solid as you’d like it to be.
- You have SO many product ideas and you’re having trouble narrowing down which one to start working on first.
- You’ve been doing business for a while and you’ve had some sales, but something just isn’t clicking. You feel like people are interested in what you have to say, but you also know you’re not really working in your sweet spot yet.
- You feel frustrated and anxious whenever you see one of your industry peers tweeting about her new offering. Damnit, why didn’t I think of that? you find yourself fretting.
If one or more of the points above resonate with you, it’s high time you get to know your Brand Proposition and your Unique Selling Position, or USP.
The two unsexy-sounding but oh so powerful business-and-branding tools you have to get clear on are:
- Your Value Proposition, or as we like to call it at The Voice Bureau, your Brand Proposition, and
- Your Unique Selling Position, or USP.
If you’re anything like many of the creative people dreaming of starting businesses even as I type this article, your eyes may be glazing over at these terms. You’ve probably seen them a hundred times in various marketing articles. But here’s the thing: have you really done this foundational work of getting clear on what they are for your business?
Brand Proposition is a clear statement of:
- the Who — who your business serves
- the Value — what they get from working with you
- the Vibe — your brand voice or unique style (at The Voice Bureau, we express this by your Voice Values)
- the View — your unique POV on the problem your solution addresses
Here’s the magic mojo in these tools: if you can confidently state your Brand Proposition, you’re clear on what business you’re in. If you’re not so sure about your Brand Proposition, you’re probably not quite clear on what your business is yet. And you surely don’t yet understand your USP.
Here are two fictional examples of clear Brand Propositions:
Laurie Matthias helps parents of infants [the WHO] adjust to life with their newborn and establish their household’s New Normal [the VALUE]. Her firm but playful approach [the VIBE, with Voice Values: Power, Helpfulness, Playfulness] allows parents to relax into their new roles and create systems that encourage every member of the family to thrive. She believes that through creating a System of Care, baby and parents both can be themselves and flow more easily with the rhythms of life [the VIEW].
Troy Yu is a dog trainer who specializes in helping senior pet owners [the WHO] train and love their dogs. His gentle, personable, and systematized approach [the VIBE, with Voice Values: Intimacy, Love, Clarity, Accuracy] helps seniors quickly learn simple, clear commands and praise-and-reward techniques, establishing them as confident alpha owners [the VALUE]. He believes that any willing person can become a great pack leader and that it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks [the VIEW].
Once your know your Brand Proposition, you can pinpoint your USP.
Your Unique Selling Position, USP, is also commonly referred to as your ‘differentiator.’
While some of your competitors and peers may have the same or very similar Brand Proposition as you, your USP is what sets you apart from every single one of ’em.
You can identify your USP by thinking about what makes you different. Maybe that’s:
- your proprietary methodology
- your unusual blend of training
- your extraordinary circumstances or life experience
What isn’t a USP? (Although sometimes people try to pass it off as such.)
- Your passion. You’d better have passion if you’re providing a service to people based on your expertise. We expect you to have passion, and we know that passion gets expressed differently based on your Voice Values. (For instance, a high Enthusiasm value expresses passion quite differently than a high Accuracy value does.)
- Your experience of being a survivor or an overcomer. Many of us are survivors and overcomers, and the world is better for it. But resting your USP on your experience of that lands as way too general and ambiguous. Let your survivor disposition inform and inspire your work, but don’t declare it as your USP.
- Your intuition. While using your intuition in your service can be awesome and a legitimate feature of your work, because it’s not measurable from the outside, it’s not a strong USP.
- Any “I’m better” conclusion that can’t easily be substantiated — “I’m the best,” “I’m mindful,” “I’m committed,” “I’m all in.” Many people boldly claim these types of things on their About or Services page, but if everybody’s claiming it, it’s definitely not a USP.
While Brand Proposition and USP are basic building blocks of any viable business, you might be surprised to know how many creative and intelligent people start businesses without being clear on these important elements.
We have had ENOUGH of seeing smart, sensitive practitioners stumble and falter in their business and brand-building because they simply aren’t clear, settled, and confident in their relationship with these tools.
That’s why when Tami and I set out to design our premium service experience for The Voice Bureau, we knew we wanted to go all the way back to basics.
We knew that the fun stuff — content strategy, social media conversation, visual vibe — couldn’t come to life for our clients without a clear Brand Proposition and USP.
So when we recently revamped Empathy Marketing, we decided to put ALL of this into the experience.
We’re now booking clients for Empathy Marketing 2.0. And until June 1st, 2013, we’re booking at an introductory price. Learn more here.
In the comments, Tami and I would love to hear:
What’s your Brand Proposition? What’s your USP, or differentiator? Lay them on us in the comments, and be sure to share your Voice Values, too.