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The Two Unsexy-Sounding Business Tools Your Brand Absolutely Needs

by Abby Kerr

in Uncategorized

About this column

Vintage tools in a creative studioIn 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:

  1. Your Value Proposition, or as we like to call it at The Voice Bureau, your Brand Proposition, and
  2. 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:

Example 1:

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].

Example 2:

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.

photo by: Mooganic

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jules April 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

“Jules is a Wellness Coach helping female entrepreneurs reclaim their sparkle, health, self-esteem and confidence to do life and business brilliantly!”

My differentiator is my holistic approach of naturopathy (natural medicine), life coaching and personal fitness with a spiritual perspective, although I will say that having a such a broad yet unique angle often brings moments of anxiety about whether visitors + potential clients can ‘see’ what I do, because my scope is so wide. When writing blog posts, I sometimes feel as though my brand is diluted or appears to come from one angle only i.e. personal fitness or coaching, rather than the holistic system that is at the core of my work.

My Voice Values are Power, Clarity, Enthusiasm, Helpfulness and Depth.


Abby Kerr April 22, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Hey, there, Jules! Thanks for sharing your Brand Prop & USP with us. I agree with you that it feels broad, and I wonder if you find yourself drawn to one specific intersection or one specific angle that combines your three skillsets (life coaching, fitness, and spirituality) again and again and again. I find in my own work (as someone who tends to think very ‘meta’), that when I hone in on my unique angle, it allows me to address a relatively broad family of topics (branding, marketing, and copywriting) in really fresh and unpredictable ways.

Your quintet of Voice Values is powerful like whoa!


Jules April 23, 2013 at 7:58 am

Thanks for your reply Abby! Being able to identify with my Voice Values has helped me to discover my ‘voice’ – as well as my brand – whilst considering content. It’s also given me more confidence in my approach to business as a whole – I have a list of my Voice Values pinned to my corkboard above my desk too!

A friend of mine has recommended taking the time to write down my entire approach to wellness – so I’ve decided to brainstorm and create a book/manual/guide (possibly to publish) to have that clarity in black and white. I know that in doing so, I will also discover my unique angle that should flow quite naturally once I’m in that space. It’s going to be a rather interesting exercise to undertake.

Of course, once the book/manual/guide has become a bestseller on Amazon, I’ll be able to hire The Voice Bureau to help me solve my Marketing woes ;)


Abby Kerr April 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I love the idea of doing some inquiry and journalling around your approach. It’s a great way to uncover all of the elements at play. My collaborative partner Tami encourages many of our clients to try this exercise.


Caroline Frenette Master Intuitive Coach April 30, 2013 at 5:59 am

I’m going to work on my brand statement although this feels like one more thing to do on my very long list fo to do’s. Your program Empathy marketing sound very interesting but I’m wondering if I wouldn’t be better off delegating this to a pro-branding-expert-writer who will save me valuable time and just do it for me!


Erin, Creative Soul in Motion June 13, 2013 at 11:14 am

Abby and Tami, thank you so very much for giving us such powerful content. I’ve been working on my Brand Proposition and USP for a few weeks now and I’ve had this page up literally every single day. It’s been extremely useful in helping me gain clarity and confidence in my business.

One thing I’ve really struggled with is defining a niche/specific customer that I want to help. As a Reiki Guide and Coach I don’t feel comfortable narrowing my audience at this moment as I’m just getting going and I believe we all have weights we can let go of to move forward.

So, anyways, here is my BP:

Erin Madore, of Creative Soul in Motion, is a Life Coach, Writer and Reiki Guide dedicated to helping people that are stuck in life let go of the weights holding them down. Her compassionate yet straightforward approach supports and inspires clients as they reconnect with their inner clarity and confidence.

Thanks again for providing me such amazing advice and inspiration!


Johnetta August 27, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I love these arislcet. How many words can a wordsmith smith?


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