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Is your UVP actually unique? 🤔


If you follow any famous founders on Twitter or even occasionally visit Linkedin, you've likely noticed that startup people have their own language. 

Memes, phrases, quotes and musings have been sewn together with actual business terms to form a way of speaking that prizes efficiency over all else.  

Ephemeral phrases like "rise & grind" or "move fast and break things" are thrown around with the same ease as actual, definable terms like "positioning" or "agile." This can lead to miscommunication and, worse, a misalignment with your team on mission, goals and more. 

One of the most egregious examples of this is discussion around the Unique Value Proposition.

What is your Unique Value Proposition? 

Put simply, a unique value proposition is what makes your product or service distinct from existing alternatives. 

When you ask most marketers or founders, most will describe something approaching the above definition. Having done this, they will proudly point you to their homepage where they've placed a headline and some subtext as proof that you're on the same page. 

There's only one problem: that's not a unique value proposition. 

What is NOT your Unique Value Proposition? 

That headline or statement on your website? The one you crafted and re-wrote a dozen times and A/B tested and returned to late at night? Yeah, that's a Unique Selling Proposition. Or a slogan. Or a mission. All of these statements of purpose may contain your unique value proposition, but often don't (more on that later).

Unique Selling Proposition

A USP is a unique story you tell to potential customers that starts a sales process. This may include attributes unique to you and attributes not unique to you. What is always unique to you (or should be) is the story. 


A slogan is a short, memorable phrase used to encourage interest in a particular campaign message. While a unique selling proposition may not change for years, if at all, a slogan can change with the launch of each new campaign. 


Your mission is your reason for getting up in the morning. Maybe it is a connection to your founder's origin story. Maybe it is the cause that led you to the creation of your product. Either way, a mission is a statement of purpose that may or may not be unique to you. 

What do all these things have in common? Being fundamentally unique is not actually a pre-requisite of any of them. Your Unique Sales Proposition may be unique to you, but may promote elements of your product that are not unique at all. Slogans need to be unique enough to avoid plagiarizing but, like USPs, may focus on elements of your product that many alternatives can provide. And Mission is completely independent from product differentiation. Whole product segments have the same mission. 

Why is your current UVP a problem?

So if you are currently defining your product using one of the above non-UVP options, what's the harm? Why is this something you should focus on getting right? 

Problem 1: It's not unique!

Imagine a potential customer arrives at your website. They are currently comparison shopping, trying to find a product in your market segment. 

They arrive at your website, they see your opening statement, they see how you describe yourself and they see the promises you make about what your product is, what it can do and how it can benefit their business.

And they like it. They like it so much that they want to look under the hood--HOW will your product and service deliver these benefits in a way your competitors can't? 

Problem is, your HOW story is exactly the same as your competitors. At best, they will see your differentiator as branding and price instead of product. At worst, they will see you as out of touch or even untrustworthy because you called something unique that clearly isn't. 

Problem 2: It's competitor-dependent!

Many startups begin because of their competitors. The story goes like this:

  • The founder tried to accomplish something.
  • They tried every available solution.
  • Those solutions were insufficient.
  • They decided to create a new solution to solve the problem. 

Founders and marketers tell this story constantly. And it is a good story that allows you to speak directly to the failings of your competitors and highlight your own UNIQUE features. 👍

Problem is, they fail to account for a few important realities: 

  1. Prospects may not be comparing you to your competitors. They may have created their own solution that is working imperfectly. What you are convincing them to do is not only choose you over your competitors, but choose you over the (admittedly imperfect) status quo, which may include tools not on your radar--from Google Sheets to Zapier to Microsoft Word. 

  2. Outside forces may be driving purchase decisions. While it is important to hook the attention of your initial contact, they may not be the ultimate decision-maker. More likely, they want to adopt your service but, without explaining how your product is truly differentiated, they can't answer objections they are likely to receive--from price to security to fit with existing stack.

  3. Your prospects may not see you the way you see yourself. If you've announced your entry into the market using your competitors and their positioning, you set yourself up to be judged not on your own merits but on the expectations of what your competitors deliver. Features that you don't have--and may deem non-essential--may cause customers in-market for your competitor to not consider you at all, rather than as an alternative to a known product. Could there be another category that you fit into better? 

Problem 3: You can't back it up!

The only thing worse than presenting a value proposition that isn't unique is presenting one that you can't actually deliver. 

We've all seen these companies before--promising that their solution will deliver world peace or make your hair grow back, when it is plain to see that the solution is much more simple than that. 

Differentiating yourself needs to be honest. Save your grand vision for your Mission Statement. 

Problem 3: Its too boring!

Now we've come to the most common problem startups face. Most founders know their actual unique value proposition. But when they tell the story of their product, they don't focus on it. Why? Because they think it is too minute and boring for the average person to care about it. 

This is where you need to become a storyteller. Put yourself in the mindset you were in when you created your product, or in the mindset of your future customer. Think not about what your UVP actually is, but what it can deliver for the customer. Then, set about telling that story, using your real UVP as the star. There are real, tangible benefits to your product that other products in the market can't deliver. If you can tap into why this should matter to your future customer, you'll have a winning message. 


How to write a Unique Value Proposition? 

April Dunford's Obviously Awesome method

Source: April Dunford

April Dunford is an expert in positioning. She's worked for many successful startups and is currently an evangelist and author, helping companies nail their positioning so that they can define their service correctly, helping them find their best-fit customers. 

Here's how April defines positioning: 

“Positioning defines how your product is a leader at delivering something that a well-defined set of customers cares a lot about.”

Her framework for creating a great UVP story deviates from decades of bad advice on the subject. If done correctly, a great UVP should allow you to take in the full scope of potential objections and roadblocks that your story may build in the minds of potential customers and answer them before they ruin a potential sale.

  1. Competitive Alternatives. To understand where you stand out, don't focus on similar products to you that exist. Focus on the key objectives and tasks that your potential customers may use your product to complete. Then, consider all the potential ways of solving the problem that exist. Start your comparison from that complete list and see if your product makes all available processes easier. 

  2. Key Unique Attributes. When examining the imperfect methods that exist for solving customer problems, what elements of your product are truly unique? How can you describe them in a way that sets them starkly apart from not just competitors but existing methods of solving problems? How does your unique attribute unlock a new way of doing things?

  3. Value. Why do these unique elements matter? How do they create value for the customer? Think about the frustration that can be avoided, the time that can be saved, even the money that can be lost by wasting time unnecessarily. This is where you want to tap into the emotion of the customer--how will this delight them? 

  4. Customers That Care. Your UVP story needs to be written from the point of view of the people who care the most. Once you've identified the real value of your UVP, you have to understand the profile of the person for whom this is a daily problem. Who is most likely to find this useful and why? Tell the story from their point of view, focusing on how you've made life easier for them. 

  5. Market You Win. This last step is less important for the UVP. You don't need to know exactly what market your product or service falls into to understand its unique value as compared to other solutions to customer problems. But eventually, you'll need to decide the best way to position yourself and allow customers to judge you based on that--and they will. If you do it right, though, you'll expedite your sales process and even allow your best-fit prospects to find you. You'll have made your value so obvious to them, it will be self-evident. 

What is your Unique Value Proposition? How did you find it? Are you interested in testing it out? Check out our Positioning Sprint or book an appointment and we'll talk it out.