*Specifically for advisory firms

It takes real courage to narrow down your company's value proposition to just one thing, but it has paid off every time I have dared to do it.

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A Story

When I was a kid, I loved to play Cowboys and Indians. I know that dates me, but it provided countless hours of play, whether I was alone or with friends. I had a Six Shooter, a leather holster, and a leather vest for the Cowboy role.

I also had a bow and arrow fit for a 4 year old. In my mind, the skill of shooting an arrow was something I was great at. When I was about forty, I was visiting friends in Chengdu, China, and they invited me to an archery range. Awesome. No worries. I've got this.

Turns out, I was wrong. I was horrible. My friend was hitting the target every time. I was hitting the floor, the back wall, the ceiling. I hit everything but the target. How could my sense of self-confidence be so misplaced?

Here is a 5 minute video introduction:

What I Learned

It takes a whole lot of skill and practice to deliver an arrow to a distant target. It also takes a whole lot of skill and practice to deliver your company's value proposition to the center of your target market.

Like me, you might be overconfident. You might be moving into the future based on last year's success. What matters is that we are continually refining our aim. We must practice our skills. We must focus on our messaging. Most of all, we must develop a clear view of the very center of our target.

We must know exactly who we are trying to help and why they need our help. We must also understand how we can uniquely provide that help in a way that meets their needs better than anyone else. Once we know all of those things, we will find it much easier to design a strong value proposition that drives results.

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No One Hits the Bullseye Aiming at the Target

This is a business axiom. It is a self-evident truth. If you aim at the target, there is no telling where your arrow will land. What happens if you aim at the bullseye? That's right. If you aim at the bullseye, you are much more likely to hit the target. It follows the athlete's mantra: aim small, miss small. The business world is no different.

You've probably heard someone say to go big. But when it comes to your value proposition, it's more effective to aim small. Here is a video I created to give you a quick overview of this idea:

Think about your business mission. What are you trying to accomplish? Once you have nailed that down, you can start thinking about how best to communicate your mission to your target market.

Your value proposition is all about what makes your business unique and attractive to potential customers. It's your unique selling proposition (USP).

To craft an amazing value proposition, start by thinking about what sets your business apart from the competition. What do you offer that they don't? How can you better meet the needs of your target market?

Once you have a good understanding of your USP, you can start working on communicating it in a way that is clear and concise. Keep in mind that your value proposition should be customer-centric, not business-centric. In other words, focus on what's in it for the customer, not what's in it for you.

When you have a strong value proposition, you will find it much easier to drive results because you'll know exactly who your target market is and what they're looking for. So aim small and miss small when crafting your value proposition—it's the best way to hit the target every time.

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So, Why Do I Need an Effective Value Proposition?

Your business mission is your "why"--the reason you exist. Everything else in your business should support that mission. Your value proposition is the specific way you execute that mission and create value for your customer or client. You are trying to deliver your product or service to your target audience. All marketing efforts in your firm must be driven by this single mission. This is the only way for you to achieve a competitive advantage. In other words, it's how you turn your "why" into a "wow."

Think about it this way: your business mission is the sun and your value proposition is the solar system that orbits around it. Your best value proposition will revolve around your singular business mission. Designing an amazing value proposition--one that's clear, compelling, and differentiated--is essential to the success of your business.

Here's the good news: you don't have to be a marketing genius to design a good value proposition. You just need to understand the process and be willing to put in the work. So, let's get started.

There Can Be Only One

The WHAT of your business identity is represented by the ARROW in this article. An arrow has one defining feature. It has a single tip. It does not have multiple tips. Ever seen an arrow with more than one tip? Do you think it would be fun to shoot?

Here is the symbol I use in my advisory practice to focus on creating a single value to deliver to our ideal client:

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Our value proposition is not a list. It is one thing. Just like the arrow. Below are some questions to consider:

  • Is it possible for an arrow to have more than one tip? Why or why not?
  • Do we currently provide our prospects with a list of problems we solve? Why?
  • Can we ever become known for doing one thing incredibly well if we don't know what that one thing is?

At times, I have found myself listing for my clients all the things I would like to do for them in hopes that something would appeal to them. This effort is just like shooting an arrow that has more than one tip. And just like my real-life bow and arrow skills (humbly confessed) ... it almost always misses the mark.

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How Do I Discover My Singular Value?

Let's brainstorm our way to discovering our most effective propositions:

  • What words do our best clients use to describe what we do for them?
  • What do they say about us that differentiates us from the pack?
  • How do they most often introduce us to others?
  • On what service or characteristic do they focus when they talk about us?
  • What deliverable seems to be the one they are most happy to pay for?

These questions would be easier to answer if you were to meet with your whole team. Pose the questions and require everyone to offer feedback. Use the whiteboard. Use sticky notes. Try to distill answers to these brainstorming questions into very short phrases. Don’t forget to take solid notes, take pictures, and offer appreciation for everyone’s feedback. All contributions are valuable, even if they do not make the final cut.

Brainstorming the answers to these questions will take you much closer to discovering both your ideal client and your singular need-benefit. Need-benefit is another way of saying "value proposition" or "value offering." It answers two questions at once: What is my ideal client's primary need? and What benefit do we offer them?

We Have To Stop With the Lists!

When someone wants to know what our company can do for them, the last thing they need is a list. Making lists might be the most common mistake of people-first business owners. They make lists because they want to be helpful to potential customers. The problem is that future customers are not interested in learning about you--they are interested in solving their problems. The faster you can stop talking about what you can do so that you can get to what problem they want to solve the better.

Failure to understand this will cost you time and money.

I know you are still arguing with this point: If I don't list all the things I can do, then how will my best clients know what I can do for them? Let me ask you a better question: How could you possibly know what you can do for a prospect until you have discovered their real need? Part of the process of working with new clients is learning what they need from us and how we might best serve them. We learn more about the potential application of our skills with each new client engagement. Why would we want to limit that exploration by insisting on presenting ourselves as experts with tools and lists before we even get started?

The list is the enemy of trust. The list is the enemy of focus. The list is the enemy of really knowing what we do well. When we list all the things we do, we lose sight of what we are good at. When our clients see us as a jack-of-all-trades, they will never trust us as their go-to expert.

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The moral of this story: focus on becoming known for one thing and then do it better than anyone else in your market. You'll be amazed at how much business you attract when you become known as the best in the world at ONE thing. And that one thing should be something your ideal client is willing to pay for!

Designing an amazing value proposition--one that is clear, compelling, and differentiated--is essential to the success of your business.

The lesson here is that when it comes to business, one size does not fit all. The same goes for value propositions. To craft an amazing value proposition, you need to understand both your business and your customer's needs.

Are You A Salesman or a Trusted Advisor?

Here is another argument we might consider: If my clients see me as a salesman who has a list of products I hope to place, then how will they ever trust me as their expert advisor?

Honestly, at times you need to be both. But, You are a Trusted Advisor First! You are someone who helps them make decisions by providing information and analysis so they can see all the options. Only then do you step in as the salesman and recommend the best option for their business.

When clients trust your opinion, they will also value your input on what product or service would work best for them. They might not always take your recommendation, but they will respect it because they understand that you have the best interests of their business at heart - not just your sales quota.

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Clients who see you as a salesman will always be looking for the next best thing. They will never trust your opinion because they know you are just trying to make a sale. So, ask yourself this question: Are you selling or advising? If you want to be seen as an expert in your field, then it's time to start acting like one!

The takeaway here is that your value proposition needs to be clear, concise, and tailored to your ideal client. It should focus on solving their problem and not on listing all the things you can do. And finally, remember that you are a trusted advisor first and a salesman second. When you keep these things in mind, you'll be well on your way to crafting your perfect value prop.

Your Value Magic

So, just what is your VALUE MAGIC ... in the words of your ideal clients?

The answer is found by compressing all the feedback in the brainstorming session above into a single phrase. Let me show you 4 steps to designing a great value proposition:

4 Steps to Designing a Great Value Proposition

We already know that your positioning statement must solve a problem. But let's go through the four elements that will help drive results!

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1: Your Value Proposition Should Be Boring

Do you think I am kidding?

The best value propositions contain one pretty boring element. Why? Because what you do must be easy to understand in a millisecond. Did you know that people form first impressions in 1/10th of a second? According to this article, people form these impressions so fast that an additional second doesn't add any measurable improvement. In other words, it takes almost no time to form your awareness of who and what you are looking at.


Can you afford to be nuanced? Nope. You have to get right to the point. You have to first come up with the most obvious, simple--and yes--even boring way to communicate how you are going to solve a specific problem for your ideal customer. It has to be cave-man simple. Super easy to understand. For example, "If you are hungry, we deliver pizza."

That's it. No bells or whistles are needed. Just a clear statement of the problem you solve and the type of customer you serve.

The first step is to KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don't try to be clever or cute with your value proposition. The goal is to be clear, not clever. Make it easy to understand.

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2: Your Value Proposition Should Be Exciting

This is always the second step. The best value propositions also contain one very exciting element. Why? Because these quick messages focus on the unique result you deliver that no one else can match.

For example, "If you are hungry, we deliver pizza in 30 minutes or less. Lightning Speed Pizza!"

See how that works? The first part of the value proposition is boring (hungry, we deliver pizza) but the second part is exciting (Lightning Speed!) This combination of boring and exciting elements is what makes a great value proposition.

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3: Your Value Proposition Should Be Focused on Your Ideal Client

The most unique selling proposition is focused on a specific type of customer. It doesn't try to be everything to everyone.

For example, "If you are a busy professional who wants healthy food delivered to your office, we have just the thing. Lightning Fast Pizza made with only local and organic ingredients."

This value proposition is focused on busy professionals who want healthy food delivered. It's not focused on families or college students or seniors. Just busy professionals. By being focused, the value proposition can be more targeted and relevant to the customer, which makes it more effective.

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4: Your Value Proposition Should Make Emotional Sense to Your Ideal Client

Great value propositions make emotional sense to your ideal client. They tap into the feelings and desires of the customer.

For example, "If you are a busy professional who wants healthy food delivered to your office, we have just the thing. Lightning Fast Pizza is made with only local and organic ingredients. You can feel good about eating our pizza because it's healthy and delicious!"

This compelling value proposition not only makes logical sense (it's fast and healthy), but it also makes emotional sense (you can feel good about eating our pizza). It's this combination of logic and emotion that offers key benefits to your ideal customer.

To make our point in this article, we allowed the example value proposition to grow. It got long. It probably became a little too long. How would you shorten the value proposition for Lighting Fast Pizza? Could you put it into a tight tagline? Would you consider renaming your business if it would help make a better impact?

It takes a lot of courage to change. You will have to decide if it is worth it.

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Make This Work For You

In summary, here is how you can apply this to your business.

First, take a look at your current value proposition. Is it clear? Is it so easy to understand that it is a little bit boring? If not, don't worry. This is a common problem. The good news is you can fix it with a little bit of work.

Next, add an element of excitement. Focus on the unique result you deliver that no one else can match. Find words that provoke, inspire, or dazzle. What descriptives set your product or service apart?

Then, make sure your value proposition is focused on your ideal client. The more focused it is, the more relevant it will be to the customer, and the more effective it will be. There is no way to present an effective value proposition if it is trying to appeal to everyone. This is like trying to hit the bullseye by aiming at the target. It doesn't work. Aim small, miss small.

Finally, add an emotional element to your value proposition that strikes the chords of your ideal client's heart. Focus on the feelings and desires of your ideal client. Make sure your unique value proposition solves a pain point or helps with a passion. This will make your value proposition even more powerful. By following these steps, you can design an amazing value proposition that drives results. Good luck!

Closing Thoughts

You may have noticed that creating value propositions that drive results is a deeper discussion than just writing a marketing plan. It is more fundamental. This article has taken you closer to discovering WHY you do what you do. HOW you do what you do. WHAT you do, and WHO you are best at doing it for.

This is, in a nutshell, your business mission.

Your business mission should be to provide a product or service that solves a problem for your customers better than anyone else in youe industry. You can land your success on this truth: your mission grows from the very center of your story. You must know who you are, and who you love to serve. You have to articulate why you want to help them. This generates trust. It comes from authenticity.

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Maybe you feel like someone who has been shooting your arrows at the floor, the back wall, and the ceiling. It is how I felt when I was trying my hand at archery. Here is a helpful tip: don't adjust everything all at once. No coach would ever approach the need for change by adjusting everything all at one time. The best approach is to decide what is causing the most problems and choose to work on that first.

Why don't you meet with your team and do just that? Brainstorm all the elements in this article, and then collaborate on the most important issue to work on first. Take suggestions. Ask for leadership. Set a goal to accomplish a reasonable upgrade in the next 30 days. Review and repeat.


It takes real courage to narrow down our VALUE MAGIC to just one thing, but it has paid off every time I have dared to do it. So, in the words of your ideal client, what is your VALUE MAGIC?

H.B. Pasley, Growth Advocate®