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Amy Alexander
By Amy Alexander on December 15, 2022

6 Value Proposition Mistakes That Dilute Brand Loyalty

Value propositions are elusive. Even top companies present themselves as "different" using the same concepts and terms as their competitors. They forget to actually differentiate when they present their value to their customers. Common value proposition mistakes leave customers lukewarm about brand loyalty, and unclear about why they should look at anything more than a price-point.

Consider these 6 value proposition mistakes that might be diluting your brand loyalty.


1. The mother of all value proposition mistakes: being "better" or "best"

So there I was, sitting at a red light, when I saw the most incredible example of the better/best issue. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was happening, and I had to take a picture before the light turned green.

"We hang Christmas lights" claimed the first sign.

"We hang Christmas lights better" boasted the second sign.

"We hang Christmas lights BEST" screamed the third sign.

brand messaging signs outside

It was a stand-off of zero differentiation. And it proves my point so clearly. 

Claiming you're the best seems like an easy way to tell your customer that you take pride in what you offer. But, in the end, it tells them absolutely nothing.

Here's another example from SprezzaBox. I'm happy to report that they have graduated themselves from their original value proposition: "The Best Men's Subscription Box, just $28 a month. Guaranteed to have over a $100 in value."

This checks so many of the do-not-do-this boxes of value propositions. Not only are they making the unprovable claim of being "best", they're also putting themselves in the price-competition pool by labeling their price in the first sentence, and reminding people it will contain a lot of value.

SprezzaBox homepage

More recently, they're homepage claims: "Curated goods for the modern man, $28 delivered monthly."

SprezzaBox homepage 2

This value proposition is certainly an improvement. I now know this is for a "modern" man, and that the selection is hand-picked for this persona.

The issue?

  1. Well... it took me 5 minutes flat to find one of their competitors also saying their box is "curated." I'm not quite sure what subscription box isn't curated, to be honest.

    You can see that Breo Box has a much better value proposition overall, but they're still identifying themselves as a "curated" purchase.Breo Box homepage
  2. SprezzaBox has relegated its brand to the price-competition pool by continuing to post a cost front and center. 

2. Claiming more value or a better price

I don't know about you, but when you're selling more than a commodity, you do not want people making their decision based solely on price.

SprezzaBox continues to make the classic mistake of capturing people based almost entirely on how much they charge. This requires them to always be the cheapest... or close to the cheapest. And, it aligns them with a customer type that may not have the same values or standards. It commoditizes them.

When you're offering a B2B service, it's dangerous to play the price game. Your goal is to sell unique services that cannot be offered by anyone else. If you gain clientele based on price, you will find that your values do not align. And you'll be stuck dragging them along, constantly convincing them that the value they're receiving is worth their brand loyalty.


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3. Claiming "more experience" as your differentiator

If you've been in the industry for a long time, or if you've gathered a team of masters in your industry, claiming experience isn't a bad idea. But, it doesn't make you totally unique. 

The majority of brands will claim they have an experienced team. And for some, the resumes of past employers may be a true selling point. But, hanging your hat on "experience," "more experience," or "decades in the industry" is not enough to help people understand your value.

If the only thing that makes you truly different from your competitor is experience, this can lead to a lot of questions from your audience. They may wonder if you're ahead of the game... or if you're lost in the past. They may wonder if the price tag of experience is all it's cracked up to be.

No question: experience (especially if it can be demonstrated) is a strong case. Think of it as a feature or benefit, not a competitive advantage by itself.

4. Copy/paste your competitor's sites

This seems like an obvious thing not to do. But... talk to the majority of web design firms and you'll find that this is exactly what they intend to do. You may not intentionally grab tactics and strategies from your industry leaders, but your consultants might.

When a customer is comparing their options, if they see that you list the exact same value proposition as your competitor, they'll start drilling down to make a decision. And, what they'll often land on is the cheapest option. 

Replicating an industry leader will often result in landing yourself in the pool of price comparison. It's not a glamorous place to be.

5. Hanging your hat on a customer service rating

It's true: people love great customer service. They also expect great customer service. You can (and should) boast great reviews and high customer satisfaction ratings. But this is like icing on the cake.

Great customer service cannot be your competitive advantage. People see this as setting the bar very low. And, worse, if this is truly the reason someone chose your service or product (though not likely), you absolutely cannot afford to fall short of their ambiguous expectations.

Yikes! I'm not a mind reader, and I doubt that's a gamble you're interested in taking, either.

6. Being everything to everyone

Yes, you know you're supposed to have a niche or a vertical. Everyone tells you this, but you've yet to prioritize it.

This is a common feeling. Especially if you're trying to grow, it feels like you need to cast the widest net possible.

Here are some marketing realities to consider when you need to pair down your audience:

  • Branding is about being exclusive, not inclusive: brand have to create community around specifics ideas and values. This, by its nature, excludes people that do not align with what you offer. You want this. You don't want new customers that aren't along for the experience you plan to offer them.
  • Being for everyone means you're for no one: In the example of SprezzaBox, simply being a subscription for "men" does not narrow down the search. If I'm looking for a subscription box for my husband, I'm looking for specific, branded, community-driven words that will help me know this box is for his interests. I might want something for an outdoorsy, adventurer. Or a dog lover. Or a pop-culture junky. SprezzaBox is now for "modern men" which is an improvement, no doubt. But, it could be more specific.
  •  When you know you're destination, you'll gather people on the way: Just like a GPS, when you put a destination in your niche "map," you'll collect lots of people along the journey. A large populous will find something about your service or product that aligns with their needs, even if they are not the exact niche you've outlined in your value proposition. 

Put proven growth strategies to work

Avoid the same mistakes as your competitors and unlock proven methods to developing and truly unique value proposition.

We've developed a free Growth Multiplication Masterclass that walks through our 3-step process for launching growth.

Three videos, a little over an hour, and you'll step away with a lot of clarity about your next steps. We hope providing free access to our growth masterclass is pivotal for your next season of growth!


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Video Transcript ____________________

013 - Braveheart - Competitive Advantage


Amy Alexander: Welcome to Braveheart Business Growth, where we champion and equip freedom and faith minded business leaders to fuel growth so they can make a measurable difference in their community and world. I'm Amy Alexander. I'm the Focus R of Growth Strategists.

Dave Mills: Hi, I'm David Mills. I'm the mad scientist of growth strategists and I was doing my parade wave since I am not in the Santa Elf float this year. I just thought I would do it here.

Amy Alexander: It's cute.

Chad Alexander: I, we all assume he was in the previous ones. Um, so I'm Chad Alexander. I'm the chaos theorist of growth Strategists. We'll, in an upcoming episode, uncover what all these names mean for each individual person.

Dave Mills: and the interesting thing is we have a focused czar alongside of a mad scientist and a chaos theorist, so there's no wonder that we need a focused czar, right?

Amy Alexander: Yeah, I mean, absolutely. Tell me about [00:01:00] it. 

Chad Alexander: exactly. 

Amy Alexander: All right. Today we are in part three of our recession ready series. We're talking about competitive advantage, i e. What makes you different? And helps you gain an edge on the competition. This can be extremely challenging to nail. So today we wanna talk about the major pitfalls most people run into when they're defining their differentiator, why it even matters that you nail this in in upcoming recession or current recession.

Amy Alexander: And a couple ways to get started in the process

Chad Alexander: Whatever

Chad Alexander: flavor of the week did it find it as?

Competitive Advantage and Value Propositions

Amy Alexander: question mark. Okay. I feel really passionately about competitive advantage because it's extremely elusive and I think once we discovered some of the nuances of it, it made me feel like it was such an aha moment. It's like, [00:02:00] oh my gosh. I finally understand why so many people think they have a competitive advantage, but they don't.

Amy Alexander: I now know how to articulate them really. . It is a really in depth, detailed, very personal process. We have a great process for it, so because it's such a detailed personal process, it's not something we can just sort of disseminate over a podcast to you. It is a process that we have to take you through, but nonetheless, we wanted to find a way to provide value and give you information that we can.

Amy Alexander: In today's episode, um, but unfortunately you're not gonna leave this episode going, oh, that's how, like, that's the 1, 2, 3 of figuring out exactly how to articulate why I'm different. No, that's not gonna happen today. But you're definitely gonna be closer than you were before. And that's, that's all we can ask for.

Amy Alexander: Right.

Amy Alexander: So you're saying that they're gonna become more different ER

Amy Alexander: More 

Dave Mills: of this podcast? More different here. Okay, good.

Amy Alexander: Yes. They can think 

Chad Alexander: different[00:03:00] 

Chad Alexander: Show me a Coke.

Amy Alexander: What's that from, guys? What's think different from

Amy Alexander: Yes, I was 

Dave Mills: sounds like 

Amy Alexander: the audience, but

Dave Mills: or as do minion say bubble bubble.

Amy Alexander: When someone asks you, the business owner how you're different, I suspect your answer sounds something like, after 30 years in business, we have the most experienced staff. We have a five star rated customer service rating. Uh, not to mention we provide more value at a better price, and quite simply, we're better.

Amy Alexander: Our service is better, and we're the best. Does that sound familiar to you? Anyone? Is that what you always, always, always hear from people? ? 

Dave Mills: I see this claim on like literally every website I look at, right? Everyone says we are better. Our customer service is better. Our employees are more experienced, and many of them say we have better products as well. So they will also [00:04:00] add that, or we have some kind of secret special sauce service.

Amy Alexander: So I have two stories to illustrate this with. There's two intersections in our city that have these Christmas light. Um, what are those like little,

Chad Alexander: They're like, they're like little signs that people 

Amy Alexander: little signs? 

Chad Alexander: you know, like you see, like we renovate basements and they'll have a number on there.

Amy Alexander: Anyway, so the first one says we put up Christmas lights. Then there's one right next to it in a different color that says we put up Christmas lights better. And then there is a third sign to the right of that one in a different color that says, we put Christmas lights up best. It is so funny.

Amy Alexander: Literally I had Chad stop, pull to the side of the road so I could take a picture cuz it illustrated this point that I tried to explain to people year [00:05:00] after year. So, well, , I like couldn't believe it was happening in real life. I was so excited.

Amy Alexander: It's 

Dave Mills: the other thing that people do, Amy, is instead of saying they're better, what they say is, we are cheaper. So, you know, lower cost, lowest cost. The lowest cost. Lowest cost conceivable to mankind free. Right? So that's the other thing people do, and so they either try and one up the other with being better in service or experience, or they run to the very bottom of the market and become the cheapest possible disposable commodity that they can be.

Amy Alexander: Yeah, absolutely. So another, my other example is, um, I wanted to make sure today we included some kind of value proposition, you know, template or formula. Like I said, it, it's gonna be. Not as good, frankly, as what we do, but at least we'll get you guys started. So anyway, when I was googling this value prop template, I came across a bunch of articles.

Amy Alexander: A lot of people have written [00:06:00] articles on, ooh, like Here are five amazing value propositions. This one's called Five Winning Unique Value Proposition Examples. I was expecting great value propositions. What I got was very sad for me. 

Amy Alexander: One of them was Bombas Socks, the most comfortable socks in the history of feet.

Amy Alexander: I'm sorry, that doesn't really fit the bill as far as a value proposition. The next one I got was, um,

Amy Alexander: focus on quality. 

Amy Alexander: Okay. Nope. , that's not a value proposition. It's literally what everyone else says. . Everyone 

Dave Mills: better comfort, so better comfort, better quality so far,

Amy Alexander: better quality. And the last one I got was, 

Amy Alexander: The best men's subscription box. 

Amy Alexander: Nope. . Again, not a value proposition, but it just goes to show you, I mean, these are big [00:07:00] brands. These are big brands. These are the big guys, and they are using best, better, super relative, very subjective language to articulate how they're supposedly. Where you should spend your money.

Amy Alexander: And so it just shows you how hard this really can be. The fact that you haven't nailed it yet is totally okay because it is very challenging and we were there for many years.

Dave Mills: Since everything has better, best, or bestest on it, then everything has to have it, or else it doesn't meet the standard. So it's now it's like, check the box. Oh, it's better, it's improved, it's best, right?

Dave Mills: So it's become a meaningless term. Um, most experienced staff, most experienced realtors, most experienced, you name it, right? Um, now if it's a doctor, we do wanna know about experience that would be important to know. Um, you know, this is their first brain surgery ever would not be what you put on the ad, but it's become a [00:08:00] throwaway now, better, best, you know, has become a throwaway.

Dave Mills: Just stick it on there because if you don't put it on there, people will think you aren't the better or best, and they'll buy one that says, I don't think so. It's like a decoration. It's like a dollar

Dave Mills: sign. 

Amy Alexander: yeah. Well, the reality is that it's turned into the kind of language that's meaningless. The word better now means nothing. The word experience means nothing. Value means nothing. Customer service, it all means nothing, because if everyone says it, it's like, If everything's bold, nothing's bold. If everything's italicized, nothing's italicized.

Amy Alexander: So, um, it's become more important than ever that the way you articulate how you're different is in it, in and of itself, different. And that is actually one of the first challenges we run into with our clients, I think, is when we're talking to them, they might say, Oh, we have a family atmosphere and then they will give you five examples of how that's actually true and how they're super intentionally [00:09:00] creating a family culture.

Amy Alexander: But you can't say on their website family culture because it's another one of those terms that's totally meaningless.

Dave Mills: Take away all the good stuff. They're wreck. Hey, by the way, cheapest is cheapest is a differentiator, but it's only a differentiator. As long as you actually are the cheapest and as soon as someone finds a cheaper way to get the cheap thing you're selling, then you're no longer gonna be the cheapest and you're gonna get priced out of the market, right?

Dave Mills: So it's a very risky differentiator.

Amy Alexander: We did address this in our last podcast, but nobody wants to play in the Price com competitive pond. It's not fun. You get low quality people and then when you go back to realizing you didn't want to charge less for your expensive service, then you have all these people you don't really want to carry along with you.

Amy Alexander: So it's just a bad plan anyway, but. , uh, 

The DO NOTs of Value Propositions

Amy Alexander: what are guys, let's list like, kind of our no, no differentiator terms. The first [00:10:00] one, we've said it a lot. It's best or better, best or better. Those are not terms that help you differentiate what else we got.

Dave Mills: I would say most experienced would be another one of those we

Dave Mills: just, we just cannot use. And you've already said also Amy, family atmosphere. Family culture. 

Chad Alexander: quality. Can't say quality.

Amy Alexander: quality as a differentiator. Yep.

Dave Mills: I think greatest value or best value, the word value is extremely subjective. What does that mean? It means we, what does it mean? I don't know. Right. It means that you're gonna get a bigger car, more metal in the car with thicker tires, even though it's the same brand. I don't think so. Right? It's kind of meaningless.

Dave Mills: Um, unless you have some way of proving that you're offering value. So we get into this whole value thing. We wanna do value add and we're, we have greater value. . Um, it's a shame, you know, Amy, because for in some industries, the customer service is actually a differentiator because [00:11:00] large swaths of industries have no customer service, literally.

Dave Mills: And so having really good customer service is, is really a good differentiator. The problem is you can't say that,

Chad Alexander: Mm-hmm.

Dave Mills: have to find a dif, a different way to say it. Otherwise, it's not a differentiator. It's just what everyone, everyone claims to have. Everyone says they have the best customer.

Chad Alexander: I looked up Microsoft's 365 s value prop, 

Chad Alexander: It's the freedom to build, manage, and deploy applications on a massive global network using your favorite. In frameworks,

Dave Mills: Ooh.

Chad Alexander: good, bad,

Dave Mills: There's no better or best in there. It's the freedom to build.

Amy Alexander: Yeah, I mean it's not, it's long, but I, in the world of value proposition, It's not marketing messaging, let's say that. Right? I think the, that's the other thing is that often, um, people assume that if they're gonna build a value prop, they're also building their one line marketing message, which [00:12:00] is not always true.

Amy Alexander: You need to build a value proposition that encompasses how you're truly different. So that from that you can build great marketing messaging and sometimes you'll be able to come up with a great one-liner as your value prop, but often it's gonna be a little bit bulky and then you can message out of it.

Where to Start With Writing a Value Proposition

Dave Mills: Here's, here's a way for you to figure out what not to say, Amy. So I call this kind of the industry standard template. So just go look.

Dave Mills: Go into Google, what you do online. Look at the first five websites that come up. Write down the things that they say are their differentiators, all of those things that they say you can't use. And for many industries, kind of the way websites are built, is it just kind of rinse and repeat, right? Oh, go find what everyone else has done and copy it.

Dave Mills: And so you'll find whole industries in which the. Are nearly identical, um, one after the other. So all of those terms, I'm sorry, they've been wrecked by the people [00:13:00] who are in your industry and they're all saying things that have become Yes, meaningless, completely meaningless.

Dave Mills: So if it doesn't mean something, it's not different.

Dave Mills: You can't, you just can't use it.

Chad Alexander: Do you guys wanna hear Apple's value proposition? This is just apple itself.

Chad Alexander: It's to create a smooth experience as long as you are within Apple's ecosystem.

Dave Mills: Ooh.

Dave Mills: You're either you're with us or you're nothing.

Chad Alexander: one sucks.

Amy Alexander: I'm not sure that's their value proposition.

Chad Alexander: Hey, hey, hey Apple. Why don't you fix your lightning chargers for crying out loud? Stop trying to be think different and do something that actually works for crying out loud. Goodness, I have to, I have to wirelessly charge this all the time. Anyways, Rand over

Amy Alexander: One that works really well as just marketing messaging is from Unbounds, which is like, uh, one of the leading landing page builders, and there's this build published and ab test landing pages without [00:14:00] it. 

Amy Alexander: And, and that's not truly a full value proposition, but it works well enough and it's short. 

Chad Alexander: Real quick. Here's Google's. It's a free search engine for billions of users around the world. Thank you, captain. Obvious I had no idea. . So when somebody says they wanna Google something, I didn't know what that meant. I'm like, whoa, 

Chad Alexander: Anyways, 

Amy Alexander: And I, I'll quickly make the point that we're not saying you can't talk about your customer service. Talk about your value, talk about all your great experience. Those can be good things. Mean, um, we certainly have clients who have experience to brag about. It truly is part of the icing on top.

Amy Alexander: It's an important part of how they sell themselves. But talking about some of those things and letting those things be what makes you different are very different without using [00:15:00] that word a million times. So what we're saying is you have to find a way to articulate how you're different. That does not include some of these other add-ons and important elements.

Amy Alexander: that make you good at what you do, right, or that that create a good product. Just because you create a good product and you have a lot of reasons about why that is, doesn't mean that's truly how you're delivering differently. 

Why Does Competitive Advantage Matter?

Amy Alexander: So why is this important, Dave, right now? Why 

Dave Mills: It is important for a lot of reasons. So I, I think that, um, you know, by the way, what, with what we just said, a lot of people that thought they had a differentiation statement or a value proposition dis discovered that they actually don't. What they have is they have a undifferent. Proposition, right? They have a, they have a sameness statement.

Dave Mills: We're just like everyone else. So that may be a shock to your system. If it is, we're sorry. We apologize. Um, it's important right now for a couple reasons. The first reason is, is [00:16:00] that just having poor differentiation not standing out is actually a huge problem. Um, it's a huge problem because it creates all kinds of extra costs for you.

Dave Mills: Your ads are more expensive because they don't stick, people can't remember 'em. There's a sandwich shop that we go to down the street, and they have pretty good sandwiches. They have gluten-free bread. We can order online and pick it up. It's nice and convenient, but for the life of us, we cannot remember the name of the place, right?

Dave Mills: So there's a problem with the way they're expressing themselves. Um, because we can't remember them. Their branding is not tied to anything unique. It's just a, it's the sandwich shop down the street. And so, being the sandwich shop down the street, it means that your ads are gonna cost more cuz no one's gonna remember anything about you.

Dave Mills: Um, the second thing is, is that you're making it harder. For your customers and your partners to refer to you because, um, you're not very unique. You're not very special. And so there's nothing that carries over in the referral. They, when they go look you up, they go, what was that place? [00:17:00] What did they do?

Dave Mills: Why are they so unique? And also, people just don't remember. They remember you are. And then the third thing is it just slows down word of. Um, so lack of differentiation actually is very expensive and it really retards growth. It is a drag on growth. Um, and so those are kind of the generic reasons. Um, but the, the, the next thing that happens then is we come into a season in which there's big shifts in the market. Like we are looking at right now. We've just come out of one for the last few years. We're looking at another one in terms of economic, um, cycle shift, and. When we have big market shifts, it can cause real changes to whether or not you're actually differentiated any longer, even if you used to be. Um, and so that's, I think that's what we're looking at to some degree, is that the market's changing, customers are changing and so differentiation may no longer actually fit.

Loss of Differentiation

Dave Mills: I would call this, um, two kinds of, of [00:18:00] loss in your differentiation. One would be erosion and the other one would be erasure. . Okay. Erosion is, um, when what makes you different, slowly gets eaten away by changes your competitors. Figure out something that you've been doing.

Dave Mills: They start doing it. You've been making a claim. They figured out how they could either make it for real or just say it anyway. Um, they begin to add the same things they have to their digital. Expression their website. So that's, um, that's erosion. Your, your slowly, your market gets, your audience gets used to what you have, it's no longer special.

Dave Mills: And then erasure is when someone comes in the market and they're disrupting you and they're making I making you irrelevant. The thing you had is irrelevant. This happens a lot in technology with, with digital disruption, but it also happens in other fields as well. Um, and when things become, they become irrelevant.

Dave Mills: And you literally, your, your differentiator gets erased. If you're, you're playing in the, the price, you [00:19:00] know, lowest price differentiator, that's a great place to get erased overnight. Someone just comes in with a cheaper product, but it happens to other people too. So, so you, if you're, if you face this erosion or this erasure, Or this market shift, you actually have to reposition.

Dave Mills: If you don't reposition, then what made you special no longer is helping you any longer?

Value Proposition is Packaging

Amy Alexander: I like to think of value propositions as packaging. Packaging is actually extremely important and effective when you are in the retail space, when you're walking through Walmart or Target or wherever, the way something's packaged will affect the way that you buy.

Amy Alexander: If you see something new on the aisle that you haven't seen before, that's packaged in a way that's so good for you, that wor, you know, like for me, I love a good modern, simple packaging with with bold colors. I'm gonna be drawn to it immediately. I wanna know what it is. I might choose it over [00:20:00] something I used to buy simply because of the packaging.

Amy Alexander: But the other thing is I really believe people. Can tell how well you know yourself as far as a company if they go to your website. There's a lot about branding and packaging that cues to people that you are extremely w for lack of a better term, self-realized , like as humans. You can kind of tell when someone's self-realized.

Amy Alexander: it's about the way they talk and how confident they are. And I think businesses are the same way. So when you have a really strong value proposition, people are better at attaching themselves to your brand and understanding who you are when. Articulating in a very concise, clear way, your differentiator.

Amy Alexander: So few brands can do it, uh, but it really cues a lot to people more than I think we realize. [00:21:00] I mean, if I'm gonna go buy a subscription box for Chad, for Christmas, be being the best subscription box for men. Doing absolutely nothing for me in my buying decision . Um, you know, but being the, the box for nerdy, retro gamers is telling me a lot more.

Amy Alexander: Right. So it's, um, I think 

Chad Alexander: Thanks. Thanks for that clarification, Amy. I really appreciate that, that I'm not a man, but a geeky gamer dude. Thanks. Appreciate that. All right.

Amy Alexander: Just want you to know that I know you.

Chad Alexander: but it's not, you know, it's too general. That's part of the reason, that's a part of the reason why a lot of these value props fail is it's too general. It's like the best, well, what does the best mean? What does comfortable socks mean? Like what if I bought really cheap comfy socks at Wally World? And I'm like, okay, [00:22:00] well that's great.

Chad Alexander: Like I spent two bucks on these and these Bombas are like 15 or whatever. I don't, whatever. You know what I mean? Like that's not. Okay. Like who in whose world whose, whose world is it a man's the best men's subscription boxes. Like, I don't, I don't like subscription boxes. I don't like, I don't like to have to pay for stuff every month.

Chad Alexander: But anyways, um, so there you go.

Amy Alexander: Well, in the Bombas example. One. One of the fastest ways you can start to determine your value proposition is to make sure that you're speaking to people right? So being the most comfortable socks in the history of feet is ridiculous. Being the most comfortable socks for the whole family. Is at least a start.

Amy Alexander: I at least I can identify to some degree that you might have something I need cuz I'm a mom, you know? So, um, that when we're talking about ways to start, one of the very first things you can do is just try to articulate in as [00:23:00] few words as possible who it is you are for. Were.

Dave Mills: And don't you? When you think about, you know, packaging this differentiator, so you know, it goes beyond the visual imagery, which, which definitely communicates something to people because in the end, the differentiation has to be conceptual. It has to mean something as you're just saying to the people that you're trying to sell to.

Dave Mills: Right? So if you had the most comfortable socks for athletes or construction workers or welders, or underwater basket weavers, then at least we'd know who it's for. Um, and, and by the way, How is it more comfortable than all the other cushy socks that are for sale at Kohl's? You know, like, I mean, there's, it's like a silly argument.

Dave Mills: They're more comfortable than all the other socks. How do you know? Have you tried them all? You know, and I haven't, and I'm not going to. Right? I buy the ones at, at the big box store in a package for six, you know, six pairs of socks for 1995. So, um, it's, it's a commodity, really. Right? So if [00:24:00] you don't differentiate, then you risk this thing of becoming a commodity and you've gotta conceptually, Package.

Dave Mills: What makes you different in a way that actually means something. To your audience that that matters to them. I'm thinking about the, uh, the Gutter Guard commercials that they have commercials on TV all the time and, you know, they, they've done a good job of, of, um, they really haven't told us how they're different than all the other gutter protection products, right?

Dave Mills: So I don't know anything about their differentiator, but they do. They always tell. Dad, it's dangerous, or, you know, so they've given a, a meaning to it that it's dangerous to get up there and clean your gutters out and if you don't, you'll ruin your house. Right? So they've attached the emotional element to their, their, to their brand.

Dave Mills: They haven't told me how it's any different other than it's super fast for them to put on, which makes me think it might be kind of cheap. Um, they do it in just a day. It looks really easy. So I don't know, you know, so I'm not sure they're totally doing the thing, right. But at least they've, they've [00:25:00] given something of meaning and they repeat that, ruin your house and it's dangerous over and over and over again.

Dave Mills: Right? So this differentiation has to connect with these felt needs of your target audience. If it doesn't, then it's ir irrelevant. You know, Chad has something to say. I think he's making hand signal.

Chad Alexander: irrelevant. Speaking of the elephant in the room, uh, So there, I've like that, that brought up a good point. There's, there's these companies that are like coffee alternatives. I've seen a lot of advertising for on, on Facebook and Instagram, which is stupid because I drink coffee all the time. And so I guess they're like, oh, he is, he's a good candidate for it.

Chad Alexander: Right. But they first start off with like, caffeine's Terrible for you. Coffee's terrible for you. Okay. Hold up. All right. You're already tacking one of my most important routines in the morning to have a cup of coffee. All right, so you're already on [00:26:00] dangerous ground of here, buddy. But they, they're like, it tastes so good.

Chad Alexander: It's mean, have lions mean and chaga root and. And I don't know, uh, random ingredients that like a yogi would be familiar with, but I have no idea what they are. And so I'm like, how? And, and like all of them are the same. They're like this alternative to coffee. They're supposed to be banana mushrooms or something, or all these other good for you ingredients.

Chad Alexander: I'm like, in most people they always ask this, how does it taste? Like they don't even come out with that. Like, great tasting alternative to coffee will taste just like coffee. No, they don't want you to know that it tastes like crap. Probably or you know, it's like, I guess this is decent. Good thing I'm off coffee, you know, 

Dave Mills: as an example. You know, coffee is one of the, like the oldest commodities on the planet, right? So how do you differentiate the thing that's been around for a bazillion years and that like, there's ro, there's roasters coming out of [00:27:00] the, out of the trees, you know, because now it's computerized.

Dave Mills: You buy the thing, you push the button and the thing does the thing, and then you are, then you're a custom coffee, coffee roaster. So that's a good example of how it can be hard to differentiate. Um, but if you don't differentiate, how are you gonna sell it?

Amy Alexander: Well, here's the other thing. So if you deep dive into Bombus, you'll discover they actually have some unique technology behind how their socks are built, which makes them longer lasting. And what I wanna know is, How come their value proposition

Amy Alexander: isn't the most comfortable, longest lasting socks for your whole family?

Amy Alexander: Because the only reason I even know about Bombas is because they have socks that stay on toddler feet better than anything else. Okay, so there's your two differentiators stays on infant and toddler feet better than any other better. There's a bad one, but. And technology that makes them extremely long lasting, and yet all [00:28:00] they have to say is that they're more comfortable.

Amy Alexander: You know? So like, this is a great example. It's a very shallow example of how you do have things that are different about you, that you're not talking about, that you have not articulated. And often when we , when we're working through this process with clients, two things. One of two things happen. One is that people go, oh, that's it.

Amy Alexander: It's like they finally have seen in words what makes them different, which is a super fun experience. . But the other thing that happens is we have clients say, well, I mean, you're right. We haven't re, we're not reinventing the wheel. We're doing it just like everyone else. We're the same. We just have to somehow figure out a way to say it differently.

You Have to Believe You're Different

Amy Alexander: I often challenge clients with. , well, you just told me five ways, five things you're doing that no one else in your industry is doing. Why don't you think that makes you different? So like for yourselves as business owners, you actually, you need to get past a belief system. [00:29:00] Job one, get past the belief system that you aren't doing it differently.

Amy Alexander: get past the belief system. The only thing that makes you different is that you've been doing it longer or that you care more. There are things you're doing that are different. Sometimes it can take some digging to figure it out, but they're there. Um, so don't discount that. But once you've decided that you are in fact different, it is about articulating how you're different.

Dave Mills: and I think it's worth, you know, what you said, Amy is important and we do push back in our process of doing this. Um, you know, you have to dig for this. You have to. If you don't dig for this, then you are just falling into kind of this template trap of being just like everybody else. And everything you do is gonna be more expensive and take longer.

Dave Mills: And, you know, if you're trying to get investors and you're not differentiated, they aren't coming. They will not invest in something that's, that is totally not differentiated. So I think it's a, that's a pretty big deal. And it's worth fighting for, I think, you know, and in the in between covid and a quote unquote [00:30:00] recession or whatever it is, you know, if you're, we're sitting here between these two, these like life events, for a lot of people, this is a really important time for you to take a look at how you're differentiated.

Dave Mills: Are you really standing out in a way that's going to work? Is it durable? Is it actually gonna last through the next disruption? What about the disruption after. And so if you think you it's being eroded or erased, then it's time to reposition and it's time to take a look. And, you know, if you want to grow your business in a faster, more efficient way, then why won't you differentiate?

Dave Mills: Why wouldn't you? Why wouldn't you take the time? And maybe you have to add something to the way you do things, don't you? Do you actually wanna be the best, you know, you can't say it that way, but you, is it true? Or you just want to be another, you know? Okay. So I think that's what the decision you have to make it is worth, I think it's worth fighting for.

Amy Alexander: there is sometimes a [00:31:00] misconception that in order to be different you better innovate. So sometimes our clients for a while are struggling with, well, how do we need to change our product? How are we going to, um, Innovate on the entire market. Those are great aspirations and sometimes people do, I mean, Uber's a great example of of that.

Amy Alexander: They said, we're not gonna be different. We're not gonna be a taxi drivers. We're actually gonna create a blue. If you've never read Blue Ocean, Strategy. The book, you should read it, but it's this concept that you actually can innovate and create new markets for yourself within a market that already exists.

Amy Alexander: So Uber's a good example of that, but you don't have to be Uber to be different. Um, and Dave's right, you might be able to tweak or shift something slightly enough that it creates a differentiator, but you don't necessarily have to do that. And what Dave's referring to isn't a massive innovation [00:32:00] on your market.

Amy Alexander: He's referring to those little things. . If you, for instance, if you, um, do have a family culture and for some reason that's really important as your differentiator. deciding that you're gonna, you're gonna go all in on that and take resources for something that doesn't matter and create an additional, two more programs on top of your five programs that make you a family culture.

Amy Alexander: That's a great way to go. All in on your value proposition. You didn't have to innovate, you didn't have to spend new money, you know, but it's just sort of saying, okay, this truly is our differentiator. Let's focus on it. Develop it. Um, let's be all in. And that can, can make a really big difference too.

Differentiating Your Nonprofit

Dave Mills: You know, I think it'd be worth just taking a minute or two and just refocusing a little bit to. About differentiation in the nonprofit or the cause, um, area. And so, you know, we've been talking a lot about business differentiation and how it impacts [00:33:00] customers, how it impacts your ability to grow for nonprofits.

Dave Mills: Um, differentiation is actually a responsibility. And when you think about, if you look at the community strategic plans that are done, the resource assessments, the needs assessments, what they are looking at is what they would call duplicative services. There's a big word for you. Um, and so they want to see if you're doing the exact same thing that someone else is doing.

Dave Mills: So, so not only now, sometimes the audience, the need is so great that you need 10 people to do so. So that all the people get can get served. But many times we see these, these overlapping services, one, and sorry to say, some one provider tries to edge out the other one in doing the same thing a little bit better.

Dave Mills: Um, but really when you think about from a donor perspective, they need to be able to tell the difference. Why, why give to your military veterans charity versus this one? How, how is it different? Right. Um, and so I think that's important. There has to be a recognition in terms of [00:34:00] packaging it. , you have to be able to talk about your cause in a way that people go, oh, that's really interesting.

Dave Mills: That's really different. And I can think of a lot of, of, a lot of charities that are doing something really unique, um, to solve big social problems, um, in a very powerful way. But, but they stand out. And I think that's really the question. All of this applies in the same way to nonprofits and, and.

Chad Alexander: And as an aside, I'm gonna piggyback on your thought there, Dave. Uh, David Green in his book Leadership, not by the book, he talks about how Hobby Lobby gives a lot of money to charities. And what he does is as a, as a board, he looks at the charities that are out there and they look to see they won't give money to charities that are brand new or aren't success.

Chad Alexander: His logic is that, um, if the Lord hasn't blessed them, why hasn't he blessed them yet? And so, you know that, I thought that was an interesting perspective from the owner of [00:35:00] Hobby Lobby.

Dave Mills: and of course, you know the, the, the truth of your differe. Will definitely follow you, right? You can put it out there as pr, but it will follow you because you know, I mean, go online right now and look up reviews on your favorite product or service, and you'll find ton of reviews that are not positive, right?

Dave Mills: And so someone put out a, a brand promise that that made them sound very different, but in the end they didn't actually deliver on it. And so that's also, you know, there has to be integrity. and your differentiators. And as lawyers like to say, it has to have the added benefit of also being true. So make sure that you can, you can, you can fill the shoes, fill the order on the thing you say you're gonna do that's different.

Dave Mills: Um, and sometimes like these things take time and effort to work them into your culture to get them into the, as they say in the fabric industry, the warp and woof of your entire team, right? So everybody's is really living it. Um, and that can take some effort. It can take some time. [00:36:00] So be aware that you could have a multi-year commitment just on making your differentiator true and making it kind of consistent throughout the customer experience.

Amy Alexander: I've mentioned before, mentioned a couple times. Um, when you're developing a true value proposition, something that is going to differentiate you in a major way, that is gonna take you into many years ahead and really refocus you. it's best to do that with people. It is best not to do that in the vacuum.

Amy Alexander: So we're not the only ones in the world who help develop differentiators and value propositions. I highly recommend you find a team that does this, um, and you know, maybe that has to wait till after recession, obviously, that there's money involved in that decision, but, , we believe in it super strongly. It is the key element we use to help companies grow.

Amy Alexander: So if you're really serious about this, go find someone to walk you through the [00:37:00] process. However, I did find a really good resource. It's called the Value Proposition Canvas. It is gonna get you started. I will link it in the show notes. It is not a substitute for true differentiating. Power of conversation and and working through it, um, because it's such a personal thing.

Amy Alexander: And if you've never done it before, no canvas will do it for you. But I suspect this will get you to a really good place. Uh, it will at least prepare you for maybe determining where your gaps or gaps are, or identifying, um, what elements you can't sort out yourself. It might be a really great first step, so I'll link it in the notes I'd recommend.

Amy Alexander: and we hope this was valuable to you, 

Dave Mills: we do 

Amy Alexander: hope 

Amy Alexander: that you'll stop telling people that you're the best at something or that you're better because that makes me sad.

Chad Alexander: You are the best around. Nothing's gonna ever keep you down.

Amy Alexander: Thanks Jen. [00:38:00] 

Amy Alexander: That 

Amy Alexander: was brilliant. 

Chad Alexander: Pardon me.

Dave Mills: That was an outro. That was an outro jingle stolen from some other show,

Amy Alexander: All right guys. Well, thanks for joining us and we will see you next week.


Published by Amy Alexander December 15, 2022
Amy Alexander