Over the years, I’ve worked with many interior design firms. I’ve come to appreciate that although they have much in common, each firm is unique. Yet, to prospective clients, at first glance, they may appear more alike than different. To stand out from the competition, you need to make the case for why your firm is the one best suited for your ideal client.
What sets you apart?
Whether it’s a maker of cars or cupcakes, each business has to differentiate itself from its competitors. To do that, it has to define its unique value proposition. In short, that means identifying what it has to offer that no other business like it has to offer. It could be one thing, or it could be several things. It could be a product or service. Or, it could be something more ephemeral, like status or an experience. Often, it will be a combination of tangible and intangible benefits.
What has value?
A value proposition is one that appeals to what has worth to your ideal client. Think in terms of benefits to that client.
Is your ideal client looking for a particular design style? Do they want to have a certain type of working relationship with the designer? Are they more focused on affordability or on outcome? Are they seeking a full service design firm, including purchasing, or something less?
Are there lifestyle or business issues that matter to them? Do they have priorities around areas such as health and wellness, sustainability, accessibility, caregiving, or safety?
To what extent do other factors such as experience, credentials, reputation, and awards matter to them? Do they have certain expectations regarding the level of customer service, convenience, availability, privacy, or exclusivity?
When you have determined your ideal client’s value profile, then you can see where your firm’s offerings align with what matters most to them. Focus on the strongest matches to develop your value proposition.
What is unique?
Most likely not every aspect of your value proposition will be different from that of your competitors. But you want to hone in on the things unique to your firm that, in the eyes of your ideal client, make your firm their best choice. Two or three are sufficient.
Some designers offer a very specific look that some clients want for their projects. Some specialize in restoration, conservation, antiques, artworks, collectibles, or other kinds of furnishings. Some have a focus on a sub-speciality, such as sustainability or wellness. For most design firms, though, the unique value proposition is probably going to be some blend of their design philosophy or vision, level or type of service, and promise of quality or outcome. Emphasize those unique aspects that will appeal most strongly to your ideal client. You know best what makes you special, so hone in on that.
What’s your proposition?
Be it a product, service or experience, your unique value proposition specifies what you’re proposing to your ideal client that will best satisfy, or exceed, their needs. It is at the same time a statement about what you do and a promise of what you will deliver.
Take Apple as an example. Their highly successful unique value proposition consists of three components:
- Innovation (hence, their Think Different slogan)
- Function (intuitive, user-friendly devices)
- Design (high quality, cutting-edge, from branding to packaging to product)
Fulfilling that unique value proposition has won them tens of millions of loyal customers who only buy their products, despite Apple’s higher price point compared to their competitors.
Federal Express is a good example from a service provider. Their unique value proposition, to guarantee delivery on demand (next day, next morning), revolutionized the shipping business and turned their logo, FedEx, into a verb.
For an example of an experience value proposition, it would be hard to top Disney World’s “the happiest place on earth.”
What’s a unique value proposition good for?
You likely already have a vision statement for your business, plus branding and marketing language. Why create another statement? The short answer is that a unique value proposition helps you to focus on how best to attract and win over your ideal clients. But there are other benefits, too. I recommend reading Gail’s article, Why You Need a Unique Value Proposition for Your Business, to learn more.
What do you do with a unique value proposition?
Once you’ve created and refined your firm’s unique value proposition, you want to use it as part of your marketing efforts. It should be featured prominently on your website and social media channels, as well as in email communications, e-newsletters, and any printed materials you use. It is the equivalent of the shingle that hangs outside the shop that tells passersby “we have what you’re looking for.”