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Value differentiators

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Small business owners and marketing professionals often talk about adding value (this brand marketing agency included), but far too often, they don’t really understand what will be most valuable to their existing or prospective clients. In today’s digital age where consumers can access thousands of businesses on any screen they choose, doing “good enough” for your client base no longer cuts it. Noticeable differentiation is now vital for small businesses that want to compete with the big players, which is where value differentiators come in.

Value differentiators are your “ace in the hole” that draw your ideal customers to your business and allow your sales staff to close sales effortlessly.

More importantly, a successful value differentiator will make it easy to find your “ride or die” clients who’ll tell all their friends about your business – winning you that coveted word of mouth marketing that all small businesses crave. When you make clients feel like they’re getting something “extra,” they’re much more likely to be repeat customers and bring friends along with them.

Why Take the Stairs for value differentiators?

Our Nashville-based brand marketing company is passionate about helping small businesses make the most of their client base and build a loyal following that will reward them for years to come. We teach clients everything from the importance of moving away from outdated forms of marketing like transactional marketing to how to break down their ideal buyer personas so they can direct their advertising to this key group.

Of course, performing a competitor analysis and understanding your brand’s unique value proposition are natural extensions of learning how to focus your marketing towards the people who will most value what your brand does – and we can help you with these. However, unlike other brand marketing agencies, we’re of the firm opinion that in today’s competitive digital age where customers can find thousands of similar companies online in minutes, value propositions just aren’t enough anymore.

After walking many clients through their business marketing, we say that if you want to stand out, you need to offer a tangible benefit that no one else even comes close to – something that your unique audience will most appreciate. Our value differentiator workshop will teach you how to do just that, and how to implement it within your business.

Competitor validation

We won’t just take your word for it if you believe that your business is the only one delivering a level of value. If we can find a competitor doing the same thing, so can your prospects.

The first value differentiator workshop

Take the Stairs’ value differentiator workshop is the first of its kind, so you’ll be learning tools and techniques that you can’t find anywhere else.

Implementation support

Choosing your value differentiators is only the first step – you also need to deliver on them. Our team can help you implement them into your operations.

What is a value differentiator?

Any other brand marketing agency might be content to walk clients through a quick value proposition or unique selling point presentation and call it a day. But our team in Nashville doesn’t feel that that’s enough if a small business wants to experience real growth. That’s why we take these concepts a step further by focusing on something we call value differentiators.

Put simply, a value differentiator is a mechanism that you provide prospects and / or clients to entice them to use your offerings over any alternate solution.

Naturally, the value differentiators a business offers will vary depending on the size and nature of the business, what a competitor analysis shows the competition is doing, and what type of clients the business is hoping to attract or retain.

Value differentiator criteria

In order for a value differentiator to be successful, it needs to meet the following three criteria:

Legitimately useful

It doesn’t matter how “out there” or unique your differentiator is if no one wants it. In order for your audience to care about your value differentiator, it needs to be legitimately useful to your target audience(s).

That means knowing your ideal customers inside and out, and understanding what they need. Once you figure out which of your ideal buyer personas will be your brand champions, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what they’ll find valuable.

For example, if you’re selling high-end watches, chances are good that you won’t be able to entice your ideal customers with a coupon or discount. These customers are more likely  drawn to quality and the idea of owning unique jewelry not many other people have, so offering a members-only limited-run design might be more appealing to this crowd.

Noticeably different

If you add an element of value that isn’t particularly different from what everyone else is doing, it’s not a differentiator. Unfortunately, this also means that as soon as other businesses start to copy you, your value differentiator no longer sets you apart.

Take convenience stores, for instance. Convenience stores are a major part of American commerce, generally providing gas, coffee, alcohol, snacks, and other regularly consumed products. While the first stores that offered 24/7 business made a killing doing after-hours business, almost every convenience store offers this service now, so consumers no longer see it as valuable – it’s an expectation.

The same can be said for any mechanism that adds to that all-important customer experience:

  • Restaurants serving free bread before a meal (or Mexican restaurants serving free chips and salsa)
  • Free shipping on larger orders (or 2-day shipping options)

Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to run a competitor analysis every so often to make sure what you’re offering is still unique. And if you’re no longer the only brand on the block providing that particular offering, the work you put in earlier to identify your focused target audience will help you easily identify what your unique customer base will value next.

Experienced by all

In order to create a value differentiator that drives business, you need to provide a mechanism that is available to all of your clients, prospects, or members – not just your favorites. This mechanism needs to be so valuable to your target audience that they don’t even question whether your brand is the right option for them.

While successful value differentiators will help you win and retain customers, they have your customer’s best interest (not yours) in mind. Think about what your ideal customers value most. Do they care about value or prestige? Convenience or exclusivity? Once you understand this, you’re well-positioned to show them how much better you understand their needs than your competitors do.

Who should value differentiators appeal to?

After you’ve gotten to know your ideal customer base and performed a competitor analysis, it’s time to get specific about who you’re hoping to appeal to with your value differentiator.

As we’re constantly telling clients in our Nashville office, it’s crucial to remember that with value differentiators and all other aspects of marketing, your target audience is not the general public. Your value differentiators don’t need to appeal to everyone, but they do need to appeal to the type of clients you want to work with most.

If you try to water down your value differentiator to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one. Focus on the people who are most likely to appreciate what your business offers, and you’ll be rewarded with more focused marketing, higher conversions, and more customer loyalty.

Value differentiator examples

We can write about value differentiators until we’ve blue in the face, but a lot of people have trouble picturing exactly what they are until they see an example or two. As a brand marketing agency that’s been around for a while, we’ve seen plenty of companies who’ve hit the nail on the head over the years, and some that missed the mark completely.

The following are a few of our favorite examples of companies which understand the importance of choosing value differentiators that are miles ahead of the competition while focusing on the areas that their target audience will care about the most.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest airlines logoSouthwest’s “Bags Fly Free” program removes luggage fees for your first two checked bags – the only airline out of over 22 in this Tripadvisor Airline Baggage Fees List. The other US-based airlines on the list charge $25 – $100 per bag, plus some charges for carry-on baggage as well. 

Many airlines these days nickel and dime you, for everything from snacks to the ability to reserve your seats, and Southwest understands the relief that comes from having one less unexpected charge to worry about when flying.

Bed Bath & Beyond

Bed Bath & Beyond logo

If one group of people are known for being passionate, it’s coupon clippers. Bed Bath & Beyond knows this and rewards its loyal coupon-loving audience by allowing customers to use coupons even after they expire.

This liberal coupon policy not only keeps the store in customers’ minds every time they come across a coupon they’ve saved – it also improves the customer experience by saving patrons the disappointment of showing up a day after their coupon expires and having to pay full price.

North Face

The North Face logo

North Face understands that its loyal following of outdoor enthusiasts need products that they can count on. The company is so dedicated to providing apparel and equipment that hold up to its customers’ active lifestyles, that they offer a lifetime warranty on all branded products (excluding footwear and The North Face Renewed products).

If a manufacturing defect causes your North Face product to fail, the company will repair or replace it without charge, something its rough-and-tumble customer base appreciates.


Sephora Logo

Members of Sephora’s Beauty Insider rewards programs earn points on every purchase, as is common with most rewards programs. But the beauty company doesn’t stop there – each member also receives a gift during their birthday month.

Sephora offers several in-person gift options as well as a surprise online-only gift to choose from. Customers can receive their in-person gift with no purchase necessary, although it’s not a stretch to imagine Sephorea’s underlying marketing strategy is based on the assumption that once the customer is in the store, they may well look around for another birthday treat or two.


PlayStation logo

Sony knows what gamers value – access to more games. That’s why they not only offer PlayStation Plus member discounts on games and access to online multiplayer games, but two free games per month for as long as you keep your membership.

Granting players access to everything from mainstream hits to under the radar indie games makes membership that much more attractive compared to gaming memberships that require players to purchase every game.

Take the Stairs

Take the Stairs logo

Pretty much every brand marketing agency can help you with keywords, but Take the Stairs’ 3-tiered keyword strategy will help you effectively boost your search engine optimization as effectively as possible – a must for small business owners on a budget.

Different types of keywords perform differently, so the standard keyword research that other firms do simply isn’t enough. You need to prioritize them based on factors like search volume and intent to purchase, which we can teach you how to do.

Ready to take the first step?

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Value differentiators vs. value propositions

If you’ve been involved in sales and marketing for a while, the term value proposition probably isn’t new to you, since it’s used widely in the business world. If you’re already familiar with the concept, you may have been reading this page, scratching your head and wondering how a value differentiator differs from a value proposition.

Well, we’re glad you asked, because while the difference may be subtle at first glance, it’s important.

In short, a value proposition is how you spell out the ways in which your brand provides value to your customers. This can be a specific service you provide, an innovative product line, or any number of things that improve the customer experience. For example, an independent Nashville bookstore might support local authors and host readings or workshops, fostering a sense of community that national or online bookstores might not be able to provide..

A great value proposition can put your brand miles ahead of the competition, assuming your competitors aren’t also using a similar one or planning to copy yours after doing their own competitor analysis. While the concept is an excellent place to start as a small business transitions to persona-based advertising, the Take the Stairs team has seen time and again that it just isn’t enough to help clients stand out from the crowd.

The concept of value differentiators takes value propositions one step further – unlike many value propositions, value differentiators are specific, tangible mechanisms that provide real value for your target audience that no-one else is offering. 

Because the nature of value differentiators is so specific, it helps a lot to do the work needed beforehand to uncover exactly why your business exists, who you can best serve, and what your customers are looking for in a brand. You’ll also want to perform a thorough competitor analysis to give you a clear picture of what you can offer that your competition can’t. Our branding services can help with all that, too.

Level up your business with a value differentiator workshop

If you want to win customers, you can do the same generalized value proposition work that most of your competitors are doing , and you might even achieve reasonable results. But if you really want to take your business to the next level, you need to step up your game and do more than the competition.

If you feel like implementing value differentiators into your operations and marketing strategies might be just what your brand needs to stand out, schedule a discovery meeting with Take the Stairs to learn more. We’ll be more than happy to help you decide whether the workshop is a good fit for your business.

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