Q&A: How to provide *unique* value?

Philip Morgan

A good question from my post opt-in survey:

How can I provide value in a unique way and not just be another “digital marketing expert”?

I just love how our questioner framed this. When asked about their vision for impact, the same questioner said: “Help financial advisors talk about themselves better, tell their stories better, communicate their value better.” I think we have the beginnings of a workable approach here! Our questioner has identified the first way of providing value in a unique way, which is to focus on a specific audience; to specialize. I don’t know much about financial advisors aside from what I see Carl Richards saying. But let’s imagine they have some specific worldview they mostly share. You could provide unique value by understanding and either integrating with or challenging this worldview, depending on whether it’s one you deem helpful or harmful. Decamping to a different example target audience for a moment, I know that most real estate businesses are essentially volume businesses. They talk a good game about personal service, etc, but at the end of the day, volume is what makes things happen for these businesses. If a digital marketing expert failed to understand this, they would indeed be “just another digital marketing expert” to this target market. But if they understood the volume business thing, then all of their advice and solutions would reflect this understanding, and they would have achieved the first level of offering unique value to real estate businesses. The second level of offering unique value is taking this insight into the market and using it to customize your services. This is always a balancing act; you want services whose very structure reflects an intimate understanding of your target audience/market while also being optimized for profitability for you. A simple example: maybe you offer something like training, and have a choice between offering the same training material in an intense two-day on-site event or via eight 1-hour sessions over 2 months done remotely. Does your insight into your market tell you that one of those will be more successful than the other? Simple example, but that’s the kind of thinking you do to customize your service delivery based on your insight into the market. The third level of offering unique value will come about if you befriend your market’s uncertainty. This is dangerous advice, so consider ignoring it and sticking with the other 4 points of differentiation explained here. If you befriend your market’s uncertainty, you will become very curious about the stuff that is relevant, important, and highly uncertain for your market. You will be mostly alone here. Especially in the world of digital marketing, most of your competitors are happy to sell some variation of what is relevant, important, and highly certain. That’s the easy money, and I totally understand if you want to settle in that kind of territory. If you have the stomach for pioneering or frontier life, though, it is an under-utilized method for differentiation. Tom Miller became curious about his market’s uncertainty about lead generation. It led to killing off an email-centric approach he had based his business on (that’s the dangerous part) and pivoting a different approach, articulated here: http://tmillergroup.com/book. It led to a distinct, differentiating piece of intellectual property that informs his primary point of view about marketing for professional services. The fourth level of offering unique value is to cultivate a point of view about the issues that are important to your market. A point of view is a supportable opinion about something that is relevant (and ideally important) to your market. Eventually, your points of view become woven into your reputation in the market; they become part of your personal brand. The dynamic duo of Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman have a clear POV about bootstrapping vs. taking funding. If you buy their 30x500 training product, you know that you are buying it from folks who have this full-throated support of small, bootstrapped businesses, and that helps make their 30x500 offering unique in the marketplace. The final level of offering unique value is a uniquely good level of results. There’s good and bad news here. Good news: your question evidences that you really do care about your market/audience, and this raises the likelihood that you’ll create a uniquely good level of results or them. Bad news: I can’t prove it, but I think that marketing in general — and digital marketing in particular — is probably ruled by regression to the mean dynamics, and so it’s hard to get outstanding performance over the long haul. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do good work, or produce great results quite frequently, but I do think the overall portfolio of all marketing done everywhere probably regresses to an unimpressive mean level, and as participants in creating that portfolio, we won’t be exempt from this regression. Summary:

  1. Be loudly clear about the market you are focused on.
  2. Hungrily gobble up any insight into your market that you can and use that to tailor your service delivery for them.
  3. Befriend your market’s uncertainty and answer it with leadership.
  4. Bravely cultivate your point(s) of view and clearly articulate those.
  5. Do the best work you can, and be OK with the mediocre successes living alongside the strongly positive successes. You’ll have plenty of both if you take the approach outlined here.

Thanks for the question! Keep building; keep taking risks y’all, -P The next offering of the Specialization Workshop starts Februaery 9. One reason to avoid waiting to the last minute to register is that if you want a 20% early-bird discount, I’ll give it to you. If you wait to the last minute to register, I won’t. Details: /workshops/specialization-workshop/