Today I want to cover a concept that’s essential to your success as a freelance writer, but it’s a concept you may not be familiar with. It’s called the ‘value proposition,’ and if you can nail this, then you can build a very successful business, indeed.
What is a ‘Value Proposition’?
In marketing, we used to refer to a company’s ‘unique selling proposition’ (USP), but you’ll now find this concept more often called the ‘value proposition’ (and sometimes as the ‘brand promise,’ though that’s a somewhat different concept). I use these terms interchangeably.
At any rate, the value proposition represents the characteristics that differentiate your service or product from every other vendor’s in the marketplace.
The USP is not a logo or a tagline (though many companies do convey their value proposition in a tagline). A value proposition is a concept. It’s a description for yourself that defines your brand and allows you to execute a great marketing strategy. It’s also a description for prospective clients about what you bring to the table that no one else does.
Let that magnitude of that concept sink in for a moment. What I’m asking you to do today is begin thinking about what sets you and your services apart from every other freelance healthcare writer’s. Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it?
Well, it is. But it’s not something you should expect to come up with overnight. I constantly ruminate on (and refine) my value proposition. I urge you to do the same.
Examples of Value Propositions
Every major brand hones its value proposition to razor-sharp perfection. Let’s take some lessons about branding and the value proposition from some major brands.
The best example of a company that differentiates itself based on price has got to be Walmart. The company’s value proposition is plainly stated in its tagline: Save Money. Live Better. This USP alerts you to the concept that shopping at Walmart will be less expensive than shopping elsewhere. Because of all the money you’ll save, you also can enjoy a higher quality of life.
I would state Walmart’s value proposition as: Only Walmart gives you the lowest prices on everyday household goods, which leaves money left over to splurge with.
Few other retailers can compete on price against Walmart, which is why its competitor Target differentiates on the caliber of the customer experience:
Target tells you in its value proposition that it delivers a better customer experience than Walmart does: “Expect More.” It also touches on price (“Pay Less”), but it primarily wants to acknowledge that shopping at Walmart can be a loathsome experience – and you should not have to sacrifice your customer experience just to save money.
I would capture Target’s value proposition as: Only Target delivers a mass-market retail experience that offers great customer service with reasonably priced goods.
Now let’s look at a major company that doesn’t mention price at all in its USP. Coca-Cola’s value proposition has nothing to do with cost. It’s all about the experience:
Coca-Cola conveys its value proposition mainly through its ‘brand promise,’ which is imbued in all its advertising. The company’s brand promise can be described as ‘experience,’ ‘sharing,’ ‘happiness,’ ‘friendship.’ When you buy a Coke – or, better yet, when you share one with a friend – you can expect all of your worries and cares to evaporate as you experience a moment of bliss.
OK, we all know that’s not really what happens when you pop open a can of Coke. But that’s what the brand promises.
I would encapsulate Coke’s value proposition as: Only Coca-Cola provides the original cola beverage that brings people together in friendship and shared experiences.
Lastly, let’s look at a luxury brand. If you’re not competing on price (Walmart) or the value of shared experiences (Coca-Cola), what other characteristics can set your brand apart from all the rest?
Lexus and other high-end car brands aren’t interested in courting low-rent buyers. Their value proposition isn’t about price at all; it’s about luxury. When Lexus entered the luxury sedan market, the company summed up its value proposition in the slogan “the relentless pursuit of perfection.” This slogan differentiated Lexus from competitors like Mercedes-Benz by assuring prospective buyers they could expect the ultimate in car ownership, not only in terms of the vehicle itself but throughout the entire experience. Lexus’ “pursuit of perfection” extended to plush, club-style waiting areas at the dealership, complimentary car washes and other perks not offered at the time by most competitors.
I would say the Lexus USP might be: Only Lexus delivers a finely engineered automobile along with the all the ownership amenities you deserve.
How to Craft Your Own Value Proposition
So what makes you stand out from every other freelance healthcare writer out there?
To determine what your unique selling proposition is, start by listing all the characteristics that make you uniquely you. Maybe:
You’re a clinician (differentiates from non-clinicians)
You have a clinical background in X (differentiates from other clinicians with different experience)
You have additional degrees in X, Y, and Z
You have editorial/writing experience
Your location confers advantages (such as if you live in a major metropolitan area that hosts a lot of medical conferences you might cover, or if you live someplace that gives you access to production studios that create lots of healthcare-related multimedia)
Your background includes performing formal research (gives you a unique ability to parse studies and/or assist with writing them)
Your clinical experience conferred unique insight into what a particular group of patients wants/expects from a healthcare system, and you bring this knowledge to the content you write
You’re an expert in X technology, which allows you to add value by offering additional services
Next, think about your prospective client pain points. How do you address them in unique ways? Perhaps:
You employ some proprietary project management system that ensures you never miss a deadline
You’ve memorized the Associated Press Style Guide, so your client doesn’t have to spend as much time editing your work, as compared to someone else’s
You exclusively write X type of projects (pharmaceutical applications, hospital websites, patient education materials, CME, and so on), so your client doesn’t have to wait for you to get through a learning curve before you start producing at a high level
These brief lists only scratch the surface. Delve deeply into what unique characteristics you bring to the table. Believe me, there are plenty of them.
Aside: Don’t Differentiate Mainly Based on Price
One of the first places I find freelancers trying to differentiate is on price. That’s a bad path to go down. Sure, you can try to offer cheaper services than anyone else, but you won’t build a sustainable business that way. If you try to differentiate based on price, you need to understand you’ll be competing with large numbers of foreign writers who can write for literally pennies (U.S.) per word because $0.01 USD is worth far more than their native currency.
It’s totally OK to offer pricing discounts in exchange for a monthly contract, or to offer volume discounts of some type. But I advise against making price your main differentiator.
Whittle Down Your List of Differentiators
Once you’ve created a sizeable list of potential differentiators, whittle it down to a few that you believe are the most important or that best set you apart from the competition. Then write up a statement that says:
ONLY Jane Smith RN delivers….. [insert differentiators here]
Only Jane Smith RN delivers consumer health articles with expert research analysis based on her decade of clinical research experience in cancer therapies, submitted on or before deadline, with revisions turned around within 24 hours.
Only Jane Smith RN delivers mother-baby content that’s grounded in her 12 years of experience as a nurse-midwife.
If these examples sound unwieldy, it’s because they’re intended only for your internal use. The main purpose here is to help you figure out what ONLY you give the client. As you move forward in your marketing, you’ll be able to use this USP information to create taglines, website copy, biographical information, LOIs and so on.
For example, a tagline crafted from USP #2 above might read: Mother-baby content only a nurse-midwife could write.
I hope you get the idea.
In future posts, I’ll go into details like how to craft a great tagline, but today’s exercise was only meant to help you produce a USP for internal use.
The value proposition concept can be hard to grasp. I hope I’ve explained it adequately here. As always, please feel free to drop questions into the comments here. I’m happy to respond!