You can have the very best business idea ever but, without a compelling value proposition, it might never get off the ground. Why? Because your value proposition is what lets your audience know why they should buy from you and you alone. It’s your power play, your ace card, or, to use marketing lingo, your USP.
A value proposition is officially described as “a positioning statement that explains what benefit you provide to whom and how you do it uniquely well.”
A winning value proposition will capture the essence of your business in one short paragraph. Think Uber: Tap the app, get a ride. Uber is the smartest way to get around. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go. And the payment is completely cashless.
Not only is this value proposition simple and easy to understand, it actually names all the things that people don’t like about the competition – never being able to find a cab, drivers getting lost, not having cash on you when you need it most – and turns them into Uber’s USP. These are the pain points that Uber has set out to resolve. In this case, they are also the benefits customers can expect and the reason we should all flock to Uber and ignore any other taxi companies that might want our business.
How will your value proposition generate revenue?
At Streamlion Consulting, we work almost exclusively with start-up or scale-up businesses. We, therefore, spend a lot of time discussing the merits of, and the added value brought by a new or growing business idea. It’s this time and energy which many entrepreneurs cut out of the process. In their enthusiasm to start trading, they fail to get a clear enough understanding of the problem they are trying to solve or how their business is different from the next.
And, to answer the question about revenue, the very first thing a compelling value proposition will do is get you access to funding and investment.
Essentially, a strong value proposition will contain a little marketing messaging, some operational information and an idea of strategy. By bringing so many messages to the market, it will be highly effective at convincing buyers and decision-makers that they should be doing business with you. And, once this process is underway, revenue is an inevitability.
To work really well, your value proposition also needs to be succinct, specific and service-focused. In some ways, it represents the very start of your customer experience.
How does a value proposition work?
In a nutshell, a good value proposition will provide the differentiator between your business and your competition.
Renowned businessman and investor, Warren Buffett, refers to them as an ‘economic moat’. This is a great visualisation: the presence of a powerful value proposition will help fend off competition and protect your market dominance.
What are Streamlion’s top tips on creating a convincing value proposition?
Defining your business in a clear and succinct way is a skill. As business owners or entrepreneurs with a great idea, it can be easy to get bogged down in detail, to focus too much on the infinite moving parts that make our business so amazing. But we don’t need this level of detail in order to engage our audience. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Our first Top Tip is to start with a group brainstorming session. You need to get as much information as you can out of people’s heads and into a mind map or something visual. This needs to include what problem you are solving and why you believe you are different. You can either do this with a team from within the organisation or together with an impartial third party.
The key to driving value from these discussions is to continually revisit the purpose of your business and question what problem it solves. You can also go on to discuss whether that problem needs solving and why.
Once you’ve brainstormed everything, and discounted anything that is irrelevant, not convincing or too complex, you should be left with the building blocks of your value proposition.
Our second Top Tip is to keep it simple. Don’t try to complicate or obfuscate. There are no points for big words here. Simply try to write down your purpose. Forbes.com have a great breakdown of a typical value proposition template:
For (target customers)
- Who are dissatisfied with (the current alternative)
- Our product is (new product)
- That provides (key problem-solving capability)
- Unlike (the product alternative)
As with any marketing material, authenticity and building trust with our audience is key to success. This leads nicely to our third and final Top Tip, which is to always have proof. You should be able to back up your claims with customer reviews or testimonials, or independent research and polls. You may well believe that you are ‘the best’ or ‘market-leading’ but if you can’t back that up, you will pay the ultimate price for breaking the trust of your audience.
There are lots of tips around on how to survive today’s somewhat dystopian circumstances. For businesses of any size, the focus must be on managing cash carefully, looking after people and understanding how the restrictions affect trading.
But, where there’s crisis, there’s opportunity (to quote Einstein) and for many businesses, this peculiar event could be their making. Here are my top tips to find the opportunities that exist for you.
1. Authenticity and vulnerability are not just buzz words
Honesty is the best policy, so the saying goes. These days though, it’s about so much more than telling the truth. Trust of official bodies, including brands, is at an all time low and many more of our interactions happen on digital pathways than face to face.
Social media gets a lot of criticism for presenting a falsely positive reality but there have been some very honest and extremely vulnerable posts recently which have attracted massive engagement. Showing vulnerability is key to gaining the trust of others and doing so can be very powerful for you as well as your audience. Don’t be afraid to say the bottom has fallen out of your pipeline. Perhaps you’re using all your new-found free time to help others. Why not share this and keep those genuine conversations going. Lots of your contacts will be in the same position and will appreciate your candour.
2. Build goodwill among existing clients
Here’s a novel idea: why not pick up the phone to your clients for a chat? Everyone will be feeling cut off and many are likely to have a little more time to talk than usual. Showing concern by having a chat could be a valuable way of nurturing the relationship and they might be thinking you’re either flat out or closed. You can let them know what you’re able to do or how you can help.
The way in which you show up now, as a supplier or service provider will set a standard by which people will judge your business in the future. It’s an excellent opportunity to really delight your existing customers. Think about all the touchpoints you have with them (which will have changed given current restrictions). Make sure any that have disappeared are replaced with an alternative and look at what you can offer to your clients which may help or support with the challenges they may be facing.
3. Pivot your business if you can
There’s lots of new coverage of our larger manufacturers tweaking their production lines to help with the shortages of ventilators and hand sanitiser. It’s also possible for smaller businesses to react to the crisis with new ways of working. Many of those who provide a service have been easily able to take this online with the help of Zoom or Skype and other businesses are keeping their audiences engaged with newsletters which help them to adapt to a limited way of life.
For those who’ve been left with nothing to fill their days, look for a contact who might have been left in the opposite situation. Some industries are busier than before – could they use your help and support? You could also turn to community. I know of an investor who is helping a café deliver veg boxes using wholesalers thus helping them stay afloat which is generating much needed cash for their cafés that are not allowed to open at the moment.
If there’s really nothing you can do differently, do make sure you communicate what you have done to your audience. This page on the PWC website shows they are responding to the crisis and puts them in a positive light as an organisation that cares about its people and is intent on doing the right thing.
4. Look after number one!
Paying attention to self-care is critical at times like this. No matter how resilient you are as a person, this type of experience will increase your stress levels. Make sure you set aside time to recharge and allow your mind to process everything that is happening. Your business is nothing if you are too stressed to run it and your people will thank you for being able to stay calm in the face of crisis and make the right decisions.
5. Develop your skills
If you’ve always shied away from giving webinars or showing up on social media through video, why not take this opportunity to improve your skills? Investigate what running a webinar involves. Can you pull your network together to share advice and ideas? As well as bringing the possibility to make a real difference to people, you will be generating useful content for your social media channels, letting people know you’re still there and willing to help.
6. Be ready for what comes next!
We’re not talking about further measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, but rather the point at which life can return to normal. We will get there eventually and, when we do, the businesses that have made good decisions and used their down time wisely will be the first out of the starting blocks. Being ready for this means maintaining your profile online with social media posts and having an up-to-date website, looking after your people so they want to continue working with you after the crisis and gearing yourself up for a potentially quick ramp-up in activity. Let’s face it the filing will probably still be the last thing on your list but it’s the perfect time to get this done too, physically and virtually. Get that CRM updated and be ready for the future when it gets here!
There’s no doubt about it, these are unusual times. But I want to leave you with a quote by John F Kennedy which provides food for thought in how we might get through to the other side:
“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”
Here are some useful links with information about the virus and how it impacts small businesses and start-ups.
To find out more about our services click here.
“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it!”
I feature this powerful quote from Maya Angelou on the home page of my new website because it encapsulates the approach I take when I’m speaking to business owners or entrepreneurs wanting their latest idea to come to fruition.
I also like it because it’s true – if we are willing to work hard enough, and build relationships with a great network of people, we can make pretty much any dream a reality.
So, what is the secret to achieving your goals when it comes to business? I help all sorts of people from successful small business owners who want to scale their operations, to entrepreneurs needing angel investments for their embryonic business idea. There are a few things which hold true whatever the situation and whatever the customer.
I call them my “4 tips to make your business ROAR”
Tip #1 – R is for Resources
When you embark on a business startup, success becomes all about what you have at your fingertips. Money is likely to be tight, even if you have funding, and time is of the essence so having resources to hand is essential to getting yourself up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Resources could be anything from people you know to lessons you have previously learned from. They could be educational, training programmes you need to fill any gaps in your knowledge, or physical such as buildings, materials and tools to start work with.
Resources aren’t just relevant at the start of your business journey, of course. They’re something that needs planning right the way through the lifecycle of your work. From knowing the right time to upskill or recruit additional people, to having the capacity in terms of space and/or materials to deal with the success of your marketing.
Tip #2 – O is for Optimisation
I’m talking about efficiency and accuracy. The quicker you can nail your business processes, ideally automating as many of them as possible, the quicker you will be in a position to make money. That’s because the admin doesn’t just drag us down, if it’s not addressed, it can actually drag us under. Paperwork: insurance, accounts, invoicing, contracts – if we don’t get these things right we are welcoming risk into our business.
Many start-up businesses fail to survive beyond their first 5 years and this is likely because while lots of energy went into the idea, the brand design, the launch and the business development, nobody really thought about the steady-state. What needed to happen once the orders were rolling in on a regular basis? Did the systems exist to keep on track? What aftercare or customer experience work has been done? How do we keep people loyal to our brand?
Tip #3 – A is for Access
Often, ideas – even brilliant ones – never get off the ground because those that come up with them simply haven’t got access to the right people. This is when your network comes into its own. I’ve spent years building a network of people with the right skills to help businesses get off the ground. In part, this consists of subject matter experts, marketers, branding experts, financial planners and more. It also consists of a strong network of investors.
Finding someone willing to put their money where your mouth is can be tricky if you don’t have the right contacts. Often, these angel investors will only consider business owners who come with a personal recommendation. It makes absolute sense to tap into the right network even if it’s not your own – doing so is a surefire way to ensure a sound investment, with a strong business footing and boundaries which help everyone measure progress.
Tip #4 – R is for Review (and refocus)
As a business evolves, it’s easy (especially for those of us who are over-excited entrepreneurs) to get distracted and start tweaking the business to cater for every enquiry. This can lead to a business that isn’t scalable, has no consistency in its offering and ultimately confuses its prospective client base.
It’s important to pay attention to that business plan you spent so long compiling. Stick to your aims, follow your goals and, if you do veer off centre, don’t be afraid to refocus.
An important element of any business is the ability to scale what you offer. Having bespoke processes and offerings for every client isn’t going to give you that option and you’ll then be very unlikely to meet your growth targets, not to mention killing any chance of ever getting your money back out of the business. Of course, there will be times when you need to change tack but this should happen as part of a conscious change program, carefully managed and implemented to ensure the necessary improvements are realised.
As a business consultancy that offers business advice, strategy, funding and planning services to start-ups and scale-ups, Streamlion Consulting has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs get their business journey right and realise their dreams.
A one-stop-shop for helping businesses to roar, Streamlion can help with everything from accessing funding and angel investments through to building, and exiting, a successful and sustainable business.
Find out more at www.streamlionconsulting.com
So, you’ve successfully entered the world of start-ups and found the adrenaline buzz of owning your own business to be addictive. Most entrepreneurs love the thrill of seeing an idea launch, which often leads to them moving on to new ideas in a fairly short timeframe.
However, to successfully remove yourself from a business and continue with the heady path to portfolio status, you need to know how to scale your existing business so it can continue to fund your future adventures in business.
Scaling a business is about more than just growing your sales and employing more people. To successfully scale, your business needs to be based on the right foundations which ensure it is equipped to deal with a continued higher volume of transactions. It will undoubtedly involve further investment and a good amount of time invested in strategizing for future success.
At Streamlion, we work with clients at all stages of building and scaling businesses so we thought it would be useful to capture our top 5 tips on how to scale your business successfully.
Top Tip #1: Start at the beginning
It’s all too easy for excitable entrepreneurs to leap over the initial stages of scaling a business and move straight to the increase in marketing or selling. Before that, it’s essential to ensure your business is equipped to handle this extra throughput. Not doing so could result in disappointed customers which, in turn, could seriously damage your reputation and put paid to any future plans for growth. Premature scaling is cited as one of the leading causes of startup failure.
The beginning is planning. Scaling a business is not the same as growing it. Scaling involves innovating your business model as well as your product or service. You need to invest time in working out potential new markets, back-office automation and funding.
Top Tip #2: The price of growth
Scaling a business effectively is never cheap. In fact, one of the most common reasons that startups fail to scale is down to funding. And funding a scale-up is an entirely different prospect to funding a startup so it’s essential to work with experts who can help with creating a sustained growth plan as well as helping you understand the transformations that need to happen to set the business up for a successful future.
Like scaling, finding funding is down to putting in the right preparation and demonstrating that your business is ready for change and growth.
Top Tip #3: Optimisation is key to transformation
To quote Einstein “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” Scaling a business needs the same approach; success is all about understanding how things work and how they need improving to cope with a larger volume.
Achieving automation and integration, which are the likely outcomes of optimisation, will likely involve technology. The happy fact is, there’s no shortage of packages, apps and products that can help make things easier. However, finding the right one for your business is critical.
CRMs, automated marketing, accounting and your overall IT network all need to come under the microscope at this stage.
Top Tip #4: A change of pace
Your business goals might be clearer but it’s a well-documented fact that change management needs careful handling.
As well as any team members involved, it’s well worth getting under the skin of your customer experience journey. Plotting out every touchpoint between you and your clients will help to identify any areas that might need attention prior to scaling. We use Customer Journey Maps to help our clients to see any areas of friction which might cause problems when scaled. Additionally, you can identify areas for investment, which could be wrapped up with the other areas that need funding in order to create the very best version of your business.
Top Tip #5: It’s not all about you
Creating a business is a little like having a baby, you bring it into being, nurture and help it to grow and, inevitably, you eventually leave it to stand on its own two feet. This time is now.
For a business to scale, it needs to be able to operate consistently based on the policies and processes you’ve spent so long on assessing and improving. You have options as to whether you outsource some of the regular activities, or whether you hire a team to run things for you. Either way, taking a step back for the first time can be daunting.
The key thing to remember is that you’ve invested time in getting things right, so your business is ready for this, even if you aren’t. It’s also really important to hire the right people – people you know share your values and will continue to inject enthusiasm and innovation into the business.
Finally, as with most things in business, successful scaling is also a mindset. By working with a strong team of advisers and having faith in your own ideas, scalability becomes infinitely easier.
At Streamlion, we’re well known for getting business owners started and business ideas up and running.
But, did you know, it’s just as important to give some thought to how you leave your business when the time is right?
An exit strategy is a plan for how you will end your involvement in your business. The business will continue, perhaps with new ownership. You may go on to start something new or you may be retiring. Whatever your reason for wanting to exit, it’s important you get a good return on your investment of time and hard work over the years.
Exiting your business – where (and when) to start
The first and most important consideration is to leave your business in the very best shape. That means good turnover and profits, yes, but it also means your admin needs to be up to scrutiny. Processes need to be documented, your books must be up to date and accurate, and so on. As you can imagine, some of these things take time to put in place so it’s never too early to start planning.
Apart from increasing the likelihood of your business lasting long enough for you to need an exit plan, putting in this planning and preparation will almost certainly get you a better price when you come to sell it.
The Main Ways to Exit a Business
For an entrepreneur or small business owner, there are several ways you could consider as your exit plan:
- Merger & Acquisition – you might join forces with a similar business to create a larger or more wide-ranging business and then make yourself redundant as a result, or, you might look to be acquired by a larger organisation who operates in the same space as you.
- Initial Public Offering (IPO) – this method looks to bring in shareholders who buy up your shares and effectively repay you and any other investors. However, this get-rich-quick scheme of old is less lucrative these days and no longer the preferred approach.
- Sell to an individual – this is different from a merger or acquisition because there’s no other entity in the deal, you’re simply handing over the reins for an agreed sum of money. Your ideal buyer would be someone who can take the business to the next level.
The method you choose will depend upon the type of business you have and the outcome you want from exiting. There are, of course, a myriad of other options, such as selling to your management team, passing the business on to family or simply shutting up shop and liquidating. It’s important to get good advice and consider every option carefully before committing to a plan.
Exit Strategies – Keeping It Real
We’d all love to be the next ‘Innocent Drinks-becomes-Coca-Cola’ type of success story but, in the real world, exit deals are often more modest. The most important thing, as a business owner, is to decide what you want from your exit and then engineer the best opportunity to achieve it.
Making sure your business is as automated as it can be is important, not just because it can drive a higher sale price. According to growthbusiness.co.uk, a massive 83% of entrepreneurs end up staying involved with the business they chose to exit. Now, in some cases, this will be part of the plan, as entrepreneurs reportedly continue in advisory or shareholder roles.
However, it’s clear that entrepreneurs still love the ‘art of the start’ as an incredible £108bn was made in sales during the 5 years to 2019 and, according to FreshBooks, 61% of baby-boomers say they would work through retirement by choice.
If you’re keen to explore exit strategies further, why not pick up the phone to Streamlion Consulting?