Different professional services marketing and selling concepts can sometimes feel at odds with each other. In this article we explain how a professional service firm’s point-of-view fits with its unique value proposition; sort of like a nesting doll.
POVs, UVPs, USPs, ROI, KPIs … every professional services firm loves a good acronym. The list goes on, right? A few weeks ago, a client asked me to reconcile the difference between a POV (“point-of-view”) and a UVP (“unique value proposition.”). I thought about it for a few minutes and told him I’d have to get back to him…but, give me a few days….er, ASAP?
Point-of-view (POV): a high-level summary
A point-of-view represents your firm’s world-view. It describes how you solve your clients’ most pressing business problems in a more effective or efficient way.
Why it matters
Your POV is the keystone of your differentiation strategy. It’s the linchpin for your marketing. It drives separation from your peers. Frequently it enables you to charge a price premium.
Most firms have an overarching POV and individual POVs for each of their individual practices. Ideally practice POVs dovetail with the your firm-wide one or at least overlap. However, if they are in direct conflict, you have a major marketing problem on your hands.
Frequently, your POV is the single thing that prospective clients most remember about your firm or practice. Often, it’s one of the biggest reasons they choose to include you in their selection set. And, when developed correctly it may be the primary reason they choose to hire your firm over other options they might be considering.
A great POV is distinct (at least it starts out that way). It attracts the right clients to you. And it nudges the wrong ones away.
Your POV is a one-to-market concept. But, it’s grounded in the ideal client you hope to attract. It should have them nodding in agreement when they read it. Or leaning in with curiosity (“I never thought of it that way before!”)
A great POV attracts attackers — people who completely disagree with the way you see the world. And it attracts imitators — other firms that are so impressed with your POV that they choose to co-opt it as their own. Sometimes they’ll even scale it and deliver against it faster or better than you can. As this happens, often you’re forced to refine your POV accordingly.
UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION (UVP): A HIGH-LEVEL SUMMARY
A unique value proposition, on the other hand, is the holistic business case for a client to select your firm over their other options. An effective UVP includes not only your POV, but also a number of other important factors about your firm or practice. Your UVP may also include things like the expertise and experience of your delivery team, your past track record of success, proprietary IP and processes, and any other meaningful, distinguishing features of your firm.
Why it matters
Your UVP provides an “air-tight” business case for why an individual client should hire your firm over other firms they’re considering, going it alone, or doing nothing.
Unlike your POV, your UVP is a one-to-one concept. It’s unique to each client and each situation because each client and each client problem looks a little different. Also, the team tasked with solving each client problem will look different as well.
While your POV puts forth eloquently how to solve a problem, your UVP makes the case for the client hiring your firm specifically to solve their problem.
As your POV becomes more pervasive and attracts imitators, your UVP will naturally weaken and need to change.
EXAMPLE: BAIN AND THE EVOLUTION OF NPS
When Fred Reichheld and his team at Bain introduced the Net Promoter Score in 2003 they shined a new light on a number of pre-conceived beliefs. Conventional business wisdom said that the role of the manager was to maximize shareholder value.
Through Reichheld’s work, Bain discovered that, contrary to popular belief, client loyalty was one of the most impactful indicators of a company’s financial performance over time. Companies with high levels of loyalty ran circles around their peers (at least in terms of shareholder returns).
They also discovered that customer loyalty wasn’t something that was tracked or measured on a company’s financial statements. Nobody was paying attention to it or being held accountable for it! Making matters worse, when companies tried to measure customer loyalty the process was messy, inconsistent and not actionable.
Discovering a Better Way to Measure Loyalty
The firm’s initial POV was the discovery of the Net Promoter Score (“NPS”) — a simpler and better way to measure client satisfaction and client loyalty.
NPS became the cornerstone of the Bain Loyalty practice. That simple POV on the best way to measure customer loyalty catapulted that practice into the stratosphere. In the early days of the journey, Bain’s POV literally was the UVP for the Loyalty practice — we’ve found a better way to measure customer satisfaction, hire us, and we’ll show you!
Of course, as we all know, companies of all types adopted NPS over the next two decades. In fact, over 2/3 of the Fortune 1000 use NPS to measure and track customer loyalty. Professional service firms of all types and sizes imitated it and deployed it in their own client work as well.
NPS as a UVP Wained
As that happened, the Net Promoter Score as a UVP likely started to wain. Sure, Bain invented NPS, but firms of all shapes and sizes could field an NPS study; many for far less than the price of entry into a Bain consulting relationship. The POV was no longer lending or providing as much separation for the Bain Loyalty practice as it once had.
In fact, it likely became a far weaker component of the firm’s UVP when pursuing new relationships. Over time clients literally forget who discovered the foundational insight in the first place. And, firms are left resorting to statements like, “Hey, we invented this, you remember?”
With Broad Adoption the Central Insight was Lost
But something interesting happened on the journey. Much of the original intent — the fundamental insight that better customer loyalty leads to superior financial returns — was lost. Companies became fixated on the score itself. And, they began making myopic business decisions under the guise of NPS … car dealerships began tying NPS to the compensation of front-line service workers … IT services firms began surveying us after every single interaction … Improving the score became the goal, and the focus on loyalty was lost.
Recently, Bain has largely reinvented its POV and the NPS methodology to address this. The firm has re-introduced NPS as the Net Promoter System focused not just on measuring loyalty but on driving customer loyalty over time. In his latest book, Winning on Purpose, Reichheld and his co-authors introduced a new way to measure customer satisfaction. Earned Growth Rate provides a reliable, complementary accounting measure to track customer loyalty without relying on a customer survey.
The revised point-of-view is emerging again as a central piece in the practice’s unique value proposition. For more on the evolution of NPS, check out our podcast interview with Fred Reichheld, creator of NPS and founder of the Bain loyalty practice.
Your POV and your UVP are generally not one and the same. Usually your POV is jut one element of a broader story that comprises the unique value you offer a specific client. Both your POV and your UVP are likely to fade over time. As that happens, often it requires stepping back to see what’s changed in the market, and refining both your POV and your UVP accordingly.
For more on POVs check out 7 Elements of a Compelling POV or Using Research to Develop Your Firm’s POV.