Brand building 101: Create your UVP

Is your brand unique? Of course it is! Learn how to identify and create a UVP that is your best defense against the competition.

Specialty outdoor brick and mortar retailers are so much more than product pushers. Sure, you sell stuff, but the reason your customers keep coming back to you is the service and expertise you provide as part of the experience. Your Unique Value Proposition.

Why UVP matters

If you sell products without adding value you risk becoming a simple commodity. You’ll compete on price and constantly cut profit margins to get sales. Without brand loyalty, you’re vulnerable to losing customers to competitors.

To rise above the competition, step into your sales shoes and give people at least one remarkable reason to buy from you. Instead of giant retailers like Amazon. Instead of the hundreds of other outdoor retailers. Instead of the free-shipping-forever e-commerce shops.

That remarkable reason is your unique value proposition (UVP).

An effective UVP communicates the problems your brand solves. Or the desires you help people fulfill.

Taos Mountain Outfitters UVP
Taos Mountain Outfitters owner Bill Gaydosh has dialed in his store’s UVP.Kassondra Cloos

Taos Mountain Outfitters outshines some big brands with their UVP.

Here’s what makes this UVP so effective:

  • Unique benefit => local knowledge through their up-to-date guidebooks, easy-to-read maps for a great Taos adventure.
  • Answers the question, Why should I buy from you? => A good day on the trail begins with preparation and knowledge.

A strong UVP can improve the bottom line

Conversion specialists MarketingExperiments explains the role a UVP has in selling.

A clear value proposition highly influences a purchasing decision and ranks second only to a prospect’s motivation. You don’t have control over motivations, but you have complete control over a UVP and how much it can tip the buying decision in your favor.

WallMonkeys increased revenue by 550% when they switched the focus of their UVP away from their product and onto a customer need.

Original UPV => Browse the world’s finest works of art

New UVP => Find the decal that’s right for your wall

By zeroing in on a value that was a priority for their target audience, the new UVP won hands down in an A/B split test.

Ideas and examples to help you create a UVP

The Access Fund positions themselves in terms that speak to an issue weighing heavily on the hearts of its audience. Protecting rock climbing areas sets them apart from other outdoor stewards.


Tortuga Backpacks provides relief from an annoying problem for travelers. Who doesn’t want to avoid the hassle and expense of checking bags?


Wild Women Expeditions is on the right track by highlighting a desire. But “amazing” is overused in marketing messages. Being more specific about how adventures change people’s lives would probably uncover an exclusive benefit.


Propositions that fall short on communicating value

This could be any outdoor shop and it’s setting up the brand to be a product pusher. What does being a “premier” sporting goods store MEAN for shoppers?


This example doesn’t convey value. What kind of experience does this brand deliver?


How to develop a UVP that will set you apart from the competition

Your value proposition is going to be unique to YOU. It could be the way you deliver a service. How you develop products. How you give back to the community. Why you started a business. Your in-store or virtual events. The classes you offer. Your sustainability practices. Or even something you’re not aware of yet.

But’s here’s the thing. You have to translate that special no-one-else-can-do-this-thing into the value it provides. It has to be a something that matters to your target audience.

So how do you create a UVP that will resonate with your customers? Ask them.

Voice of customer (VOC) research will give you the insight you need to create a UVP that’s meaningful to your prospects. It’s qualitative and quantitative research that uncovers your customers’ wants and needs, their desires and dreams. VOC also reveals why customers bypassed the competition and chose you.

How to use VOC data to uncover your unique value

Start by checking out 3 to 5 competitors. If they don’t have a UVP, check their tagline or mission statement. In many cases, this will be the closest you’ll get to understanding how they differentiate themselves.

There are 3 things you need to know to develop a compelling reason people should buy from you.

  1. What your target audience is looking for when they visit you.
  2. What outcome(s) they desire.
  3. How you deliver those outcomes better than your competitors.

Collect this data by asking your existing customers the following questions in an online survey.

Use this online survey

We’d appreciate your responses to this short survey, which should take you about 5 minutes to complete, and will help us serve you better. We know 5 minutes is a lot of time out of your day, so we promise to only ask you questions that we really want your answers to.


1. How happy are you with the product(s) you purchased from us? (Select from a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 being the best)

2. How happy are you with the service you received from us? (Select from a scale of 1 – 5)

These are screener questions. Anyone who gives a rating of 3 or lower on either of these should be asked why they gave you that rating. Then send them to a thank-you page.

Because they aren’t satisfied, they won’t be good candidates for UVP data. It might be a good idea to follow up with these folks.

People who give you a rating of 4 or 5 on both questions can finish the survey.

3. When did you realize you needed a {insert product or service name}? What was going on in your world that caused you to start looking for one? (Write-in answer.)

4. What ONE problem would you say {insert product or service name} eliminates or lessens for you?

5. In what ways did {insert your brand name} make your life better? (Write-in answer.)

6. Who else did you consider purchasing from besides us? (Write-in answer.)

7. Why did you choose us? (Multiple choice, include “other” with instructions to select all that apply.)

Survey tips

  • Keep the survey short, no more than five minutes.
  • Make responses required.
  • Add a thank you message at the end of the survey.

You’ll want to get a minimum of 25 responses. 100 to  200 is ideal.

Turning your survey data into a UVP

Here’s what you need to learn from the survey.

  • Responses from question 3 will tell you what your target audience is looking for when they visit you.
  • Responses from questions 4 and 5 will tell you the needs you fulfill and solutions you deliver.
  • Responses from question 7 will reveal how you outshine your competitors.

The most popular responses are what matter most to your target market so that’s the data you want to use. To find them:

  • Export your responses into a spreadsheet.
  • Tag common responses.
  • Sort the responses by your tags and tally them up to find the trends most frequently mentioned.
  • Pull out the 2 to 3 most popular responses.

Make sure the finalists are different from your competitors. If a competitor has already nabbed your top choice, find another.

Write a primo UVP

Let’s work through an example that’ll show you how to turn the data into a value proposition. Here’s the intel from the VOC research:

  1. What the target audience came looking for when they visited: Casual wear and serious gear for extreme outdoor adventures.
  2. What outcomes they desired: Durable, high-quality clothing and gear were the top needs, and looking chic was the most popular issue the brand solved.
  3. How did the brand deliver those outcomes better than competitors: Wide selection of gear and casual wear in one place.

I inserted the data into this copywriting formula:

For {target} who {statement of the need or opportunity}, {Name} is that {statement of benefit}.

Whether you need durable outdoor gear to nail the next big adventure or casual wear that’ll make you look sharp around town, example brand offers it all in one place.

Make your UVP visible to the digital world

Put your UVP at the top of your website’s home page so it’s one of the first things visitors see.

If visitors only see free shipping and discounts, COMMODITY gets implanted into their minds. That’s not a stellar first impression, which is why you have to give visitors a reason to buy from you first. Then show them your specials and discounts.

Customer feedback uncovers the unique value you deliver that truly matters to your target market. Setting you up with a UVP that’ll differentiate you from the hordes of outdoor sellers and convince people to shop at your store.

Now go out and give your audience a remarkable reason to buy from you.

Mary Iannotti is a digital growth strategist who specializes in conversion copywriting and website optimization. She runs Digital Marketing Deva where she helps outdoor companies make more money online. She loves climbing desert cracks and riding fresh powder on her snowboard. Connect with her on Twitter @maryi.