We’ve all heard some form of this from parents, teachers or mentors: be careful of how you present yourself because people form opinions based on it.

It’s a lesson that carries well past grade school and into the business world. Among management consulting and other professional services firms, it is especially important because unlike products, they don’t have packaging or similarly tangible objects suitable for touching or seeing. Professional services have to be experienced, and getting to that point with a customer starts with the words that attract prospects. It starts with a compelling value proposition.

There are firms that have mission statements, vision statements, lists of objectives and even statements of strategy on how they will meet those objectives. All are credible and even necessary for moving forward, but they are not a substitute for a definitive value proposition. OK, so we know what it’s not.  But what is a value proposition statement?

At its core, value proposition is a client-focused marketing message that conveys the benefits a client receives for the costs incurred. The wrapping around this can take many forms as long as it succinctly communicates what clients gain. Here is an example from Hinge’s new book, Professional Services Marketing:

“We help our clients in manufacturing save millions of dollars. We have accomplished these results for dozens of companies, such as Companies A, B, and C, through our profitability consulting work.”

This conveys the value (saved money), the audience (manufacturers), credibility (a list of paying customers) and a statement of how (profitability consulting). It is specific and tangible, but not overwhelming. 

What about management consulting firms that have many divisions, target industries and thousands of customers? How can a value proposition remain short and memorable?

Crafting the right value proposition statement is artful. It requires just enough main points, and loses impact if it tries to encompass too many details. 

Here’s a key test: if you have a lot of debate within your firm (or with yourself) about your value proposition, then your customers probably are confused, too. Consider conducting research on your customer base to get an informed sense of what your firm is known for. This will help you understand their challenges, recognize opportunities, and refine your value proposition.

Marketing’s primary job is to focus the firm. A concise, revealing value proposition represents this focus and is the foundation for all the downstream marketing activities. Prospects are more likely to find you, consume your content, deepen their relationship with you and become a customer when they feel they are in the right place. So help them form the right perception by knowing who you are and what you do best.

To find more about the importance of a compelling value proposition, download a free chapter of Professional Services Marketing.