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The Small Manufacturer’s Value Proposition: The Secret Marketing Ingredient to Outshine Larger Competitors

This article was originally published on the Manufacturing Innovation Blog by NIST MEP.

It takes more than a flashy website and clever promotional emails to compete in the manufacturing marketing arena. Chances are, your larger competitors are pitching similar products and services to the same client base. Your company’s industrial solution may be to offer state-of-the-art features at a reasonable cost, but do these benefits really outshine your larger competitors? Why should a potential customer choose you from a sea of manufacturers? To stand out in the crowd, you must first define your company’s unique value proposition.

Taking the First Step: How to Define Your Unique Value

A value proposition goes beyond delivering your promised products and services. Your unique value proposition should explain how you plan to solve your customers’ problems in a way your competitors can’t.

To define your unique value, you may want to ask yourself these questions:

  • What exactly are we offering in the way of products and services?
  • Who are our target customers?
  • What are our target customers’ needs and problems?
  • How is our company uniquely qualified to solve these problems?
  • What is the unique benefit we offer to solve these problems?

Try to compile a complete list of all your benefits per the criteria listed above. What makes these benefits valuable for your target customer base?

Say for example, you’re a metalforming company that makes handles for kitchen appliance original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). After asking yourself the above questions, perhaps this is your assessment of your company’s value proposition:

“Our customers have a problem. They can’t find a metalformer who can create durable, aesthetically pleasing handles at a reasonable cost. We offer a unique solution with the engineering and design expertise to use less expensive, lightweight metals to create tubular handles in new designs to function in ways the customer never thought of before.”

Don’t try to confuse your value proposition with your company’s mission statement and values. Mission statements are useful tools to position your business in the manufacturing marketplace, but they don’t define how your operation is uniquely qualified to solve your customers’ problems.

How to Pitch Your Value Proposition

Now that you’ve defined your unique value, it’s time to sell it to your targeted potential customers. There are multiple templates that can help you pitch your company’s value proposition, including this popular template from author and digital marketing expert Geoffrey A. Moore:

Template Outline:

For ____________ (target customer)

who ____________ (statement of the need or opportunity)

our (product/service name) is ____________ (product category)

that (statement of benefit) ____________.

Sample Result:

For kitchen OEMs
who struggle to find affordable, quality appliance handles
our hydroforming solution uses lightweight, inexpensive metals
to create aesthetically-pleasing handles in a variety of styles and finishes.

In this example, it’s clear who the customer is, what your company can offer them, and how it’s different than the competition.

Authors Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits provide an even more straightforward approach from their “Cheat Guide to Customer Development:”

Template for Customer-Problem-Solution:

Customer: ____________ (who your customer is).

Problem: ____________ (what problem you’re solving for the customer).

Solution: ____________ (what your solution is for the problem). 

Sample Result:

Customer: I believe my best customers are small and medium-sized kitchen OEMs.

Problem: They cannot find cost-effective solutions for their appliance handles, which must satisfy budget-conscious, style-savvy consumers.

Solution: Our cost-effective, hydroforming solution uses inexpensive metals to deliver aesthetically-pleasing metal handles in a variety of styles.

These templates make the process look easy, but it takes some trial and error to define your value proposition so it will resonate with your target customer base. Once you’ve assessed your unique value, you’re ready to take that message to your desired audience.

Where to Broadcast Your Unique Value

Your website homepage should serve as your home base for pitching your company’s unique value. The homepage content should incorporate your value proposition to differentiate your company from your larger competitors. Make sure this message is clearly visible. First-time visitors to your website shouldn’t have to wade through endless lists of product features and mission statements to determine your unique value.

For example, a small manufacturer might use their homepage to promote their top-selling products and services, including a mission statement, such as, “We’re committed to delivering a superior product on time and on budget.”

Unfortunately, many manufacturers make the same promise. There’s nothing unique in promising your company will do the job as promised. What if the homepage instead focused on a true value proposition, similar to the metalformer example noted earlier?

Having difficulty finding a metalformer who can cost-effectively create durable, aesthetically-pleasing metal handles? We offer the engineering and design expertise to take less expensive, lightweight metals to create tubular handles in new designs to function in ways you may never have thought of before, at prices you never thought possible.

Once your company’s unique value is clearly defined on your homepage, be sure to incorporate that message into your promotional emails. Your email subject line is ideal for introducing your value proposition, but you should tailor your subject line and email content to your target audience.

For example, if you’re a metalformer sending out an email promotion to kitchen appliance OEMs, your email subject line should lead with a potential benefit related to your company’s value proposition:

SUBJECT: Diamonds in the Rough: Turning Low-Cost Aluminum Extrusions Into High-End Kitchen Handles

In the above example, the subject line leads to the unique value proposition that the metalformer can use inexpensive extrusions to create metal handles that will meet appliance OEMs’ high standards for aesthetics.

The email content should provide a quick introduction of the process involved with this unique value for the OEM (how the metalformer works with extrusions to increase value) and reinforce the value proposition on the website with a clear, hyperlinked call-to-action (Learn More, Read More, etc.). Note that your email content should do more than restate the content on your site. It should serve as a “tease” with a potential benefit of learning more.

Social media is also an effective tool to introduce your value proposition to your targeted customer base. For your first post, you can try a benefit tease similar to your email subject approach:

Twitter Post Example: #Kitchen #OEMs are reaping new ROI with handles made from metal extrusions. Here’s how:

Your social media posts are an effective way to introduce case studies or customer testimonials to show how your company delivers this unique value for your target audience. Don’t be afraid to change out your more direct “pitch” posts with industry news or insights that impact your target audience. Sharing industry news can position your company as a subject matter expert and display your ability to “walk the talk” when it comes to your unique value.

Your company’s unique value is your secret ingredient to competing with larger manufacturers through digital marketing. When it comes to your value proposition, don’t just tell your audience you’re the best at what you do. Prove it.

By Jennifer Rosa, Marketing and Communications Specialist, NIST MEP


Manufacturing Innovation, the blog of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), is a resource for manufacturers, industry experts and the public on key U.S. manufacturing topics. There are articles for those looking to dive into new strategies emerging in manufacturing as well as useful information on tools and opportunities for manufacturers.

The views presented here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of NIST.

If you have any questions about our blog, please contact us at mfg@nist.gov.

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