Business Posts

4 Steps to Creating a Unique Value Proposition

Unique Value Proposition, Part 1: 4 Steps to Creating a UVP

So you’ve identified a customer problem and built a product or service to solve it. How can you convince potential customers to buy from you rather than the competition? It’s time to define your unique value proposition (UVP).

A UVP is a single, clear, compelling message that states why you are different and worth a customer’s attention. In other words, it’s a promise of value to be delivered.

Understanding how to communicate this value statement is one of the most important parts of developing your business idea. Having a strong UVP will solidify your idea and consolidate your overall message into a simple statement. It will also serve as the starting point for developing your marketing messages.

You can write your own UVP using this 4-step formula:

Step 1: State the end benefit you’re offering.

This single, short sentence should be an attention grabber. It can mention the product and/or the customer.

Step 2: Explain specifically what you offer, for whom, and why it is useful.

Identify your ideal customer (if you already haven’t done this in step 1) and describe how your product solves their problem or improves their situation. Explain why they should buy from you and not from the competition. Keep it concise, no more than 2 to 3 sentences.

Step 3: List the key benefits of what you do/offer.

In a few bullet points, list the specific benefits your product delivers.

Step 4: Evaluate your completed UVP.

Your UVP should clearly answer the following questions:

  • What product or service is my company selling?
  • What is the end benefit of using it?
  • Who is my target customer?
  • What makes my offering unique and different?

Congratulations! You’ve created a first draft of your UVP. Now you can refine it by editing out extraneous words and eliminating jargon. The better you can distill the answers to the above questions to their most basic forms, the more powerful your UVP will be.

In our next blog post, we’ll explain how to use your UVP to develop a pricing strategy for your product or service. This process is also discussed in our Startup Financial Essentials workshop; visit the NaperLaunch Academy webpage for more information and a schedule of upcoming dates.

Posted: 
Monday, January 11, 2021 - 15:30

4 Steps to Starting a Business in Illinois

You have assessed the feasibility of your business idea and created a plan to get started. What comes next? How do you turn your idea into a legally recognized Illinois business? Here are the four things you should do first.

1. Choose an organization structure for your business.

There are several ways to organize businesses in Illinois, each with its own legal and tax implications. Your form of business determines which income tax return forms you must file. 

The most common forms of business are:

  1. Sole proprietor: A person who owns the business and is personally responsible for its debts.
  2. Partnership: An arrangement in which two or more individuals share the profits and liabilities of a business venture. Types of partnerships include general partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, or limited liability companies.
  3. Corporation: A legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners. Corporations enjoy most of the rights and responsibilities that an individual possesses.

Before selecting a business type, you may want to consult an attorney or accountant for assistance in determining which one is best for your business. The library also has many excellent books covering the legal requirements on each of these formats; look for titles published by Nolo.

2. Decide on a business model or format.

Like your organization structure, your business format will have legal and tax implications depending on where you do business and what kind of product or service you are bringing to market. When choosing a business format, consider the following:

  • Will you be making a product or offering a service?
  • Will your customers find you online or at a brick-and-mortar store location?

Other options for budding startups might include creating a new product and selling it to another company or buying an established business that you might take over and operate or buy a franchise.

3. Register your business with the state of Illinois.

When the operating business name is different from the owner’s full legal name(s), the Illinois Assumed Name Act requires sole proprietorships and general partnerships to register the business name with the county clerk's office of the county where they reside.

In Illinois, many businesses are required to be registered and/or licensed by the Illinois Department of Revenue. If you plan to hire employees, buy or sell products wholesale or retail, or manufacture goods, you must register with the IDOR by applying for a tax account number on the MyTax Illinois website and submitting Form Reg-1: Illinois Business Registration Application, online or by mail. Registration should take 2-3 days and will cost approximately $150. You will receive a certificate of registration that must be displayed in your place of business. An Employer Identification Number (EIN) also will be assigned.

Depending on your business type, you may also need specialized registrations (e.g. a liquor license or a professional license). The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is the main licensing agency for the State of Illinois for most professions. Individuals must be licensed prior to conducting business as one of the professions listed on their website.

4. Obtain the necessary licenses and permits.

A business license from a city, village, or county may be required in certain circumstances. The license gives you the right to conduct business activities in that location. A license may not be necessary if customers do not visit your place of business. (For example, online-only companies probably will not need a local license.) The extent of the application process will depend on a business’ reach (local, state, national). Be sure to check with your locality, as heavy fines may be assessed if you do not obtain the required license.

Some municipalities and counties impose their own taxes in addition to the state and federal taxes that most businesses are responsible for. New businesses should contact their local revenue department to determine if additional taxes apply to their business activities. Many communities restrict advertising, regulate pricing, or require zoning permits. Contact your city or county clerk's office for information on local restrictions.

For more information on starting a business in Illinois, check out the NaperLaunch BizVids Startup in Illinois series or register for an upcoming NaperLaunch Academy workshop. You can also make a one-on-one appointment with a NaperLaunch business librarian.

Posted: 
Thursday, December 31, 2020 - 09:15

Business Startup Help

Let us say you have had an idea rattling around in your head for a few years about how to improve a basic service or product that you have used in the past. You are pretty sure you have the knowledge and skill to deliver that enhanced service or product. Now you are wondering how to go about commercializing it.

Almost every business startup entrepreneur has gone down a similar path of having a great idea and wondering how to bring it to market. Occasionally, lightning strikes and the idea is truly a zero-to-one proposition–there was no one doing it and suddenly there is one doing it. However, those are few and far between. In most instances, the new idea is an enhancement or improvement over current services or products.

A number of organizations exist to support this type of would-be entrepreneur. Many years ago, states and local governments began establishing support networks to help people commercialize their ideas. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a major player in the small business support network; the Small Business Development Centers and the SCORE volunteer network are two examples of SBA efforts.

In recent years, more and more independent incubators and accelerators have popped up in metropolitan areas or near research universities across the nation. Public libraries have even started to engage in this support effort; the Naperville Public Library’s NaperLaunch Business Services Center is a prime example of libraries getting into the mix.

Usually, a startup founder already has a good idea; business acumen may be the thing that is needed most. That kind of help can generally be provided by the types of organizations mentioned above. One of the advantages of these groups is the personal experience of the people involved. Former founders like to share their expertise, and many of them can be engaged through participation at an incubator, accelerator, business development center or similar facility.

At the NaperLaunch Business Services Center, for instance, the focus is on teaching and sharing this kind of expertise. A partnership with experienced SCORE volunteers provides expert mentoring services to augment the library’s vast print and online information resources. This emphasis on authoritative information resources and expert mentors are just two of the things that set NaperLaunch apart from other startup organizations; another is the fact that these services are provided free of charge.

Most currently available programs assist startups in the very early stages of developing an idea, identifying a customer problem and creating a solution that can be delivered profitably. At NaperLaunch, startups are instructed and coached through these steps leading to development of a unique value proposition. The NaperLaunch Academy curriculum provides specific instruction on how to take these idea-development steps and then complete a break-even analysis, develop a business plan and create a marketing strategy.

In the past year, it became obvious that some NaperLaunch members had moved beyond the startup stage and needed new ways to advance their businesses. In response, several Master Mind groups were organized that have attracted productive founders to participate and continue their progress.

Program participants have voiced appreciation for the assistance gained. It is a testament to the philosophy of “giving back” that so many individuals have provided so much startup help to local entrepreneurs. In these ways the mission of NaperLaunch, to foster business success, is fulfilled.

Posted: 
Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 08:45