Lean Canvas—Standing Out from the Crowd

Here is a Google doc of the Lean Canvas you can use for yourself or to play along at home.

Now that you know about your prospective customer, their problems, and your potential solution, it’s time to consider how you are going to share your offer with the world.

How do you get noticed? How do you stand out so you can have a sales conversation with your prospective customer?

According to Ash Maurya, you can figure this out by creating your Unique Value Proposition. You may have heard of the “Unique Selling Proposition,” a phrase coined by the great Rosser Reeves. It’s the reason your customer should consider buying from you as opposed to your competitor. I sort of like the phrase Unique Value Proposition, because it focuses on the customer’s perception of value. As I’m sure you know, people don’t like to be “sold” something, but they love to buy.

You begin with a guess. What would make the customer want to pay attention to you? Think about your own experience. Do you use a cloud storage service? Dropbox? Skydrive? Google Drive? Copy? Box? How do they distinguish themselves and how did they get you to pick them?

Ideally, you want to get people’s attention and attract them to you by making a unique offer, a promise to fix their problem.

To create your UVP, Maurya recommends that you consider your customer’s biggest problem and combine that with a “finished story benefit.” A “finished story benefit” is what things are going to look and feel like once your customers have bought/experienced the benefit of your solution.

Let’s take the example of our intrepid Bill Johnson. He’s a retired auto worker who needs to reenter the workforce, but he’s not having a lot of luck. We said before that his biggest problems are:

  1. Bill doesn’t know how to find the contact information for the appropriate person with hiring authority.
  2. Bill doesn’t know how to get over or around the road blocks employers set up to thwart job seekers from contacting them directly.
  3. Bill doesn’t know how to communicate the value that he offers a potential employer.

We combine the knowledge of Bill’s problems with the fact that, in the end, we want Bill to find meaningful and rewarding work, work he loves.

Before we get to the UVP, Maurya cautions entrepreneurs to avoid empty words such as “simple,” “fast,” and “easy.” The easy button may work for Staples, but it’s unlikely to work for you. Most customers have a BS detector on high at all times, and the more you sound salesy the less likely your potential customers are to listen or believe you.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To aide in creating the UVP, Maurya borrows from Dane Maxwell and shares the formula:

End Result Customer Wants + Specific Time Period + Address the Objections

In an ideal scenario, you could frame your UVP with those segments. Thus, “Fresh, hot pizza in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” Tom Monaghan captured a large segment of the pizza market with that UVP.

In the case of our hypothetical company we’re creating to help people like Bill, we might try something like:

Get hired in 90 days (or I’ll keep coaching you for free until you do).


30 days to the skills you need to make the right contacts, ace the interview and get the job you really want.

Or something like that. You will probably go through several iterations of your UVP, and the only way to know for sure what’s going to resonate is to test it.

The last thing you need to conquer is the High Concept Pitch. That’s a common technique in Hollywood (Alien is like Jaws set in space). The high concept pitch is also common in the startup/tech world (Youtube’s founders described it as Flickr for video).

For our business helping folks find jobs, we might say that our business is “like the career services center at college, but for people 60 years old and up.”

Or “It’s the career coaching equivalent of Angelo Dundee guiding Muhammed Ali through prize fights with Foreman and Frazier.”

Those would need some refining, of course, depending on what business model we chose, but I think you probably get the idea. The best high concept pitches are a single sentence and immediately give people an understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish.

So here’s my question for you: What’s your unique value proposition? How are you standing out from a crowd? And if I asked you what your business is like, what would you tell me?

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