When I first started my business many years ago, I found finding my USP, one of the hardest things to get to grips with. A unique selling proposition (USP) is something that differentiates you from all of your competitors. It’s what makes you so different or unique in a particular way that customers and prospects will opt to do business with you over any of your rivals.
One of the biggest mistakes you, as a business owner, can make is not finding something that makes you unique, especially in a very competitive market, where customers have an abundance of choice and where differentiation becomes increasingly difficult other than through pricing.
To survive, you have to stand out and differentiate in the eyes of your prospects. Your USP is what explains to the world why you are different.
The more clearly you can communicate you USP, the more you will stand out from you competitors
So how do you go about finding or choosing your USP?
Think carefully about opportunities within your market that are not currently being catered for. If you base your USP on these opportunities you are much more likely to be successful. Another way to look at this is, identify a demand that is not being supplied, and centre your USP around this. Examples can include:
- Genuine convenience – such as instant availability, handy location and so on.
- Large selection of stock items,
- Fast service,
- Longer than usual opening hours, or more convenient opening hours,
- Professional advice,
- Longer than normal warranty or guarantee,
- Reputation for honesty and integrity,
- Personal service and assistance,
- Privacy and security,
Another way to identify your USP is to have a good answer to the following customer question:
Why should I do business with you, instead of any and every other option available to me, including the option of doing absolutely nothing at all?
Another way of asking the same question from your point of view is:
What do you uniquely guarantee?
When you have a really powerful answer to these two questions, your adverts practically write themselves. When you have a really powerful answer to these questions, people will line up to buy from you.
A third method to identify your USP is to answer the following questions, again these questions are taken from your customers point of view:
- Why should I read or listen to you?
- Why should I believe what you have to say?
- Why should I do anything about what you’re offering?
- Why should I act now?
A fourth method of identifying your USP is comparing yourself to your competitors over a range of criteria, and focusing your USP around the areas where you score higher. The following table is an example of how you might set out your analysis. Score you and your competitors 1-5 on each of the criteria listed below, or add your own.
|self||Comp 1||Comp 2|
|Ease of ordering|
|Speed of delivery|
First understand the Characteristics that Customers’ Value – Evaluate your strengths and significant competencies. Take a good look at the features and benefits of your product or service and then decide what differentiates you and your business from the pack.
- What services and/or products do you provide?
- To whom do you provide these services/products; who are your customers?
- What needs do you fill for your customers?
- How big a problem you solve?
- What benefits do they appreciate most and which do they actively look for?
- What makes you better than other companies?
- Is it the value you provide, your experience, know how, customer service, delivery speed and so on?
Rank yourself and your competitors by these criteria – Check on competition by reviewing leading trade publications, analyse newsletters and search the internet for news and trends about your niche, particularly social media pages.
Here’s another great tip: survey your customers to gather data.
Identify where you rank well – Take your top match(es) and use it to position yourself and your product in the market. Summarise the results into one compact, compelling, motivating phrase that will persuade your clients to trade their cash for the benefits presented by your products/services. Your significant product benefits and the way in which you structure your offering is your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ or ‘USP.’
Once you have identified your USP, you need to think about the ways in which you can use it. These could include:
- Sound-bites or elevator speeches
- Marketing messages online and offline
- Brochures or flyers
- Press Releases
- Business Proposals
Keep your USP as the central theme throughout all your marketing, and through repetition you will become known as the business to use for that particular USP. Be careful not to try and be all things to all people. Selling to everyone is selling to no one.
To find more information about marketing, check out our marketing guide.