Most successful businesses didn’t have original ideas.
Their founders saw how something was being done and decided to do it better, faster, cheaper (I feel a Daft Punk interlude coming on…brace yourselves).
A USP (unique selling point or proposition…also known as a ‘positioning statement’) is what makes you and/or your business extraordinary as far as your customers or clients are concerned. It’s what distinguishes you from the competition and is the reason your customers will choose to give you their hard-earned cash over anyone offering anything similar.
Having a set of features or benefits that sets you apart from your competition is vital — it makes marketing your business easier as well as making it easier for your customers to find you. In an ideal world, you don’t want to just be better than your competitors at what they do, it’s easier (and more effective) to offer something totally different, something… umm… well, unique.
So, how do you identify your USP?
1. Identify your target audience and research their demands — ultimately, it’s about your customers’ needs. There’s no point in being unique for the sake of it without understanding the market. Selling flip-flops in the Arctic is certainly unique but it’s highly unlikely that there will be a market for it. Listen to what the people want.
2. List your features and benefits — List all the features of your product or service. And then list the benefits of each feature. For example, the Apple iPhone is lightweight (feature) which means that you won’t even notice it in your pocket (benefit).
What’s so great about what you’re selling? Why is it different, better, life-changing What makes your product or service valuable or necessary? If you’re selling something tangible, what is unique about the product specification itself?
3. Compare your features and benefits with your competitors — time for some cyber-stalking (aka check out their website and social media accounts) or even some good old-fashioned mystery shopping if their business also happens to be offline. Turn up and check out which features and benefits your competitors offer, and if you’re feeling ballsy, talk to some of their customers… Ideally outside of the store! Ask them what they like and what they dislike about your competitor’s products or services. This sort of intel is incredibly valuable, so put aside how awkward you might feel and dive on in.
Note which of your competitors’ features and benefits are the same as yours (sometimes referred to as Points of Parity or POP) and which are unique to you (sometimes referred to as Points of Difference or POD). Highlight your PODs and then star the ones that can’t be easily imitated/copied by your competitors — these are the USPs you need to focus on.
As an aside, your USP might actually be you. If you have a level of knowledge or experience (or even fame), this may well be something that clearly puts you head and shoulders above the competition, so think about what you personally bring to the business and how you might leverage this against your competitors’ offerings. Go on now. Don’t be bashful.
4. Now it’s time to tweak your wording — you need to make sure you can communicate your USPs quickly and concisely. If it takes 7 minutes for a potential customer to understand your USPs you’re going to need to go back to the drawing board. USPs are short, sharp and punchy, anything beyond that and they’re not going to do their job. Ask potential customers what they think of your USP statements — perhaps through an online survey or by talking directly to friends and family whose opinions you can trust. And remember to listen! Take on board their feedback.
When communicating your USPs (and in communications more generally) it’s important that you do not try to please everyone, because you can’t, and you’ll run yourself into the ground if you attempt to do so. The whole point of a USP is to appeal to a specific audience and create stronger connections. Streamlining your target audience makes it much easier to know who you’re communicating with and the most effective way to do that, in order to get the leads you need.
I recently had coffee with someone who ran a multi-million-dollar business with only 4,000 people on his mailing list and 3,000 Facebook followers. He sold the business and now spends his days relaxing on numerous beaches across the world. The phrase ‘quality over quantity’ certainly applies here.
Once you have your USPs you need to integrate these into your brand (see here for more bits on branding). Your USPs may well influence your mission and vision, as well as your visual branding (logo/graphics/photography) and tone of voice. They will most certainly influence your marketing and sales communications.
Remember, your USPs might not last forever, technology changes, new products are developed, thinking changes, so make sure to review and revise as your business grows.
It is possible to run a business without identifying your unique selling points….difficult, but possible. Sometimes there is enough room in the marketplace for two or more businesses with the exact same products, features and benefits to thrive. However, it’s an arduous task (on top of the already gruelling task of running a business in the first place) and so I would absolutely encourage you to spend some time on this.
You’re special. Your business is brilliant. You know this. Now go tell the world.
Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on @Kymberlee Jay.