Let’s begin with a definition for a unique selling proposition (USP).
Definition: The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.
Before you can begin to sell your product or service to anyone else, you need to look at it from many points of view. It is much more than simply selling yourself on the deal – after all you are likely to be a tad biased. But rather you need to put your most cynical set of eyes to the exercise and craft your unique selling proposition accordingly. This is especially important when your product or service is similar to those around you. Very few businesses are one-of-a-kind now a day. Just look around you: The market is full of finance brokers, clothing retailers, business coaches, general practitioners and dentists.
Your key to effective selling in this situation is your “unique selling proposition” (USP). Unless you can pinpoint what makes your business unique in a world of crowded competition, you cannot target your sales efforts successfully. This is even more important if you are wanting to position your website into an effective sales and marketing vehicle.
Pinpointing your USP requires some foresight and creativity. As such, I like to use the Big Idea Resource in helping to frame my approach. I have developed this resource in collaboration with my clients and it serves to consider what we are trying to market as a message in context as to what is likely to matter to a potential client.
Once the big idea is conceived it needs to be tested and supported alongside the following elements:
- Proof Elements – what do we have to support the notion of the Big Idea
- Objections – what are the likely objections by buyers to our Big Idea and how can we build a case to ease the buyers concerns.
- Bonuses – do we intend to support our Big Idea with any bonus offerings or services
- Offer – is there an offer to go alongside the Big Idea. Often the Big Idea might simply garner attention, it is likely to need an offer alongside it to create action.
- Guarantee – in many cases the factor holding a buyer back is “what happens if I make a mistake with this purchase” – a well enunciated guarantee can make a huge difference to conversion rates.
- Price Justification – unless you build a case to support the value of your offering it is difficult for your buyer to do so. If you do not justify your price it is then left to the buyer to find the cheapest option and this may be to our detriment.
To complete the Big Idea Worksheet, I recommend undertaking a brainstorm session with a trusted group. The more diverse the group the better. A good way to enhance your effectiveness for this type of activity is to commence with an analysis of other companies’ ads and marketing messages. If you analyse what they say they sell, not just their product or service characteristics, you can learn a great deal about how companies distinguish themselves from competitors.
Here’s how to work through the Big Idea Worksheet and uncover your USP and use it to power up your sales:
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Too often, entrepreneurs fall in love with their product or service and forget that it is the customer’s needs, not their own, that they must satisfy. Step back from your daily operations and scrutinise what your customers really want. Remember the answer might be intangibles such as quality, convenience, reliability, friendliness, cleanliness, courtesy or customer service.
- Remember, price is never the only reason people buy. If your competition is beating you on pricing because they are larger, you must find another sales feature that addresses the customer’s needs and then build your sales and promotional efforts around that feature. Once you have crafted this – you then have a platform toward price justification.
- Know what motivates your customers’ behaviour and buying decisions. Effective marketing requires you to be adept in psychology. You need to know what drives and motivates customers. Go beyond the traditional customer demographics, such as age, gender, race, income and geographic location, that most businesses collect to analyse their sales trends. Sometimes, it is not enough to know that 75 percent of your customers are in the 18-to-25 age range. You need to look at their motivators for buying, is it peer pressure, convenience, frustration, lack of time, inadequate knowledge, no technical know-how or something completely different.
- Cosmetics and liquor companies are great examples of industries that know the value of psychologically oriented promotion. People buy these products based on their desires (for pretty women, luxury, glamour and so on), not on their needs.
- Uncover the real reasons customers buy your product instead of a competitor’s. As your business grows, you’ll be able to ask your best source of information: your customers. You will be surprised how honest people are when you ask how you can improve your service.
If your business is just starting out, you won’t have a lot of customers to ask yet, so “shop” your competition instead. Make it a habit to routinely drop into your competitors’ sphere of influence to see what and how they are marketing and selling.
Once you’ve gone through the preliminaries of the Big Idea process, you need to take the next–and hardest–step: clearing your mind of any preconceived ideas about your product or service and being brutally honest. What features of your business jump out at you as something that sets you apart? What can you promote that will make customers want to patronize your business? How can you position your business to highlight your USP?
Don’t get discouraged. Successful business ownership is not about having a unique product or service; it’s about making your product stand out–even in a market filled with similar items.
Once developed, a business can peg its USP on product characteristics, price structure, placement strategy (location and distribution) or promotional strategy. These are what marketers call the “four P’s” of marketing. They are manipulated to give a business a market position that sets it apart from the competition.
More of this in a future post. To get you warmed up however download another valuable resource The Brand Performance Matrix.