Whether you’re an established small business or a start-up about to launch your enterprise in a competitive market, one of the key ingredients you need to succeed is a unique selling point. Some would go further than that and say having a USP is the key to success, and is more important than anything else, including marketing, service and pricing. A USP is what differentiates you from your competitors and can give you a vital edge.
It may be a unique product or service that you offer, a particular skill-set, attitude, or experience base. It doesn’t even have to be anything too out there or elaborate. It just has to be something clearly defined that helps you to stand out from the crowd. A good example of this is M&M’s who developed a special coating for their chocolates and used this USP to great effect to distinguish their product from others in their marketing campaigns: ‘The milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand’.
Why it matters
You may have a great idea for a product or are planning to launch a new service. Perhaps you’ve already identified a gap in the market which you’re confident you can fill. If so, great. The more likely scenario however, is that similar products or services already exist out there. Maybe not all are as good or as innovative as yours, but nevertheless they are all your competitors.
This is where identifying your USP is so important as it helps to tell customers what you have that your competitors don’t, such as a chocolate button that doesn’t melt in the hand! By knowing what your USP is, you can position and sell your goods or services more effectively.
Finding your USP
Most USPs don’t simply declare themselves. And the more congested or homogenous the market you’re operating in is, the harder it can be to pinpoint what makes your product unique. To find your USP often takes time and can be a pretty frustrating process, but that lightbulb moment – when hopefully you realise what your USP is – is definitely worth searching for!
To help identify your point of difference, ask yourself lots of questions, such as:
• Who is your target audience and what do they want?
• Is it the lowest price, a user-friendly experience, reliable supplier, 24/7 support, or something else? Is it all of these or only some?
• Why do customers buy goods or services from this market and what needs does the market meet?
• Why might customers choose to buy your goods or service?
• Who else is operating in this space and what do they offer that you don’t? What is their USP?
Your competitive advantage
Your answers to these questions can help you to see where you have a competitive advantage or identify a gap in the market – however small – that you can help to fill. Having listed all of the needs you know your goods or services can meet, you may decide that you have more than one potential USP. If so, look again at what your competitors are doing. Can they claim the same thing? Remember, what you’re looking for is a unique selling point – a feature of your service or product that conveys a clear and strong benefit to customers. You don’t have to come up with something that is truly original (although if you can, great!) but something that is different or is an improvement on what is already on offer.
Testing you USP
You may be 100% convinced you’ve got a USP but unless your customers recognise and buy into your offering, you’re no further forward. So before committing to a marketing strategy, try it out on a handful of customers to see what they think, whether they can clearly identify how you’re positioning your brand or service and whether or not you can deliver on your promise. Based on their feedback, you may decide to refine your USP. At the end of the process, you want to come up with a strong statement that encapsulates what you have to offer in a memorable way.