What’s the big deal about USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?
Your USP is essentially your answer to the question, “Why should anyone buy from, or do business with, you?”
One of the first things to understand is that most businesses do not have a compelling answer to that question. Try this experiment over the next few weeks – as you meet people and find out what they do for a living or where they work, ask them some version of, “What is special about your company?” “Why should people buy from you rather than your competitors?”
You will probably find that many people either don’t have an answer at all without having to really stop and think about it, or that if they do, the answer will be something in the realm of, “We have great customer service, we are very reliable, we have the best quality at the lowest prices, we really care about our customers.”
Does that sound familiar? Please realize that all of that may be true, but it is not a USP – not unless your competition is advertising something like, “Our customer service is fair to middling, we show up on time for the most part, our quality is slightly below average, we are consistently over-priced and we don’t much care whether we ever see you again as long as you spend a lot the first time you come in. Take care, now!”
Good News/Bad News about USP:
So the Bad News part is, coming up with a powerful and compelling USP is not easy – that’s why most companies never do it, or never do it effectively.
But the Good News is that means that if you are willing to do the work of creating a great USP for your company, you will have a huge edge over your competitors.
A good way to better understand USP is to look at some great examples. Please note that you can probably name every single one of these companies when you read their USP slogan – that’s the power of a great USP!
“When it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight.”
“The nighttime, coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine.”
“Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free.”
“Because I’m worth it.”
“The ultimate driving machine.”
“Finger lickin’ good.”
Interested in the kind of success those companies have had? Aren’t we all?
To have the kind of impact those have, your USP has to be short, concise and compelling. Just saying you have great service isn’t going to cut it. If your customer service really is the very best out there, and that’s what sets you apart, you have to find a way to express it that gets people’s attention.
Another hugely successful company did just that with their USP slogan “We Try Harder.” They took the idea of customer service and encapsulated it in three words that had an impact, created a definite expectation in people’s minds that they would be treated better at Avis than at the top company, and business boomed.
So how do you create a powerful and effective USP for your company?
Here are some ways to approach it and develop it, but please remember, be patient with yourself. It can take some time to develop your USP, and it usually involves more than one person, so discuss it with either other people in your company, or, if you are a “one woman army” business right now, discuss it with people whose input you value, including your customers.
Here is a list of questions to ask yourself as you begin to develop your USP:
·What makes you unique in the marketplace?
·What need does your product or company fill or address?
·What pain or discomfort does your product or service alleviate or take away (Think of Nyquil – “the night time, coughing, achy, sniffling, etc…”)
·What do you do better than the competition (are you faster, more thorough, more knowledgeable, more reliable, etc) and why, specifically, does that make a difference to your potential customer?
·Do you have a technological edge, a process or equipment no one else has, and why does that make a difference in what you can provide your customers?
·Character/personality – is your business based largely on you and how you express yourself, your unique “voice” or point of view? How can you capture that in a few words?
·What needs are going unfulfilled in your industry – can you expand or enhance what you do to fill those needs, and how can you express that?
·Education – do you do a great job of educating your customers? What does that provide for them (e.g., peace of mind in their purchase)?
·Do you offer, or could you offer, a better, longer or more comprehensive warranty than the industry norm?
·Are your products the very best quality available, and if so, why, and how will that make a difference?
·What hopes, fears or concerns do customers have about purchasing your product or service, and what can you or do you do to address those hopes, fears or concerns?
·What about your product or service makes life better for your customers?
If you find these questions hard to answer, even daunting, please remember that you are having exactly the kind of reaction that most people have, and that is exactly the reason why most people never develop a compelling USP for their business. It is hard, and most entrepreneurs keep putting it off, something else seems more urgent, they like the slogans or marketing they are using now and they seem to be working “okay,” and maybe they’ll get to that USP thing eventually.
And most businesses fail within two years. You may disagree, but I’m saying there’s a connection there.
Don’t be one of the businesses that folds from lack of clarity and focus about what you provide for your customers. Set aside time regularly to engage with this whole USP issue, play with it, have fun with it! Bring other people into the process, ask your customers why they do business with you (the answers may surprise you!), and as you find words you like, try them out. You don’t need to change your business cards every time you come up with a new slogan, but when you find one that feels good, put it on your website, use it as an ad headline, and see what kind of results and response you get.
That’s what I am doing now, as I engage with developing my own USP. I know I’m not there yet, but I’m in the process. Part of my USP has to do with the fact that all the coaching I do is inside of my client’s stated greater purpose (which should be pretty obvious after the last three blog posts!) So what does that provide for my clients? Well, the bottom line is, I’m just never going to coach you to build a business that you won’t enjoy – I refuse, I don’t care how good the idea is, if it’s not something you are passionate about and it’s not in alignment with your purpose, then hire someone else, I am not the coach for you.
If you are truly committed to success in your company, take the time. Not only will your USP be invaluable in branding and growing your company, but it also provides tremendous clarity and focus for you and everyone who works for you. It is probably the single best investment of your time you can make for your business, so go for it!–Ann