The unique selling proposition (USP) is what makes your company unique in the market. The USP is the image that comes to mind for the consumer when she thinks of your firm. Every company should have a USP: it helps define who you are and why your customer should buy from you. The USP describes how your company is different, how you do it better, faster, or with better service than your competitors.
Defining the unique selling proposition can be a challenge, what sets you apart? What makes you unique? How do you project this image to your customers? Often, defining a USP will actually help you focus on the niche of your business. If you do 10 things, but only 4 of them are unique and highly valued, what if you did those 4 things really well in large quantity? What kind of success could you find?
Defining a USP does not mean making up some marketing speak that isn’t true. It’s really simple for potential customers to learn the truth about your company, so if you define a USP, it needs to be an honest assessment. If you have difficulty describing your USP, perhaps you don’t have one. You can still use this process to define a unique selling proposition and then take the steps necessary to implement it. These 3 steps will help you define the USP and make it a reality for your business.
1. Act Like a Reporter
In journalism school, potential reporters are taught to ask a number of questions to discover a story. We’re going to do the same in our business. The first step to defining the unique selling proposition is to answer these questions. Grab a piece of paper, and write out the answers to:
- Who buys your product?
- What are the benefits of your product or service?
- Where do you sell your product or service?
- When do you sell your product or service?
- Why do people buy from you?
- How does your product or service solve a customer’s problem?
Follow the 80/20 rule in this process: focus on the majority of your customers, the 80%. Answer the questions with a focus on what makes your firm unique. List the greatest benefits you offer your customers.
2. Find What’s Unique in Your List
Review your list of answers to the questions in step 1. What is unique about your business? If you have items on your list that all of your competitors are doing, cross them off. For example, if you and all of your competitors offer free ground shipping, cross that off your list. If you offer free next day shipping and your competitors do not, leave it on your list.
With the unique items left on your list, form a paragraph that describe what makes your business unique. An example might be:
We sell the freshest, highest quality tea direct to our customer’s door, with free next day air shipping and a 100% money back guarantee.
For a local business, your USP might be:
We’re the only local seller of high quality local souvenirs and arrange them in gift baskets for local delivery or shipped around the country for any occasion.
Your USP should be a well crafted elevator style speech which tells a customer why she should buy from you in a single sentence or two.
3. Make the USP About Your Customer
Your unique selling proposition is about your customer, not you. When you define the USP, it should address what specific hole in the market you are addressing and what the need is that you are satisfying for your customer. If there isn’t a need in the market for another coffee shop on a downtown corner, don’t open a coffee shop unless you can offer something unique that will bring in customers.
Look at the USP you defined in step 2 and make sure it addresses your customers and what their needs are. if not, rethink your USP.
How NOT to Define a Unique Selling Proposition
One of the points we always have to caution entrepreneurs on is that price is not a USP. Defining yourself as the cheapest is not unique: there will always be someone else who will come into a market at a cheaper price (think Walmart!). If you think price is your USP, consider not entering that market or redefining your business.
A USP should be about being the best, fastest, first, or most. If you offer the best customer service, the most options, or you are first to bring new products to town, these could be in your USP.
A USP helps define who you are in a market – make sure what you’ve defined is the image you project to your customers.
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