A “unique selling proposition” (USP) is the summary of features, characteristics and benefits that make your company different, or unique, from similar companies. A USP enables you to convey to your customers why they should buy from your company and not from your competitors.
There are many examples of such statements, such as:
- Southwest Airlines: “You are now free to move about the country.”
- M&Ms: “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
- DeBeers: “A diamond is forever.”
- Ivory Soap: “99 44/100% pure”
A USP is a way to sell your products and services and capture the attention of customers. While the examples above are simple, one-line statements, it is not necessary to have such a simple USP; a few sentences are just as acceptable, and may better describe your particular product or service (and may also be easier to create). In the examples above, these simple USPs are the slogans used by the companies in marketing materials, televisions ads, and so on.
In order to create a USP for your business, you must understand the value and benefits of your products and services compared to that of the competition.
Consider these questions:
- Why do your customers buy from you?
- Who is your competition, and what differentiates your products and services from theirs?
Do some research to learn more if you don’t have sufficient information to answer the questions above:
- Competitor Research: Who are your competitors that sell similar products and services? Look also for companies that you may not have considered a direct competitor. In today’s global world, with wide access to the Internet, many companies have competitors all over the world to consider. What are the features and benefits of your competition’s products and services? How do they differ from your products and services?
- Customer Research: Ask your existing customers why they purchase your products and services. What attracted them to your business in the first place? Consider reaching out to customers who no longer purchase your product or service and ask what has changed that has made them stop purchasing from you? From whom do they now purchase? If you sell a product that requires maintenance and/or service, review service records to see if you can find a pattern that might make you question the quality of your product.
- SWOT Analysis: Do a SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) of your products and services. Be honest here and seek the assistance of key employees to help in this effort. Compare to your competition (do a SWOT analysis, as much as possible, for competitive products and services, too). You want to understand how you stack up to the competition.
Use all of this information to develop your USP. But don’t develop it alone! Ask key employees to be involved in the process. Take these best-practice steps to develop your business’ USP:
- Gather together those employees who have the most contact with your customers on a regular basis.
- Set aside a couple of hours for brainstorming and bring along the following information to the brainstorming session:
- SWOT analysis;
- Research completed;
- Customer demographic information (target customer information);
- A list of products and services;
- A list of competitors and their products and services that are similar to yours; and
- A list of how your products/services meet the challenges/needs of your customers (by the way, during your brainstorming session you may find new ways to position your products and services based on current use of those products and services by your customers).
- During the brainstorming session, use the information in step two to create USP statements for your business. Keep your USP to no more than two to three sentences.
It takes a bit of doing, but developing a concise, clear USP helps you to better position your products and services for your target customer. Once developed, use your USP in all of your marketing materials, on your website, and in communications with your clients.
USP statements are not static. As you offer new products and services, secure new customers, and improve upon your current products and services, you’ll need to update your USP to ensure it remains valid for your business. You might consider reviewing the USP during your annual strategic planning sessions to be sure it still meets the needs of your business and your customers.
Gina Abudi is president of Abudi Consulting Group, LLC, providing strategy and implementation around projects, process, people and technology to businesses of all sizes. Gina can be reached via her website, AbudiConsulting.com.
Originally published: Mar 5, 2012