Developing Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Consider for a moment why people choose to buy your particular product or service from your specific business. What do you think the reasons are?
Most business owners will tell us the main reason is their excellent service. The problem with that is, their competitors can also provide excellent service.
“Well, we have the lowest prices” is another common answer. But we all know that no sooner do you lower your prices than your competitors do the same. Sometimes you just can’t offer the lowest price.
So, if you don’t always have the best price and you provide just as good a service as your competitors, why is it that your customers buy from you? The reasons can be complex, and not often are consumers’ choices due entirely to price alone.
People choose based on both real and perceived differences. Simply compare any two businesses: each offers a product or service (perhaps a range of them), an expected quality level, and a certain price.
Ask yourself, “Why do I choose to buy from one business over another?” The answer will often be clear in your mind, and will draw upon a comparison between competitors in one or more of the following: price, range, service, delivery or quality. You choose one business over another because you perceive a difference between them. Those differences are the reason you do business with the companies you do.
The same situation applies with your customers. They buy from you based on the differences they perceive between your products or services and your competitors’ products or services. These points of divergence can be in any area but will most often relate to price, service, quality, range or delivery.
Particularly note the word “perceived” in all this. These key differences may or may not actually be that significant or tangible!
If your service is the same as your rivals and your price is just as competitive, then why are people going to choose you and how can you make sure they do?
We have a step-by-step process that you can use to develop a unique selling proposition for your business and one that will have customers choosing you over your competitors. But be aware that it takes some concerted effort to get across to people what it is that is special about your business.
Step 1: Define what makes you special
Compile a list of the things that you feel make your business unique. This may include things you’re already actively promoting.
Now make another list containing the things your competitors say about themselves (whether or not they’re true is unimportant at this point).
How different are the lists?
You’re likely to notice some similarities. But you’re also rather biased! Next ask some of your friends, who know your business, to compile their own lists. If you have employees, ask them to do the same. And remember to ask them about your competitors’ businesses too!
It’s probable they said similar things about both your business and your competitors. If this is the case, then it’s likely your customers can’t see too much difference either – which is, of course, a problem.
If customers can’t differentiate between any aspects of your business over your competitor’s, then they’ll base their purchasing decision on one thing: price.
By not giving people anything to base their decisions on other than price, you are priming them to be the least desirable type of customers: price shoppers!
If you aren’t the cheapest, and it’s probably fair to assume you won’t always be, then those customers won’t buy from your business.
What’s even more important to consider though is that if you’re the cheapest, then you’re probably operating on very small profit margins – and will subsequently have to handle a lot more in volume than your competitors, just to achieve an adequate profit level.
Assuming then that price shouldn’t be your unique selling proposition, let’s define precisely what makes your business different and how you can leverage that to ensure its prosperity.
Step 2: Build upon your strengths
Write down ten reasons why people should, or do, buy from you. Get your employees and those friends from earlier to do the same. Take as long as you need to, and think this through carefully. It really helps to seek other opinions when completing this exercise, because it’s often difficult to think about these things objectively and from diverse perspectives. nem can assist you with this part as well, if you like.
Initially you might include such reasons as, “We have lower prices; our service is better; our range is better” and that’s a good start. But also try to dig more deeply and unearth what truly makes you stand out from the crowd. That’s going to be your unique brand proposition, and should define your market positioning approach.
Let’s walk through it together. Take a close look at your list and cross off any items your competitors would also say about their own businesses. Remember, it’s perception that’s key here. Your competitors may claim that they’re the cheapest, or have the best quality, or give the best service – and that may or may not be true. However, if people perceive those claims to be true, then you need to cross those items off your current list.
Be critical of any items remaining on your list. Get someone else to critique it too, and cross off whatever they think is similar to your competitors.
By this point, many business owners have fairly little or even nothing left on their lists. Don’t worry! We’ll fix that shortly.
If you do have something left, that’s great because it provides a perfect start to defining your unique brand proposition. If there’s nothing left on your list, then it’s fairly safe to say there’s currently no perceivable difference between your business and your competitors’. When there are no other clear differences between available alternatives, consumers make their purchasing choices based on the one most obvious divergence point: price.
If “price” was one of the remaining items on your list – or if you consciously chose price as a point of difference to emphasise – ask yourself the following:
If you answered yes to both of those questions, then it’s fine for price to be part of your unique brand proposition – but only if you really are the cheapest all the time. Some businesses, but not that many, are able to be profitable based on price as their unique selling proposition.
However, if you’re not the cheapest or you don’t want to be known as the cheapest, then you’ll need something else to really define your business. You’ll have to define and communicate what truly makes you unique, so you don’t have to compete on price.
Step 3: Express your market leadership
Revisit why you have your own business. Most people initially go into business because they have a passion to do something differently from, and usually better than, their competitors. They’re typically skilled in whatever they do, and see a niche in the market for their businesses to deliver a product or service that’s different from existing options.
Consider and write down exactly why you went into business. If you find this hard to pin down, try answering the following questions:
Review what you’ve just written. Is there anything there that’s unique to your business, or could be unique if implemented? Would further developing any of these ideas differentiate your business from its competitors?
If so, then add these key items to your lists from Step 1 and Step 2. Remember they must be items that set (or have the potential to set) your business apart from competitors. You have now identified:
The actual tangible points of divergence between your business and your competitors; and
The intangible differences you feel either already exist in your business, or should.
Think about what you’re now able to say about your business that others can’t say about theirs. Do you offer a process, product, feature or benefit which is not being publicised by your competitors? Is there something you can say about your service or delivery that would make you seem unique in the market?
You also need to look inside your business – at the things you do, the way you do them, and the care you put in to ensure success. All of this will help you build a unique and memorable marketing platform.
Armed with these new insights and tools, we suggest you take some time to do just that.
Step 4: Communicate your uniqueness
You now have an up-to-date catalogue of what makes your products or services special. This should include all the processes, systems, materials, commitments and investments you’ve made that make your business truly different. Use this information to develop your points of difference into a cohesive message. This will lay the foundation for your brand proposition. Consider how this message can be propagated through the various areas of your business, including:
Advertising, headlines and body copy
Advertising, headlines and body copy;
Sales processes, appearance of sales team members, appearance and copy of sales literature, sales presentation materials and sales scripts;
Telephone techniques, answering enquiries, tele-selling, client follow-up and customer service;
Customer retention and after sales programs;
Business systems and operating procedures;
Information quality, documentation and presentation; and
Product or service packaging and appearance.
You’re almost there! In fact, for most businesses, completing and actioning the above steps alone will result in vastly improved market positioning – as well as more streamlined internal and external communications, heightened brand recognition amongst consumers and a more cohesive operations and sales environment. It doesn’t have to end there though, particularly if your business is complex.
Step 5: Understand your camaTM
Businesses that offer a number of products or services, or that operate across a variety of industries or channels, face particular challenges in developing a single comprehensive market positioning approach. In many cases the level of complexity involved calls for a more structured, segmented method of assessing a business’ position across the breadth of spaces in which it operates.
Such circumstances merit the application of a strategically tailored competitive positioning approach, as can be done by examining Competitive Advantage and Market Attractiveness (camaTM).
nem has developed the camaTM method specifically for its Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) customers who need to operate within an efficient and cost-effective framework. This process is most simply represented through the following diagram.
Each of the coloured squares represents a market segment of some kind for a product or service. Each one has had its relative competitive advantage and market attractiveness (camaTM) score calculated according to our process, and plotted in the chart.
Segments where the market is highly attractive and the business has a strong competitive position (upper right quadrant) are the most attractive and worth cultivating. By contrast, weakly competitive segments or products in poor markets (bottom left quadrant) are areas which the business should note as currently less advantageous to be involved with.
nem will be happy to further discuss its camaTM approach, and how your business can leverage its insights for improved market positioning. If you’d like to know more, simply ask your nem Partner for our camaTM white paper which outlines the process.