Whether you run a mom-and-pop store, an e-commerce business or a startup, you need to find the unique selling proposition (USP) of your business. You need to know what makes you different from or better than all of your competition, or you could get lost among the crowd.
What does USP mean?
A USP is the unique quality that sets your business apart from the thousands of other businesses out there. The distinguishing factor that makes your customers come back, again and again, for your products or services.
The concept of a USP was introduced by Rosser Reeves of the legendary Ted Bates advertising agency way back in the 1940s. According to him, a USP is what gives marketing campaigns an extra jolt and makes customers notice and connect with the product.
Even if it sounds cliche, there's no denying that without a USP, your business is like a ship that has lost its rudder. The USP is what steers all of your business operations on the right path. So how do you identify the USP of your business?
Identify your USP in 7 simple steps
This definitive guide includes a step-by-step approach to figuring out the USP of your business. By the time you finish reading it, you will have a clear strategy for identifying and defining your USP. Let's get started.
Step 1: Brainstorm ideas.
Creating the USP of a business is not the task for a single individual; it's a team effort. It should include people from all teams – customer support, marketing, sales, finance, IT, product development, HR and more. Get them together and start collecting ideas.
Start by asking your team what they think separates your business from your competitors. Initially, you may get only vague answers like "our product is better," "we provide better customer service," "we have more experience," etc.
But that's OK. Don't be judgmental. Remember, this is a brainstorming session, and all you're doing is gathering ideas. Keep a record of all the input, as we'll come back to it later.
Step 2: Identify your customer.
Very often, businesses make the mistake of promoting their products and services without understanding their target audience. You need to identify your potential customers based on their age, location, gender, earning levels and other such characteristics.
You can then group them into different buyer personas. Try to be specific. The more you're able to define the characteristics of your target audience, the better.
Step 3: Analyze your competitors.
This step is all about market research. Before you find out what makes your product unique, you have to discover what's available to your target audience. Start by listing your direct competitors. Then it's time to do an in-depth analysis of each of them.
Find similar products offered by competitors. Focus on how your competitors promote their products. Take a look at their social media pages, websites and other marketing materials.
At this stage, you are trying to get a clear picture of all your competing products, their strengths, weaknesses and more.
Step 4: List your strengths.
This step is all about finding your strengths. What makes your products better? Is your pricing competitive? Do you make it easier for the customer to order products? Do customers like your free delivery option? What are the features that make your product stand out?
The idea here is that once you identify your strengths, you can market them to attract your target audience.
Step 5: Know your weaknesses.
This is a crucial step and shouldn't be skipped. It's only when you are aware of your weaknesses that you can come up with a strategy to overcome them.
For instance, if your products are priced higher than competitors' because you offer extra features, then make sure that you don't mention pricing in your marketing.
Identify your weaknesses so that you know not to mention them and discover what needs improving.
Step 6: Figure out what makes you unique.
This is the crux of this whole exercise – what makes you unique? How do you stand out from your competitors?
Using all of the data collected in the previous steps, think about the features that make your brand distinct. This could include data from the input of your employees, your strengths and weaknesses, etc.
Think of something that none of your competitors offer, something that resonates with the needs of your target audience. Look for that magic element in your business that isn't found anywhere else. Voila, this is your USP.
Step 7: Translate your USP into the right words.
This is the final step. Try creating short phrases using the feature you arrived at in the previous step. Be clear and concise.
Stay away from big words that make it difficult for the customer to connect with your brand. Remember, keep your USP short and sweet for maximum impact.
Some examples of popular USPs to inspire you:
Let's take a look at the USPs of some famous businesses, to give you an idea of why they work.
"We're number two. We try harder." – Avis.
This is my all-time favorite USP. I love how the car rental brand has transformed their weakness into a sign of positivity. They don't want to be stuck at No. 2, and they've managed to convince their customers they will give their all to move up. The best part – they express all of this in six short words.
"Love your beverage. Or let us know, we'll make it right." – Starbucks
We all know that Starbucks isn't the cheapest coffee brand out there, nor are they the most luxurious. So how do you transform a brand that's somewhere in the middle to the world's most popular brand? They tap into what all coffee lovers expect – getting a drink tailored to their specific tastes. This is Starbucks' USP, and they've nailed it perfectly.
"Sheer driving pleasure." – BMW
Nothing more needs to be said. BMW knows what they are good at and they communicate that message effectively.
Ultimately, it all comes down to one question ...
Your USP is all about answering these questions from your customers: "Why you?" "Why should I buy from you?" or "Why should I hire your services?"
Remember that your USP is the core personality of your business. It is the sole reason why people should be willing to spend their hard-earned money on your business.
Keep it simple, short and genuine. Once you have uncovered your USP, use it consistently in all of your branding and marketing strategies to attract your target audience.
Do you have any other tried-and-tested methods to discover the USP of a business? Have I missed anything? Share your thoughts in the comments below.