One of the concepts that is most likely to have any small business owner scratching their head is the concept of USP: Unique Selling Proposition (or Unique Selling Point). The Oxford English Dictionary defines a USP as:
A unique set of characteristics or features for a service or product, which can be used to differentiate an item from a competitor’s equivalent offering to provide a competitive sales advantage.
Business books are very good at telling the small business owner that as part of any sales or marketing activity it is vital to identify the USP for a service or product, but offer little guidance on how this can be accomplished. Whilst the method of identifying a USP will vary from service to service or product to product, the following steps can help you on this rather complex business process.
Start with what is the same
As a starting point, make a list of everything your service or product has, that is also present in your competitor’s equivalent. By creating a list of the similar attributes, it allows you to set these aside to identify the differences.
Assume that people will assume
When a customer is presented with a unique view, people will imagine the items which are not explicitly stated. As an example, if I were to advertise a hotel, situated in a pleasant country setting, with indoor swimming pool, spa and 5-star restaurant, you make a lot of assumptions. You assume you get a room, a bed, a TV in the room etc. Why waste the space on what every hotel has unless these features are part of the uniqueness (such as 4-poster bed, in room fire etc).
Ask Other People (including Customers)
If you have existing customers for your product or service, ask them what the unique features are and why they selected your service or product. There may be things that you have never even thought of. If you don’t yet have customers, ask friends for their view – it’s always useful to have an outside view of the situation.
Avoid the watered down USP
In todays over saturated marketplace, it is far too easy to treat customers as idiots, and assume that they will fall for watered down qualities or features. Throw away terms such as “100% guaranteed” or “Cutting Edge” mean nothing and are unlikely to be a USP when everybody else is saying the same thing. Avoid such phrases to leave space and impact for the true USPs.
Create a new USP
One of the tools that big companies use is to create new markets, features and USPs for their product. Hair products are especially good at this; when did shampoos move from being basic hair cleaning products to complex beauty products with pro-biotic complex serums? Create an impressive term for your product as a USP, but be cautious of using something so complex, people struggle to understand it.