Have you ever had those awkward moments when you are trying to explain what your business does and the most you get out of the other person is a dazed look?
If you can’t explain what makes your business stand out in five minutes, how can you expect to attract prospects?
The idea of unique selling points has evolved from the concept developed by American advertising executive, Rosser Reeves, who incidentally is said to have been one of the models for the Mad Men television series’ Don Draper character.
Reeves’ original concept was very much about claiming something distinctive about your product that competitors didn’t have or couldn’t provide the way you could. M&Ms’ “melt in your mouth, not in your hand” is one of Rosser’s most famous USP creations.
By the way, the “unique” part is generally seen as relative to an existing product/service. We’ve already got Black Caviar or Makybe Diva as unique horses — unicorns are not required.
Five steps to find your unique selling points
1. Ask your customers
The people who do business with you already have gone through some process of decision making that put you at the top of their preferred supplier list. They represent one of the best ways for you to define your unique selling points.
If you ask them to help you in the context of your wanting to provide even better service and still be around for the long haul, you may be pleasantly surprised at how helpful many of them will be. Keep the enquiry short and simple, and let them know you will share with them the results of your survey.
2. Find the current pain points for your target market
What are the problems people want solved? How can your products or services meet their needs in an outstanding and satisfying way?
A bit of web browsing will show you that too many small businesses lead with a whole lot of information about themselves and what great products or services they have — not about the customer’s needs.
Social media offers unprecedented opportunity to “listen in” on what your market is saying and what concerns or frustrations are being expressed. Using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn Groups and other social networking platforms just to listen — as distinct from promoting and engaging — can be a valuable investment to help you develop your unique selling points.
3. Study your competitors
It’s easy enough for small businesses to get discouraged about competing with companies that are bigger, with more staff and deeper pockets. But those companies may not be getting it right, may become complacent, or may be falling down on customer service.
Again, the new transparency available with social media can help us see where other companies in our field are just not getting it right. When we know we have the ability, the resources and track record to be able to bridge that performance gap, we have another unique selling point to add.
4. Brainstorm with your team
If we expect to get buy-in from the market, it is good practice to get it first from our own team. A brainstorming session, with the whiteboard and the butcher’s paper and all, is a great way to engage staff to come up with a compelling list of unique selling points. This can start with sharing the results of steps 1 to 3 above.
For a solo business, I recommend finding a friend or colleague to help with the brainstorming. Ideally they will be in business too and will probably value seeing how the process works. They may ask you to reciprocate at some stage.
5. Check to ensure your claims are credible and legal
We might believe we have the best company in our industry, whether in our country or globally. But to be believable we need to be able to provide some form of validation for that — for example, a prestigious “best of” industry award.
And if we or our marketing people are feeling a bit daring, it would be a good idea to make sure our claims can stand scrutiny in relation to trade practices and consumer laws and regulations in the markets we are selling into. Australian business expert Peter Switzer has an article on this, Choose your USP carefully: it’s short, to the point and well worth the read.