No matter what business you are in, this is the one question you should ask yourself everyday. If your sales are up or down; if your rankings are up or down. Big brand or small mom and pop shop. You should always be striving to be able to answer that question with more than just “because we are the best.” Best is subjective and in this world of low barriers to entry, you need a good answer to that question.
Not sure how to answer that question? It’s not just about being what the Harvard Business Review calls category creators (you must pay to view, sorry guys), the people that create an entire new business idea. It can be a number of things that we’ll review in a minute, but the point is that you need this not only for your business as a whole, you need it for many parts of your business. A good unique selling proposition (USP) is beneficial for:
- Your sales team. This is the easy one to figure out. If you have a product or service that has a long lead time, your sales team needs something to help them do their jobs.
- Targeting. A USP is critical for any marketing research into target markets and communities. If you don’t have one, this research can help you identify one.
- Traditional Marketing Campaigns. Print ads, PPC ads, public relations, it is all so much better with something that you are better at than anyone else.
- Link Building. See #2 and #3. This is state of search, and search is still about links. Want good links? You have to have something to link to.
There are probably a million other reasons you need a USP for business, but it’s that last one most of State of Search readers are interested in. The top down approach of that list is to show you how important this information is for the bigger picture. If you work for a bigger business, this information is most likely somewhere in your business. And if it doesn’t, there is a valid reason to spend company resources to figure it out.
Now, what can be your USP. Again, it’s not all about the newest product or feature. Here are some distinguishes that might make sense for your business.
- Innovative Product or Feature
While it’s not the only USP, it is the most common option. It also happens to be the hardest to do and easiest to duplicate. These USPs are typically short-lived unless the business gets a patent on the product or feature.
- Quality of Product/Service
This is what we see from brands like Gucci or Coach, all the way down to vintage jewelry sellers on Etsy. If your product can be see as higher quality (physical product or intangible), it can be seen as a distinguishing factor. It is harder to convince consumers of this USP without proof. Ads don’t count as proof.
Sometimes the easiest USP, usually the hardest to maintain without substantial loss of profit to the business. Competing on price is a tactic like a new feature or product that can be easily duplicated. Unless you’re Amazon.
For small businesses, this is a winning tactic in many cases. Opening a pizza place in New York City? That won’t work, but if you are a web designer opening your shop in a small town in Iowa will probably bring you more business than trying to compete for the same business as 250 other shops in Chicago.
- Customer Service
Zappos made this one popular and it can still be applied to many businesses. This is more than offering free returns, those can be cost-prohibitive for most businesses. It’s more about identifying what your customers need from your customer service team and ensuring that the customer service team has the resources and power to make your customers happy, the first time.
- Community Focus
There are many businesses that do this as a distinguishing factor, Target and Whole Foods come to mind first. Philanthropy is more than just a tax write off. There are better reasons than that. Focusing on the community not only gives your employees a sense of purpose and a reason to come to work everyday, it gives your customers a reason to really love you.
- Focus on Target Market
Out of ideas? Go after a specific target market. Not the broad 18-55 male market, finding a target market is more focused than that. Rather than going after marathon runners or Crossfit athletes, go for the starter athletes. Those that do mini-triathlons or kettle bell students. Starting in a smaller market can help get your business into larger markets over time and give your marketing team a more focused target.
- Be the Educator
In a slimy industry? Do your potential customers have nothing but misinformation to rely on? Change that. Be the change, be the educator, be the company they turn to because no one else would shoot them straight. Building the brand equity before trying to sell your potential customers is typically a very worthy investment.
- Breadth of Selection
One stop shopping. I’ve seen this listed on some other USP lists. Truthfully, I personally am tired of this one. It’s the marketplace trend that is currently taking over the web. In the US at least, every major retailer from Best Buy to Sears wants to offer everything that is remotely related to their business in the hopes of becoming the place people shop for anything. Retailers trying to be Wal-Mart or Amazon. It’s an option and does have the chance of helping your customers get everything they want in one place. But then again, Amazon does that already. Why you? We are back to that.
- To be continued …
Did I miss any? What’s yours? If I missed one, I’ll be happy to add yours (and maybe link to your company). Please spend time today or this week thinking about what your USP is and make sure that your entire organization knows. It can be you and your cat, or your team of 20 plus the heads of other parts of your business.
And then share this information with your online marketing team. A good USP gives a community manager, outreach team, and online marketing agency the direction they need to build the right kinds of relationships to reach the right customers via many channels … especially search. Building
relationships links is not easy, knowing the USP is critical to the success of any outreach effort. With a good USP, the team building relationships knows who to target and what to say to get people interested in your website/business. Otherwise all they are going to get back is dead air, which is the same as the target influencer saying “Why Should I Choose You?”