Take a close look at any business that has been thriving over the last few years, and there’s a very strong chance you’ll see it has a clear USP, or Unique Selling Point.
It’s something you need to develop as you start your own business. A USP is much more than just a way of positioning your business in marketing materials. It’s something that needs to be at the very core of what you are doing – part of your business’s DNA, if you like.
What is a Unique Selling Proposition or USP?
So what is a Unique Selling Proposition? It’s the thing which sets your product or service apart from your competitors in the minds of your customers and potential customers. It gives your business its edge and makes it stand out.
Look at the words that make it up. Unique means no other business does it yet, and Selling Point means the reason a customer chooses to spend money with you – i.e. not just a gimmick, a reason to buy.
If you’re the only business in your industry that gives free postage & packing, no matter what the order value, that’s a USP. If your garage always valets customers’ cars – even if they’ve only popped in to get a tyre changed, that’s a USP.
Beware of thinking that competing on price or service is a USP – for a small business it can’t be, because it’s not unique. Most businesses think they offer the best service and are competitive on price. Actually only giant players like Tesco and Asda can genuinely use low prices as a USP.
Develop a strong USP and your customers will focus less on price
In fact, if you can develop a strong genuine USP, the prices your business charges becomes less important. Customers will pick your business for the USP and may be willing to pay a little extra. This can only be a good thing, as customers that pick you on price will leave you on price when someone cheaper comes along.
You can develop your own USP before you start up or once you’ve been trading for a while. In a way it’s easier to work it out once you’ve got a few satisfied customers under your belt, as the reason why people first buy from your new venture might not be what you were expecting.
Ask happy customers why they chose you and keep track of the answers. Spot a trend? There’s your USP.
It’s vital to know that because a USP is something that exists in the customers’ minds, it’s more about perception than reality. You may set out to have the best quality in the marketplace, but if your customers actually pick you because the staff are friendly then that’s your USP.
A strong USP helps you to focus your marketing efforts
Once you know your USP and it’s been tested against customers, marketing your business suddenly becomes a lot easier. You just play up the USP and don’t allow anything to happen that could detract from it.
The USP of Krispy Kreme is that the doughnuts are baked several times a day on the premises. They market this by giving delicious hot fresh doughnuts away all the time, and tell repeat customers that the oven’s on with a unique red “hot now” sign that is supposedly only illuminated when the oven is actually on.
Incidentally, because that’s the USP, when Krispy Kreme allows old cold doughnuts to be sold in supermarkets, it’s damaging the integrity of its brand in trying to gain an extra revenue stream.
Ronseal’s USP is also its strap line – “It does exactly what it says on the tin”. Which actually means reliable and simple.
Tips to help you develop a USP for your small business
For a small business, a USP has to be simple and easy to maintain. I’ve been going to the same garage for 10 years because they talk to me like a human every single time, rather than assuming that as a man I should know what a sprocket-thingy valve is.
Your USP could be that you open Sundays. Or that you’ll never used automated phone lines. Or that your taxi company texts passengers when the car is 5 minutes away. Or that your handymen are all women.
All of these examples are really easy to market, because the reason to buy and the message is clear. Without a USP, you may find marketing your business a struggle. Which is a shame, when such a simple concept can make it far easier for you to generate more customers and boost your profits.
More tips to help your marketing and grow your sales
You will find dozens of practical guides on ByteStart to help improve your marketing and make more sales. Try the following for starters;
- 7 Brilliant branding tips for start-ups
- 5 common branding mistakes to avoid making with your small business
- The best way to make business networking work for you
- 5 ways to maximise your business with social media
- The 10 business development truths that will give you an edge over your competitors
And these guides will help you to get your new business up and running and on the right track;
- Top 10 business planning tips for start-ups
- 5 things you must do when you go self employed
- The start-up survival guide – 6 practical tips to help you get through the early years
- The power of the ‘pilot’ – 3 good reasons why you should test your new business before launch
- Which business structure should you choose for your new business – sole trader, limited company, partnership or LLP?