In a crowded business market, how can you stand out from your competitors?
Historically, we have been accustomed to talking about unique selling points or propositions (USP). According to Dame Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop), every business large or small should have at least one USP.
The name - unique selling point – is interesting in itself. Customers are more interested in buying, not being sold to. So perhaps the terms should be re-named - unique buying proposition (UBP)?
However, a real or perceived uniqueness is obviously very important because it generally causes a potential customer to buy from you, rather than a competitor. However, for many businesses, they have no real uniqueness. Therefore, you might prefer to consider the strongest benefit(s) to your customers.
Deciding what your USP(s) is/are can be tricky, as one person’s USP is different from another. A common mistake, particularly in new start-up businesses, is to assume that price is a USP. It is not. It is most definitely a factor in the buying process, but it is not the most important. People often buy for emotional reasons i.e. how something makes them feel, rather than any practical consideration such as price.
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Whereas, you can be your own USP. Your standards, values, emphasis on quality can all be considered unique to your customers and may have them queuing around the block to buy your product or service.
A more recent and possibly more helpful acronym is unique perceived benefit (UPB). The UPB concept was originally devised by The Marketing Guild. This is a customer-focussed product; instead of looking at your product/service from the seller's point of view, you address the need from your customer's perspective.
It starts with knowing your target market segment really well. Who is your product or service aimed at? What do they want and need? Armed with this information, you should try to formulate a UPB to meet and satisfy your potential customers buying requirements.
Remember to distinguish between features eg what the product does (often technical) and a UPB. The features do little to attract your customers; a UPB does a lot! It is important to adapt any product or service offer (USP, UPB) according to how it is used in the selling process. For example:
- When cold calling or speaking to a potential customer by telephone, your product/service offer or proposition is generally broad and can amount to no more than a long sentence
- In any promotional literature and enquiry follow-up letters, your proposition should be more detailed than just a sentence or two
- In formal proposals and detailed presentations, the proposition can often extend to several paragraphs
Developing strong, meaningful and unique perceived benefits that help you stand out from your competitors is not easy. It requires good insight and understanding of your prospective customers or target sector to arrive at something that works well. This takes time and inevitably, will also require some patience, trial and error.