If you want consumers to buy from you, to choose you over the many competitors out there, you have to give them a compelling reason to do so. This reason is known as your unique selling proposition (USP).
As with other branding basics, it’s crucial that you give some in-depth thought to the concept. And if you don’t have a clear, meaningful USP, head back to the drawing board to develop one. Because if you can’t see a good reason to choose you, how can you expect anyone else to?
Aligning Your USP, Brand, and Target Market
For example, if you sell a high-end luxury item, your market won’t be sold on you because you’re the cheapest. In fact, they’re more likely to be attracted to you if you’re the most expensive. Or the only one using some rare, exotic material or ingredient.
If you offer a delivery service, people might care that you’re the fastest. But if you’re a wedding planner, promoting yourself as the fastest service probably won’t make a whole lot of sense. Or sales.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Certain questions are enormously helpful in nailing down a believable, compelling unique selling proposition. Write down one-sentence answers. Be honest and concrete; don’t resort to empty words like “the best” and don’t say something “I offer the fastest service” if you can’t quantify it and back it up. One answer may hold the key to your unique selling proposition, or a theme may emerge between multiple answers.
- Why should someone do business with me over all my competitors?
- Does my product/service have an important feature that none of my competitors have?
- Does my product/service solve a problem that’s always existed in my competitors’ products/services?
- Is there something about my pricing that’s different from all competitors?
- Is there something I can guarantee that none of my competitors can?
- Do I serve a unique segment of the population as my target market?
- Is my product/service available from a different source than that of my competitors?
- Does my staff do something that none of my competitors’ staffs do?
- Does my brand market itself in a way that none of my competitors do?
- Does choosing to buy from me benefit a cause my target audience cares about?
Is Your Unique Selling Proposition Secure?
So let’s say you decide that you really do offer the fastest service or the cheapest product, and that this is of utmost importance to your target market. What happens when a new competitor comes along who’s just a little faster or a little cheaper?
If you could figure out a way to pull it off, the chances are good someone else will come along sooner or later who figured out how to pull it off again.
Some USPs can be legally protected by patent or copyright, or perhaps by some complex, well-guarded proprietary formula. But that’s not usually the case, especially for small businesses. If your USP is unique to your field or industry but not all that unique in the business world in general, it’s unlikely to remain true in the long run.
The solution lies in taking the rest of your branding as seriously as your unique selling proposition. If you can successfully intertwine your USP with every aspect of your brand, it becomes much more secure.
If you’re the single funniest children’s entertainer for birthday parties in Orlando, you need to make sure that’s what people think when they hear your name, see your logo, visit your website, or see one of your ads in a magazine. Because someone funnier might come along.
But if that unique selling proposition is solidly built into all your branding—if you become synonymous with it—it’s part of your reputation. You own it. You can bank on it. And any funny competitor who comes along will have a Herculean task ahead of them if they want to usurp that USP.
That’s the power of branding.