You need to understand your product’s or service’s unique selling proposition before you can begin to sell it. In fact, you have to sell yourself on it before selling it to anyone else. This is especially important when your product or service is similar to those around you. Very few businesses are one-of-a-kind. Just look around you: How many clothing retailers, hardware stores, air conditioning installers and electricians are truly unique?
The key to effective selling in this situation is what advertising and marketing professionals call a “Unique Selling Proposition or (USP)“. Unless you can pinpoint what makes your business unique in a world of homogeneous competitors, you cannot target your sales efforts successfully.
But what is it exactly the definition of “Unique Selling Proposition?” According to Entrepreneur it is:
“The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition”
To me, the unique selling proposition is that one or few benefits(s) that your product or service provides to your customers that clearly stands out from the rest of competitors and that provides outstanding customer value. Pinpointing your product’s or service’s unique selling proposition requires some hard soul-searching and creativity. One way to start is to analyze how other companies use their USP’s to their advantage. This requires careful analysis of other companies’ ads and marketing messages. If you analyze what they say or sell, not just their product or service characteristics, you can learn a great deal about how companies distinguish themselves from competitors.
For example, Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, always used to say he sold hope, not makeup. Some airlines sell friendly service, while others sell on-time service. Neiman Marcus sells luxury, while Wal-Mart sells bargains.
Each of these is an example of a company that has found a USP “peg” on which to hang its marketing strategy. A business can peg its USP on product benefits, price structure, placement strategy (location and distribution) or promotional strategy. These are what marketers call the “four P’s” of marketing. They are adjusted to give a business a market position that sets it apart from the competition.
Here’s how to uncover your product’s or service’s unique selling proposition and use it to power up your sales:
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Too often, entrepreneurs fall in love with their product or service and forget that it is the customer’s needs, not their own, that they must satisfy. Step back from your daily operations and carefully scrutinize what your customers really want. Suppose you own a pizza shop. Sure, customers come into your pizza place for food. But is food all they want? What could make them come back again and again and ignore your competition? The answer might be quality, convenience, reliability, friendliness, cleanliness, courtesy or customer service.
Remember, price is never the only reason people buy. If your competition is beating you on pricing because they are larger, you have to find another sales benefit that addresses the customer’s needs and then build your sales and promotional efforts around that feature.
- Know what motivates your customers’ behavior and buying decisions. Effective marketing requires you to be an amateur psychologist. You need to know what drives and motivates customers. Go beyond the traditional customer demographics, such as age, gender, race, income and geographic location, that most businesses collect to analyze their sales trends. For our pizza shop example, it is not enough to know that 75 percent of your customers are in the 18-to-25 age range. You need to look at their motives for buying pizza-taste, peer pressure, convenience and so on.
Cosmetics companies are great examples of industries that know the value of psychologically oriented promotion. People buy these products based on their desires (for pretty women, luxury, glamor and so on), not on their needs.
- Uncover the real reasons customers buy your product instead of a competitor’s. As your business grows, you’ll be able to ask your best source of information: your customers. For example, the pizza entrepreneur could ask them why they like his pizza over others, plus ask them to rate the importance of the features the place offers, such as taste, size, ingredients, atmosphere and service. You will be surprised how honest people are when you ask how you can improve your service.
If your business is just starting out, you won’t have a lot of customers to ask yet, so “shop” your competition instead. Many retailers routinely drop into their competitors’ stores to see what and how they are selling. If you’re really brave, try asking a few of the customers after they leave the premises what they like and dislike about the competitors’ products and services.
Once you’ve gone through this three-step market intelligence process, you need to take the next–and hardest–step: clearing your mind of any preconceived ideas about your product or service and being brutally honest. What features and benefits of your business jump out at you as something that sets you apart? What can you promote that will make customers want to patronize your business? How can you position your business to highlight your unique selling proposition?
Don’t get discouraged. Successful business ownership is not about having a unique product or service; it’s about making your product stand out–even in a market filled with similar items in the same category. What do you think?
This post is adapted from an article published on Entrepreneur here.
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