Most marketers have probably heard the question ‘What is your USP?’ a few times. In marketing speak, a USP – or unique selling proposition – is basically what makes one business stand out from its competitors.
It’s a way to distinguish yourself in a world where everything seems to blend together. A USP is not about being the best, or pleasing everyone, but about doing what you do well, in a different way than your competitor.
Small businesses owners may wonder, “How can I differentiate myself from the gorilla down the street with all the resources I don’t have?” It sounds more daunting that it really is. In fact, look around, and you’ll be able to list quite a few small businesses that are quite unique and successful. To make things easier, here are a few tips to define your own USP:
- Listen first. As entrepreneurs, we sometimes make the mistake of projecting our own preferences into our businesses. In reality, though, we’re in business to satisfy our customers’ needs and wants. A touch of personality should be part of our persona (to avoid the sterile royal “we” of larger corporations), but don’t overdo it, or lose sight of what your target market really wants. You may have a stellar product or service, but if the market isn’t ready for it – or worse, doesn’t care about it – it’s only stellar to you.
- Become a detective. Find out why your customers chose you over your competitors. Go beyond the traditional customer demographics, such as age, gender, and income – survey or conduct interviews to gain deeper, more valuable insights. Find out what motivated them to do business with you.
- Be yourself. Who cares if your competitor has the big posh shop with granite counter tops? There is a market for small shops, too – and many customers prefer to do business with the little guys. So put a healthy dose of your brand’s distinctive flavor on whatever you do, whether it may be in your décor, or your super-friendly, knowledgeable staff. Avoid being generic and following the crowd. You’ll only get lost, and it will damage your business.
- Don’t try to please both Greeks and Trojans. You can’t be it all for everyone – it’s impossible. Start by defining your customer persona (scope out our checklist, 5 Tips to Creating Your Customer Persona), and focus just on those targeted prospects.
Remember: What makes your business successful is not always a unique product or service (think about it: there are only a few truly unique products and services in the world – just about everything has some sort of a substitute). What makes your business successful is how you stand out from the crowd.