Differentiate or Die! Discovering your USP!

Commonly referred to as USP, the Unique Selling Proposition can also be known as Unique Selling Position, Unique Marketing Advantage, Competitive Edge Analysis, or any number of ‘tri-letter’ acronyms. The bottom line is that, whatever it’s called, the USP is the thing which sets you apart from your competitors:

Establishing the USP is one of the first and most important things that must be done in order to maximise the impact of your Target Marketing. Everything from that point onwards is then based on whatever had been determined as the business’s USP.

How to determine a USP?

If done right, determining a USP will take several weeks. This is because it’s not just about your opinion of what is unique. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you think about the business, it matters what the customers think. There is a wealth of information just sitting there waiting to be tapped, so its important to include customers in the process.

The first thing to do though is to develop a strategy for determining your USP. Here’s a list of things that need to be done when developing a USP.

1.      Go through, from your perspective, what you believe is unique about your business. Things to look for are the things that you believe set you apart from your competitors. Is it one of the four Ps:

a.      Price

b.      Promotion

c.       Product

d.      Place

Or is it something else:

e.       your guarantee (a guarantee on steroids)

f.        originality (KFC is a good example)

g.      décor (do you stand out?)

h.      theme (is it unusual?)

i.        product range (is it extensive?)

j.        product exclusivity (is it unique?)

k.      age of business (the longest running establishment::.)

l.        discount policy (aggressively discounting in bulk)

m.    value (the best value in town)

n.      service (the most outstanding service in town)

2.      Dig deep, ask lots of questions. This list is not exhaustive, there are many other areas which could be used to ascertain your USP

There’s a café in a small country Victorian town called Beechworth. The café in this small town now has seating for over 300 people. Why? Because he knew what his USP was and exploited it. The town was known for the fact that Ned Kelly stayed there just one night. It’s a quiet serene little town, and it’s off the major routes. And yet he has the highest grossing café in the country. How does he do this? Quite simply, he identified his USP and ensured that everything that he did incorporated maximising his USP.

3.      Once you have gone through the first part of identifying your USP, the next step is for you to ‘cross reference’ it with your customers. Unfortunately it’s not just a simple matter of asking them “what do you think is unique about my business”. The customers, like the owner, have little time, so they will need to be led and perhaps even given a ‘small incentive’ for helping out. 

4.      So, the next step is to develop some guidelines for the customers in order for them to help you.

5.      A simple hand-written questionnaire would suffice, you should be able to draw up a simple checklist on the computer. Once done, simply ask your customers to ‘tick and flick’ responses to the questions. It’s that simple… However, as you can see, it may be necessary to provide some incentive for their efforts. A free something or other, of some added value of some sort.

6.     Whilst the questionnaire will cover many of the points listed previously, there is one question that is a must for your customers: “Why do YOU come here?” What is the reason they pass all your competitors and come to you? If the answer to this question becomes a common theme, then you’re on the way to identifying your USP.

7.      In many cases, depending on the relationship with your customers you may be able to actually sit down with them over a cup of coffee and actually discuss with them what they think is unique about your business. This is often the best way to get honest and detailed feedback.

8.      The next step is then to ask your team member’s opinions. Remember, by now your team members should be ‘wanting’ to contribute, so let them. The process here is no different to what has already been discussed. Also, it makes no difference the order in which customers or team members are asked, so long as they both get the opportunity to give their opinions.

9.      As a minimum, the areas you would want to cover in the survey are:

  •          The things the customer/ team member likes about your business.
  •          The things they don’t like.
  •          Do they use your competitor, if so, how often, and why
  •          Are you providing what the competitor is providing?
  •          Are you not?
  •          Why do they come here?

For the team member:

i)  do they recommend friends and family to use your business? If not,
     find out why!

ii)  what is the most common customer complaint

It’s important that you stress the need for open communication and honesty if customer’s or team members try to be ‘gentle’ on you feeling it will be doing them a disservice.

The final step is to then take all the ideas that have been generated from the customer feedback and from the team member’s feedback. Look for common and consistent comments. Narrow them down to 3 key comments. 

Whichever of these forms the most consistent theme becomes your USP.