Develop your unique selling proposition

In part 1 of this article we look at the benefits of developing a competitive USP.

How to develop a competitive USP

Step 1) Review business processes and key product and service attributes
This process is best done with the help of someone external to the business that can provide objective feedback. As a business owner or manager you can become so immersed in the business that it is often difficult to remove emotive opinions and you may suffer from blinkered perception.

Remember that you are trying to see your business offer from the customer’s point of view. What are the benefits they will receive from your company? What is in it for them – why should they care?

Not all businesses start with the customer in mind. Manufacturing based businesses can be very focused on the innovation and product development process. They can develop a new product because of a technology or process breakthrough rather than a direct customer requirement. The marketing and sales function is then tasked with trying to tease out the benefits and figure out how to sell the new offer.

Once you have defined the key benefits of your product or service offer then you can start to compare them with your competitors.

Step 2) Review competitor businesses
Use the internet to review your competitors and other comparable businesses. Look for information about how the company’s position themselves and how they promote their key benefits. How do they talk about their businesses? Look at things like tone of voice and writing style. What products and services are offered and what are their specialism’s?

Throughout the competitor review process you are focusing on two things; A) you are trying to understand the specific details of each individual competing business; B) you are trying to map out the industry or sector that you operate in and where your business is positioned relatively. These two pieces of information will help you determine what you need to say about your business to be different and how much competition you really have.

The business landscape is always changing, so the snapshot you are creating can become obsolete overnight. It pays to review your market at least once a year to see how it is developing. In technically fast moving markets you may have to build a continuous review process into your business to try and predict change and keep your business competitive.

Step 3) Outline clear competitive advantages
Once you have completed comprehensive competitor research and understand the comparative key benefits of your businesses’ product or service offer this stage should be relatively easy. Start creating a list of key aspects about your business that deliver customer benefits which are unique to you, which will establish you as a preferential supplier. This list of benefits will then become the foundation of your USP statement.

Step 4) Develop initial USP statement
You can begin to capture these on paper once you are confident you understand the unique elements of your business. A consideration when developing your USP is the application or when/where it will be used. You will often be required to list your business in directories or supplier lists, so having a great USP that is 30 to 40 words is very useful. The USP can be developed from a core version into several different length variations for when you have greater space to describe your business. Be mindful that you do not want to dilute the core powerful message of your statement by stretching it out too much.

When creating your USP statement you need to define the benefit statement in terms of the customer. Remember it is about your customer not your business – Use “you” and not “I” or “we”.

At Big Ed’s shoes we provide the biggest range of shoes in the southern hemisphere.

At Big Ed’s I know you will go crazy over the greatest range of shoes in Australasia.

At Big Ed’s you will find the biggest range of shoes in Australasia.

Following your initial analysis you could find that your offer is not unique or is at risk of being duplicated. At this point you may wish to go back to the drawing board to think about how to create new benefits or make your offer different. If your business model involves a discounting strategy or a volume based strategy, then differentiation may not be such a big issue as long as you can maintain your market share.

Step 5) Review and amend
You can now compare your new USP against other competitor’s statements to see how it stands up. It is a good idea to get a range of opinions on your new draft USP. Try to get some neutral opinions as well as those from friendly customers and key staff. Ask them if this statement represents what your business offers its customers and does it capture all the key benefits you offer.

When creating a future orientated positioning statement which portrays your business as you would like to see it in the future, there may well be a shortfall in how people currently perceive the business. This practical difference in perception can be used to help define the actions required to close the gap between your future positioning and the current position.

Step 6) Finalise USP and positioning
Refine your statement and when you have finished pat yourself on the back as you have achieved what many small businesses struggle to do.

As a result of this process you will have:
1. Greater awareness of your market place
2. More knowledge of who your competitors are
3. Greater understanding of
-Your strengths and weaknesses
-What makes your business different
-Your key marketing and sales messages
4. Greater consistency in your marketing and sales communications

You will now need to start to planning your promotional activity and set your marketing plans for the coming year.