If you want your business to succeed, it must stand apart from its competitors. Your business must be unique in some way, otherwise shoppers will have little reason to choose your company over another.
It's important that you establish a unique selling proposition, or USP, for your business. The right USP can mean great success (take a look at businesses like Apple and Facebook), but the lack of one usually means failure. You can take inspiration from other businesses when building your own, but without a unique factor that sets you apart, success will be hard to achieve.
What is a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
Simply put, a unique selling proposition is the answer to the age old question “why should I buy from/work with your company?”
Take a look at Apple to get an idea of effective selling propositions. Apple creates devices that are technologically on-par with their competitors, but they stand out for a very distinct reason: they sell a unique lifestyle. iPhones and MacBooks are a universal symbol of productivity and class – two characteristics many individuals wish to have. While companies like LG and Samsung create more technologically advanced phones, Apple still sells millions of iPhones each year. Why? Because they have an effective USP.
Unique Selling Proposition vs. Being the Best
A unique selling proposition eliminates the need for you to be the best in your niche. Naturally, you want to sell high-quality products that are objectively better than your competitors, but you don't have to put extra resources into outdoing them in product quality alone. Instead, you should use a unique selling proposition in conjunction with high-quality products to help your business grow. Your customers won't care if your products are objectively better than your competitors if they have another valid reason to choose your business.
Another excellent example of an effective USP comes from TOMS shoes. The company sells very basic espadrille shoes, but they donate part of each purchase to charity. Shoppers can buy espadrille shoes from another company for half the price, but somehow TOMS is topping their competition in sales – despite their shoes being double the cost of many others.
Why is this? TOMS doesn't focus on selling the best shoes – they focus on selling a lifestyle. By wearing TOMS shoes, you're showing others that you've supported an ethical company and a great cause. TOMS shoes are a symbol of philanthropy for many, and philanthropy is the company's USP. They sell the same shoes as their competitors, but their USP makes quality a non-issue.
Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition
The hardest part of establishing an effective USP is finding the selling point you wish to focus on. What about your product or your company will you market to your audience? How will you make your company stand apart from others?
Identify Your Target Audience
Creating your unique selling point comes down to you. If you borrow a unique selling point from another company, it's no longer unique and may not serve its purpose for your company. Start by identifying your target audience – create customer personas to get an idea of who might buy your product. Outline the age group, gender, and interests of your ideal customer. Discuss what they are looking for in your product, and understand how it helps them. Put yourself in your customer's shoes to better understand them, and use this information to create a unique selling proposition that will appeal to them.
Next, you'll need to think of a specialty. You might think that you are narrowing your potential audience by specializing in one niche over another, but studies show quite the opposite – by narrowing your services or products to a very specific topic, you'll actually attract more customers.
Your specialty will largely rely on what it is you are selling. If you're selling athletic equipment, focus on sport. If you're selling clothes, focus on a specific style. As you grow, you can always expand, but specializing early will help you reach your target audience more effectively, and will give you fewer businesses to compete with.
Finally, take a look at some ideas that could work well together to create a unique product or service. LinkedIn is a perfect example – they bring business and social media together. By using LinkedIn, individuals can find jobs or employees, post their resume, and share interesting posts. The platform essentially combines Facebook and Upwork, into one fantastic, very successful social media platform.
Try to find a specific need that hasn't been met by your product. In the case of LinkedIn, the creator noticed that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter didn't put enough of a focus on business. Outline potential needs of your customers, and look for ways you can solve multiple problems with one product or service.
Know Your Audience
When you're creating your unique selling proposition, it's important to remember that you're not selling to everyone. You'll never create a product that appeals to everyone in your niche, so don't spend any time trying to do so. There will always be shoppers who don't like your ideas, and others who will choose your competitors. Instead, focus on those who are interested in your products, and do everything you can to appeal to your target audience. If your target audience is choosing your company over your competitors, your unique selling proposition is doing its job.
Be Unique, But Not Too Unique
You also want to avoid USP's that are too unique. Yes you want your business to stand out, but selling products that serve no purpose isn't the way to go. It doesn't matter how unique your products are if they serve no rational purpose. An idea like rugs for your ceiling would have trouble getting off the ground, because there is no call for such product. Be unique, but be rational – sell products people want, not products that make them think “Why does this exist?”
It's important to note that you can succeed without a fantastic USP, but having one will most certainly help your business grow. You can succeed in any niche by offering high-quality products and great customer service, however you may not grow as quickly. Ultimately, it depends on what you are selling, and what your market buys. You don't necessarily need a USP to succeed, but having one will only help you grow more quickly.
What are some unique selling propositions you've seen? How did you come up with your unique selling proposition? Let us know in the comments below!