Can you answer these questions about your brand?
– What is the one thing your brand does better than others?
– What gap in the market are you targeting with your products?
– In what ways aren’t your target audience having their ideas met (and why)?
– What do you know about your target audience that your competitors don’t realise?
– What is the one thing that would make your products sell like hotcakes, if only people knew about them?
All of these questions go towards helping you identify the unique selling point (USP) of your business, sometimes referred to as your unique selling point.
Most brands are aware of the concept; in fact, if you haven’t gone bust you’re either consciously or subconsciously aware of it on some level. But you’d be surprised how many brands can’t answer the above questions.
O.K, here’s another question for you:
Is your USP as fully realised as it possibly can be?
If you’re reading this blog, probably not. And that’s ok. If your brand had no room for improvement or growth you’d either be the richest person on the planet or seriously stuck in a rut.
So, let’s take a look at some ways you can develop your USP.
Preach to the converted
Influencers are often accused of “preaching to the converted” by targeting messages to people who already agree with their key values. But this can actually be an advantage for your brand.
Don’t worry about trying to win over people who are sceptical of you; as marketing guru Seth Godin wrote a few years back:
“Instead of working so hard to prove the skeptics wrong, it makes a lot more sense to delight the true believers. They deserve it, after all, and they’re the ones that are going to spread the word for you.”
Cut to the chase
Developing your USP is not about dressing up your products to be something they aren’t, or an attempt to pretend that you’re solving all problems at once, it’s about providing simple solutions and conveying this fact as simply as possible.
Here are two of the most effective slogans in recent years:
Ronseal – “it does exactly what it says on the tin”
MasterCard – “for everything else there’s MasterCard”
Cutting to the chase is definitional for these brand’s USPs. MasterCard acknowledge that old adage that money can’t bring you happiness, but they update it to say something unique about their brand. Although money is not the most important thing in your life, when it comes to handling your money, MasterCard are the best at it. This inverts the materialism that characterises a lot of other brands, and makes MasterCard seem approachable, down-to-earth and relatable. How does this connect to MasterCard’s USP? Well, their USP is handling financial transactions as smoothly and reliably as possible, whilst letting you live your life.
Ronseal hone in on the functionality of their brand. They know that their audience has a simple job they want to get done, and they’re looking for a no-nonsense solution. Ronseal’s USP is being as non-salesy as possible and provides this no-nonsense solution to common DIY problems. The brand and their messaging fit like hand and glove.
Reach out to your audience
Effective brands develop a close relationship with their audience. By doing this they get into the mindset of the people who use your products, and understand their wants and desires.
Think about what communities of people are interested in the products or services you provide, and make a point to reach out to them. That might be taking to a question answering service like Quora to help answer people’s brand queries, or being part of a community relevant to your niche.
Your USP is something that evolves over the years, through an ongoing process of refinement. If you run a local cafe, gym, or DIY store, check out events going on in your area. Is there any way you can be part of the community on which your business relies? By rubbing shoulders with your audience you will be able to gain greater insights into how your brand is relevant to them. Maybe you’ll discover a need that isn’t being met, or find an angle for your marketing activities that you hadn’t realised before.
Price is not a USP
If the answer to “what is your USP?” is “we’re the cheapest”, you need to go back to the drawing board.
Sure, there are brands who base their USP around price, like Lidl or Poundland, but unless you have the infrastructure to operate a global chain with a huge economy of scale, you’re just not going to win a price war anytime soon.
And what’s more, price is rarely the biggest thing on people’s minds when looking for products or services. Of course, you have to understand the purchasing power of your audience and not price yourself out of the market, but a well-developed USP will actually make price less relevant to consumers.
Brands like FedEx have reliability as their USP, and Dominos pizza offer a guaranteed 30-minute delivery time. Are they the cheapest brands in their niche? No, but their USP is not about being cheap.
Study your most successful competitors
There is simply no substitute for learning from the best. Familiarise yourself with your competitors and study their USPs. Ask yourself what elements make up their USP, understand how it is articulated, and how it relates to your own USP. And don’t worry if your rivals appear to be unassailable behemoths. Take a phone service provider like GiffGaff; when they look at their competition they see faceless corporations offering inflexible tariffs that lock people in to long contracts. GiffGaff’s USP is about the values of freedom and community spirit, whilst offering flexible services.
GiffGaff don’t try and compete on the same scale as Vodafone or Three, but instead reach out to a much smaller community of people who share their communal and ethical values.
Having a strong USP is not about being all things to all people; it’s about having an identifiable community of people that you are in the best position to relate to, and showing them how you can offer them the solutions they are looking for.