Most small business owners mistakenly assume their USP (unique selling position/proposition) is having the lowest price or great customer service. This faulty thinking could be why your market is choosing your competitors.
Competitive differentiation is what separates a start-up business from a sustainable business. Everyday we make choices and decisions on purchases and services. Why do we choose one service over another? Most likely, it is the USP. That USP may be low price, quality, selection, style, corporate responsibility, environmental stewardship, an emotional connection or a wide variety of other things that everyday businesses use to differentiate themselves from the pack. Unfortunately, most small businesses still do not understand the power and leverage that comes from exploiting their USP. Most don’t know what their USP is.
For clarity, Ford Kanzler with PR Savvy asks, “What single, unique benefit does a customer derive from your products or services? This point of differentiation must not be a claim already being made by a competitor. More importantly, differentiating on price is typically a poor strategy unless, like Ikea, Costco or Home Depot, your brand has enormous infrastructure advantages. Someone else can always make or do something cheaper. Differentiating on quality can also be a waste of time in many markets where quality is also claimed my most or all competitors and is accepted/expected as table stakes for merely being in that business. So, claiming what competitors are already claiming is meaningless. You must find something different.”
Same day service in a market where it can take days or weeks for an appointment
Bryan Clayton with GreenPal experimented with several hundred Google Adwords to discover that offering same day service in his market was a competitive advantage. “When we began marketing our product and crafting our copy, we thought that because our service often saved homeowners money on their lawn mowing, that the money saving component of our value proposition is what we should focus on. However, throughout the process of testing hundreds of variations of ads, we found that the ability to get same day service was the most compelling aspect of our value proposition. “Sign-up in 30 seconds and get it mowed today!” says, Bryan. He is now the “Uber” of lawn mowing.
Humanize services in an industry that is perceived as structured, boring and cold
“I came to this USP after years of seeing that even when you help clients beautifully with their finances – if they aren’t clear about what success is for them, they can still have healthy finances and an unfulfilling life,” says Colin Drake with Drake Wealth Management. “As a financial advisor, I incorporate life coaching into my financial planning to help clients first paint a picture of the life they most want to be living, then align their entire financial life to make that happen. We start the financial planning engagement with a much deeper, more fulfilling conversation about what it really is that we are trying to accomplish together – what true success looks like for the client. … we explore the client’s definition of “freedom,” which almost always centers around family, friends, spirituality, creativity, community and a sense of place.” In addition, Colin conveys his USP via his website by injecting positive emotion, rather than a lot of industry technical information.
The appropriate use of extended or long-term guarantees is a USP that most small business cannot support
Vladimir Gendelman with Company Folders, Inc. offers a 365-day guarantee on his presentation folders. “We are the only folder company offering a 365-day guarantee. This USP originated from one of our clients; we received a letter several months after their order was placed, informing us that some of their folders had been misprinted. We realized that since we work with a product that clients order in bulk, errors may not get discovered or reported for a long time, and that puts undue pressure on the client if they only have a short window to have them reprinted. We make our 365-day guarantee perfectly clear to our clients so that they feel more relaxed and secure about their purchase.” Convey confidence in your product or service with a guarantee.
In-house manufacturing for increased customization and flexibility
“Due to the increased popularity of vaping our industry is getting more crowded. But we’re still able to claim two unique selling points. The first is that we produce the only portable vaporizer on the market that has consistent temperature control and therefore the ability to accurately vaporize both herbs and oils. This type of flexibility is very important to our customers who tend to be looking for a healthier and more effective alternative to smoking as it allows the user to avoid carcinogens; which are prevalent at higher temperatures,” states Shauntel Ludwig with DaVinci Vaporizers
He continues, “The second is that we’re the only vaporizer company that allows consumers to actually design their own vaporizer. Unlike our competitors, we own our manufacturing facility. And because of that we don’t need to rely on interchangeable parts or standard designs. This individualized customization feature was initially driven by our looking at what we could provide that would set us apart even further. We offer 21 different designs, the combinations are practically endless.”
Value the education you can provide your clients
Lou Altman with GlobaFone educates his clients with non-sales pitch webinars, white papers and articles at not cost. He states, “In an industry where some competitors simply sell at low margins and offer little, if any support, GlobaFone provides clients with education, information and 24/7 support. Knowledge is valuable and we give it away so that prospects recognize we are interested in their results, not just ours. Our client retention rate soars above 90% and major corporate clients remain with us for 8, 10, 12, even 15 years.”
Make your entire team, a team of experts
“We hire starving artists and teach them the ART of painting houses. No, we are not the low cost leader. We just talk about who we hire… artists,” says Nick May with Walls by Design. He identified a key skill that most artists naturally had that would be of great benefit to him and his clients. “We decided that painters were a good fit because they had the one skill that was the hardest to teach: good hand/eye coordination.” It has a cool appeal, and people instantly understand that artists would make a great house painter. And who doesn’t love to tell the story that their painting company only hires artist? It makes their house a work of art.”
Go wide and deep
“DXP has a unique selling point centered on our go-to-market strategy. As a 106-year-old publically traded company, we offer our customers three unique market segments: Innovative Pumping Solutions (IPS) focuses on industrial customers needing highly engineered rotating equipment platforms, repair and service. Our second market segment is Supply Chain Services (SCS) where we offer a variety of unique vendor managed services such as SMART Vend, SMART Source and SMART Buy. Our third market segment is the traditional service center where local expertise and inventory allows the customers to combine their spend and reduce their vendors. DXP is the only national distributor who can offer our customers the unique market segment differentiation as well as product divisions with both breadth and depth,” says Curt Tueffert at DXP Enterprises.
Your USP should be just that, a unique selling proposition. Just like we are each individuals and have things that are truly unique to us, figure out what is or could be unique to your business and exploit it! You can start by incorporating YOU into your business. No one can duplicate who you are and what you believe in. Think about your purpose. Think about your passion. Think about your beliefs and principles. All of those things make you… you. Find the distinct connections between you and your business and use them to your advantage.
Simplicity expert and Micro Business Therapist™ A.Michelle Blakeley is the curator of the online magazine, Micro Business Therapy. She helps new and seasoned entrepreneurs align their purpose, principles, priorities and practices for organic agile growth. Minding the gap between your personal and professional life™ Connect with her on Twitter at @simplicityinc