USP Analysis: The Unique Selling Proposition: Finding Your “Competitive Edge”
Today, businesses are operating in a business environment that is highly competitive. The internet has put businesses within reach of customers from all over the world.
Today, even if you are a local business, you have to deal with competitors not just from your town or city, but from across the world.
What this level of competition means is that, whenever a customer needs to purchase a product or service, there is no shortage of options from where they can purchase the product or service.
So, how do you convince the customers to purchase from your business rather than from the hundreds of other businesses offering the same product or service?
To get customers to purchase from your businesses, your business needs to stand out from the competition. You need to show your prospective customers that you are capable of solving their problems in a way that no other business can.
Without this, your business and brand will blend in with the competition, and your business will be left operating on the mercies of luck rather than strategy.
If you don’t want your business to be drown in the noise of the competition, you need to develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your business.
In today’s hyper-competitive business environment, your USP is the secret sauce that will have customers flocking to your business even when there are other business selling what you are selling at lower prices. It is the magic potion that gives your business a competitive edge over everyone else.
While having a USP is crucial for all businesses, it is especially important for new companies that are yet to build a reputation.
In this article, we are going to cover the process of performing a USP analysis to help you find your competitive edge.
Before we get to that, however, let’s understand what exactly a unique selling proposition is and why you need one.
WHAT IS A UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION?
A unique selling proposition is essentially the main competitive advantage you have over other businesses offering products and services that are similar to yours.
It is the one thing that makes your business more attractive to customers compared to the competition and gives your business a distinct and individualistic identity that allows it to stand out in a crowded market.
Ideally, it should be something about your business that competitors do not have the ability to offer to their customers.
Your USP is also the one factor that allows your business to charge premium prices for your products and services and still achieve your business goals and objectives.
The fundamental purpose of the USP is to give potential customers an answer to the following question:
“Why should I buy from this business and not from the others selling the same product or service?”
To make it easier to understand to understand the concept of a USP, I am going to use the example of Domino’s Pizza.
There are dozens of pizza chains in the United States, and almost every single one of them offers fresh, hot pizza for just a few bucks.
All of these pizza chains also offer pizza delivery.
So, how does Domino’s Pizza stand out from the crowd?
With a simple, yet very powerful unique selling proposition: “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to you in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.”
Domino’s Pizza knew that it couldn’t try to be better than all the other pizza chains in every single aspect. They knew that if they tried to be the cheapest, the best tasting, as well as the pizza with the finest ingredients all at once, they would fail terribly.
They also knew that some of these factors are subjective anyway.
Trying to be the best tasting pizza is a futile attempt, because what tastes amazingly delicious to one person might not be as great to another person.
They knew that if they tried to be the cheapest, they would probably end up messing their pizza, and another pizza chain could easily cut its prices and drive them off the market.
To differentiate themselves, Domino’s decided to focus on a single factor that is easily verifiable, and one that customers care about – quick delivery. In a market where food deliveries take about 45 minutes on average, Domino’s gives its customers a guarantee that they will have their pizza in 30 minutes or less.
This is not just a mere claim. It is something they back up by offering their customers free pizza if they are unable to deliver in 30 minutes or less.
What better way to stand out from a crowded market? Customers know that if they want their pizza to be delivered quickly, they should order a Domino’s pizza. Based on this simple yet powerful USP, Domino’s Pizza has been able to grow to be the most profitable pizza chain in the United States.
Just like Domino’s USP, your USP should be something that makes customers automatically think of your business whenever they want a certain kind of experience. Want your pizza to be delivered on time? Think Domino’s.
Want a leather briefcase that will outlive you? Think Saddleback Leather. Want the world’s strongest coffee? Think Death Wish Coffee. Want to quickly and conveniently get a taxi? Think Uber. If you want a smartphone that is simple, beautiful, and magical to use, think iPhone.
All these are great examples of USPs. Similarly, your USP should be the number one thing your brand is known for.
The easiest and most convenient USP to use is a unique kind of product, or a unique feature about your product that competitors cannot match.
However, this is not the only thing that can serve as a USP.
A USP can be anything about your business that sets your business apart from the crowd in a manner that customers care about, such as your level of customer service, the speed with which you handle customer orders, the guarantees you give to your customers, and so on.
Once you develop your USP, it will have a strong influence on other aspects of your business, including things such as your manufacturing process, business processes, branding, copywriting, promotional techniques, marketing ideas, customer service, and so on.
A good USP should be:
- Assertive but defensible: Your USP should give an assertive argument for why your brand or business is better than the competition, but it should also be something defensible. “We sell the best pizza” is assertive but is not really defensible. What makes your pizza the best? On the other hand, “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to you in 30 minutes or less or it’s free” is both assertive and defensible.
- Focused on something valuable to your customers: Aside from being unique, your USP should be based on something your customers care about. For instance, a lawn mower that can hit a speed of 50kph might be unique, but who really cares about hitting a speed of 50kph while mowing their lawn?
- More than a slogan: USPs make great slogans, but your USP should be more than a slogan. It should influence every aspect of how you run your business.
IMPORTANCE OF A USP
Having a strong and compelling USP has several benefits for your business. A strong USP will:
Give You A Competitive Edge
The process of developing a USP will allow your business to identify its unique and distinctive attributes that make your brand more attractive to customers compared to what is already in the market.
Once you identify these attributes, you can then turn them into a competitive advantage that your business will use to attract and retain customers.
Enhance Your Brand Value
A strong USP helps enhance your brand image by creating a distinctive identity for which your brand is known. Actually, your USP plays a very critical role in defining your brand identity.
Help Your Brand Command A Premium
Every time Apple release their flagship iPhone, it becomes the most expensive smartphone in the market.
Many of the features on flagship iPhones are already available on other smartphones, yet people queue for up to 24 hours outside Apple Stores waiting to purchase the iPhone.
The iPhone is able to command premium prices and such a loyal following due to its strong USP: A phone that is more than a collection of features. A phone that is simple, beautiful, and magical to use.
Help Your Business Make More Sales
Focusing on what your business does better than the competition can lead to a higher number of sales compared to businesses that do not make any attempt to differentiate themselves.
HOW TO PERFORM A USP ANALYSIS
A USP analysis refers to the process through which your identify factors that set your business, products, and services apart from those offered by the competition and come up with a unique identity that customers associate with your brand.
Below, let’s take a look at the process of performing a USP analysis.
Define Your Target Audience
The first step of developing your unique selling proposition is to define the people you intend to sell your products and services to.
A good unique selling proposition does not appeal to anyone who can afford the product or service. Instead, it is tailored to a very specific market segment.
For instance, the USP for Death Wish Coffee is the world’s strongest coffee. Not everyone wants their coffee to be strong. If they tried to appeal to everyone who drinks coffee, Death Wish would be just another coffee brand on supermarket shelves.
However, Death Wish focuses on a single market segment – those who like their coffee strong – and goes all out to satisfy this market.
Similarly, don’t try to target everyone. You cannot solve everyone’s problem effectively.
Instead, think about that small group whose problems you can solve in the most effective way.
A good way to do this is to develop a buyer persona of your ideal customer. In addition to the demographic characteristics of your ideal customer, your buyer persona should also answer the following questions: What is your ideal customers’ biggest problem? What is their most preferred solution? Which factors influence their purchase decisions? Which factor is most important to them when considering a purchase? Is it quality, price, the level of customer service, the shopping experience, or after sales service?
Answering these questions will help you come up with a USP that your customers care about. Remember, if your USP is not something that customers value, it is useless.
When answering these questions, don’t just make assumptions about your customers want. Instead, you need to go out and talk to customers and get their feedback.
A good way to do this is to conduct surveys, either in person or online. Ask the above questions and get the answers directly from the customer.
Define Your Brand’s Core Values
Once you have defined your target audience and what they value most, the next step is to define the core values that define your brand.
Why did you start your business? What were your aims and objectives? What values do you want your brand to be known for? Going back to your main motivations for starting your business can help you come with a very strong USP.
Analyze Your Competition
The main reason you are developing a USP is because you want your business, products, and services to stand out from the competition.
To stand out from the competition, you first need to know who the competition are and how they are doing business. Therefore, you need to conduct a competitor research.
During your competitor research, try and find out everything you can about your competition. Who are they? Do they compete with your business directly or indirectly? What are their goals and objectives? What are their core brand values? Which features make their products and services attractive? How do they price their products and services? Who are their target customers? What strategies do they use to market their products and services? What is their unique selling proposition?
Once you have answered all these questions about your competition, try to identify gaps that your brand can cover. Is there a section of the market that is not covered by the competition? Are there some customer needs that have been ignored by the competition? Does the competition have any weaknesses in their strategy?
All these gaps present opportunities that you can exploit to differentiate your business from the competition.
Even if you offer similar products, start thinking of ways that you can position your products or services to give them a unique edge.
Compare Yourself To The Competition
This step is more of a continuation of the previous one. Now that you know everything about the competition, it’s time to do a comparative analysis of your brand against the competition.
While doing the comparative analysis, I would advise that you look at your business from the perspective of a customer. If you were a customer, what factors would convince you to purchase from your business instead of a competitor? Is there something that your product does better than the competition? Do your products or services offer a benefit that the competition cannot match? Do your products have a useful feature that is missing in competitor’s products? What aspect of your manufacturing process makes your product better? What aspect of your sales process gives customers a better experience than the competition?
During this exercise, you want to get as specific as possible.
It’s good to note that while you might find several differentiators between your brand and the competition, this does not mean that all of them will make a good USP.
The point here is to simply identify factors that will help you come up with the most compelling USP.
Sometimes, after this analysis, you might realize that none of your potential differentiators makes for a great USP, in which case you might need to make some changes to your business in order to make it significantly and beneficially different.
Sit And Brainstorm
Once you have completed the above steps, it’s now time to bring everything you have learnt (customer needs and preferences, your brand’s core values, details about your competition, and things that make your business/brand different) together and use it to brainstorm and come up with compelling differentiators that make your business more valuable than the competition.
It is advisable to hold the brainstorming session with the key members of your business, rather than doing it alone.
Using all the information gathered, try to find unique angles that address customer needs uniquely. Is there a customer need that is not being addressed? Is there a marketing strategy that you can exploit to address the customer need in a way the competition are not doing? Can you combine two or more pain points to create a unique angle?
One technique that I have always found to be very effective is to try and determine the actual psychological reason customers purchase your products and services. In most cases, behind the obvious reason for making a purchase, purchase decisions are driven by three main psychological factors: emotions, identity, and social identity.
If you can identify and address the psychological factors that influence your customer’s purchasing decisions, you can use this to develop a strong USP.
For instance, let’s assume that your business helps people move up the career ladder.
There are thousands of businesses in this niche, and therefore, you probably won’t stand out by saying that you help people get their dream job, move up the career ladder, or earn a good salary. However, by drilling down into the psychological reasons why someone might want to purchase your services, you can come up with a strong USP. Here’s how to do this:
Why does customer X purchase your services? Because they want to advance in their career and become a CEO. Why do they want to become a CEO? Probably because being a CEO comes with better pay. But why do they want to earn more? Probably because they grew up dreaming about owning their own home by the beach, and a CEO pay would make it possible for them to afford such a home.
On the surface, it seems that people are purchasing your services because they want to move up the career ladder and make CEO, but in real sense, they are purchasing your services because they want to be able to live the life of their dreams.
In this case, positioning yourself as a career coach who helps professionals bring their dreams true can set your business apart from the thousands of other career coaches.
By the end of your brainstorming session, you should be able to come up with a strong USP that appropriately captures your business’s main competitive advantage.
Once you develop your USP, you should then apply it in every aspect of your business to make sure that it is the number one thing people associate with your business.
When developing your USP, there are three mistakes you need to avoid if you want to end up with a strong USP. These are:
- Using generic language: Avoid using generic language, such as “we are the best” or “we have the highest quality products.” Any company can claim this, and therefore, such a USP will not really set your business apart from the competition. Instead of saying you are the best, talk about why you are the best.
- Confusing your USP for product features: Some businesses think that developing a USP is all about highlighting the features of your products. However, a good USP should not be focused on your business or your products, but rather on your customers. What is the core benefit a customer gets from your business or product?
- Confusing a USP for a tagline: A USP should not just be a tagline on your marketing materials. It should be the basis of all your business processes. If you only claim to do something without backing it up, that is not really a USP.
In a business environment that is rife with competition, any business that wants to set itself apart from the competition needs to develop a strong USP.
The USP gives your business a “competitive edge” and convinces customers to purchase from you rather than the competition.
To develop your USP, you need to define your target audience, define your brand’s core values, analyze your competition, perform a comparative analysis of your business and its competition, and then use this information to brainstorm and identify the core competitive advantage that you are going to use to set your business apart from the competition.
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