'Gears' © Copyright 2003
Got one? Two? Three?
If you have competitors, then you should have at least one Unique Selling
Proposition (USP). The more REAL ones you have, the better - for your Branding,
your business recognition, and your sales!
We all have competitors, and the more you have, the more important it is
that you have a Unique Selling Proposition (at least one).
Allow me to explain. Let's use a recent example of a company that sells laser
toner cartridges... Do you think they have competition online? You bet they
do, another category that is swamped with resellers. Sound like yours?
The task of coming up with a USP can sometimes be tough. But every company
needs this, it sets you apart from your competitors. Let me stress this again,
it is one or more reasons why prospects should work with you, or buy from
you, or do business with you, instead of your competitors, period.
Let me narrow this a little further, it used to be if you had the best price,
- you got the business. Although still a minor USP, price alone should not
be the only consideration, it's not really that unique... Yes, you still
need to be competitive, but I don't want to be the cheapest guy... we're
in this to make a profit, right? So don't make price your 'only' USP. Combine
it with more value, something your competition doesn't do, or doesn't offer.
O.K., back to our example. This company needed more than price, their product
pricing is right inline with everyone else, so now what?
First of all, you need to know what your competitors do offer. This is not
a new concept. You can't compete if you don't know what you're up against.
So take a little time and check out what they have. Do some research, you'd
be surprised what you might find - or not. Special offers, free shipping,
a contest, great customer support?
Take a step back, imagine you are the customer and you do buy toner from
someone a few times a year. If they do not get great service or it's just
average, then chances are you can sway them your way. This references "customer
loyalty" another chapter, but it follows first getting the customer. So,
let's get the prospect as a customer first.
Now, what do we do to sway these prospects? We offer them what the competition
doesn't. This can be discovered with your competitive research. Oh, and if
you still haven't found a USP or a few - then Hyperformance Media can help
you with this as well.
Write down every idea that you and your team come up with. Please don't worry
about how silly they might seem (at the time), just brainstorm with the data
you have gained. The reason I say to include the silly ones, and others is
because sometimes those little ideas that you laughed at can actually be
morphed to create your USP. No idea is too far fetched at this point, and
usually the ideas you laughed at are, in fact, some things your competitors
don't offer. That's where we go next.
On the toner company we came up with all kinds, some were already offered
by competitors, some were not. The idea is to initially come up with as many
as possible. Here are some of what we narrowed the field to (we started with
about two dozen);
Price (of course)
Free Shipping (varied by quantity/price)
Great Customer Service (so everyone says)
A Contest / Promotion (a what?)
Free Gifts (vary)
Referral Savings (with parameters)
Reminders? (to buy)
The next step is again to nail down our list, get creative, really think
here. This alone still makes us more competitive (once implemented), even
if others use the same approach. Why? Because before we did this, there was
a ton of competition, and as we add these USP's we now narrow the list of
our 'real' competitors. We are now more competitive within our industry,
because we now offer things that (most) of our competitors do not! We are
getting more competitive immediately by implementing some simple offerings.
Let's take each one in this example and see how we can use it or discard
it to our advantage.
Price - Still very important in any market, but very tied to customer value
(or perceived value). If your product or service is not competing here -
it does not necessarily rule you out, more on this later. However, this is
usually where a shopper starts (because it's easy), and you want to be considered
with this group. In this example, we agreed that (based on our research)
we were in the market on price. So our price is competitive and that's great,
but not unique enough to get the business.
Free Shipping - In our research, we found that most of the company's who
were offering this service were just a couple dollars higher in price (covering
their "free" offer). So while it may have some perceived value, it was not
enough for this company to offer that, so we discarded this one. If however,
your costs are such that you can ship for free and still be competitive and
profitable, this is a worthwhile USP.
Great Customer Service - This is stated everywhere, making it tough for the
consumer to know what is reality. It is hard to judge until you are a customer.
It would be more valuable to offer testimonials of Great Customer Satisfaction.
Not Customer Service, but Customer Satisfaction. There is a big difference
here. So we DO want to take some of our really satisfied customers and put
together, or request their testimonials. This is much more powerful than
the words or promise of "Great Customer Service". So we will use this, but
focusing on satisfaction with testimonials in our advertising pieces and
A Contest/Promotion - This covers a broad area, but can be extremely successful
when implemented and marketed properly, so be creative and if possible, develop
one for your business, product or service. After our discussions, and research,
we have begun developing this idea. Example: Every time you buy from us,
you get another chance at winning "Free Toner for a Year". I know you're
saying... free toner for a year - what are you crazy? Bear with me on this...
first of all, most of their customers use 4 to 6 toners in normal use in
one year (In our contest, we can actually cap that in our rules, i.e., "Not
to exceed 6 cartridges". So we associate our costs to that, which does not
make this a cost prohibitive program at all, depending upon the program success.
Again, the mileage and customers we gain from our contest is potentially
huge, and if it works well, we continue it... at a maximum cost of 6 toners
per year for a Grand Prize.
Free Gifts - Don't discount this one, many people grab hold of these 'offers'
to feel like they are making out. All else being the same, the customer does
get something for nothing. Now, if the item truly has no value, then the
customer has little to no interest. And, it actually 'cheapens' the image
of your firm (be careful). We decided with our products and business customer
profile, this would not work for this business. But it could work for you
or your products.
Referral Programs - Another potential attraction (savings) for your customer.
I say potential because this type of referral program, like price, should
not be the only USP. When used in conjunction with others, this can steadily
grow your business (sales) as well. You need to develop a program that somehow
rewards referrals. For example, it can be something simple like "Refer a
customer to our business and when we ship their order you will receive or
accrue credits, dollars, points, or 5% off your next order". Get the idea?
The key is to make it of value, and still keep it cost effective.
Reminders - This was it! The big one, it was unique, it has value to the
customer, and it reinforces our Customer Satisfaction! This was also laughed
at when first mentioned. So? What was the plan? We acquire a software program
(our recommendation Mailloop Software) that can be set to automatically
e-mail each customer based on their own usage when their toner and supplies
were potentially running low (i.e., 30 or 90 days or any date we choose.
Once set-up it is all automated (cost effective)! It also gave us their e-mail
address (important anytime) and with our reminders we could include any special
or seasonal offers that might further attract more sales.
So, what did this company find? In a nutshell - Their products are priced
well to compete. In this case, we discarded free shipping as not really cost
effective. We stressed Satisfied Customers in all of our marketing materials
with testimonials and real-life examples. We are also developing a contest
to further set us apart from our competitors. We could not find a free gift
we thought would add any value to the customer (but continue to look). They
are considering a Referral Program as well.
The real USP in combination with the others was our unique E-mail Reminder
System. At that time, no other competitor was offering anything like this!
This IS a Unique Selling Proposition and was perfect for our example. Put
all these together, and this company has numerous 'edges' on their competition.
Once customers are aware of these differences that set you apart from all
the rest - growth is almost certain! That company is in a much better position
to 'own' their market online, or at a minimum increase their market share.
The more you get the word out, the more you're sure to benefit from these
I understand this was a pretty broad example but you should get the idea.
You won't always come up with an idea that no competitor has or offers, but
if only 3-6 competitors offer that same USP, you are still in the top tier
of your competition instead of lost somewhere un-noticed while buyers continue
to purchase through your competition. You decide.
About the Author:
Scott is the Founder and Sr. Project Manager for
Media.com, a Technology Marketing Company serving online businesses since
1996. His 23+ years of experience in the computer industry can help you succeed.
Their website offers free education to assist any business in successfully
marketing their company online.