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Defining Your Unique Selling Point (USP)

Thu, 03 December 2009

Whether starting a business for the first time, or aiming to grow a business, all companies need to understand what makes them stand out and appeal - but viewed through customers’ eyes!
This can help you develop your Unique Selling Point (USP), a statement of how your product or service differs uniquely from competitive offers. As most marketplaces are subject to change however, it is also important to keep re-visiting the USP, to ensure that it is still relevant for today’s competitive environment.
The USP should not therefore be seen as a one-off statement. On the contrary, it can help you to understand where your products/services are positioned in the marketplace, as well as steering your marketing communications activity to ensure that you continue to convey the correct messages.
If you are a very small business, you may only have one USP, but a larger organisation may have several, depending upon the range of products/services it offers and the diverse markets in which it operates.
Some companies differentiate on price alone, but this can be risky and often easily copied. For a more sustainable message therefore, identify a USP which is not purely price orientated and which communicates powerfully.
To establish an effective USP, try to:
• Understand why the customer uses that particular product or service i.e. what benefits it offers them and how the customer describes these benefits in their own words. (Remember that communication is two-way; sometimes we think we are communicating well but is that really how the customer interprets the message?).
• Understand how you compare to competitors' products or services, your relative strengths and weaknesses  i.e. how your product or service is perceived as positively different (or if you compare negatively, what do you need to improve upon? Can you surpass competitors’ offers and still be profitable?).
• Establish how important each benefit is to your customers; look for gaps to see where you can really differentiate, you may even need to develop particular products or services. (Remember that what you consider to be important might not be the most important thing to your customers, which can again focus your mind upon the key areas).
• Decide what marketing messages you can then use to communicate your USP - both briefly and effectively.
Imagine if you were to be briefly introduced to a potential customer or investor and you only had two minutes to effectively describe what your business does.  Does that focus your mind upon the key benefits of your product/service in a concise, effective manner?
Advertising companies often have to convey a USP as succinctly as possible through words and pictures.

Therefore, try looking at a variety of adverts in your business sector and indeed across sectors for comparison.
How well do other companies convey their USPs? Can they potentially do this more effectively?

Developing an effective USP can take time, but if you get it right it can be a very powerful tool.

Article kindly supplied by Lorraine Davidson (

Lorraine Davidson is a qualified Chartered Marketer and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute Of Marketing. She established North Yorkshire based Freelance Marketing in 1998. The consultancy offers market research, strategic marketing planning and marketing communications services to both the consumer and business to business markets.
Since all businesses have specific requirements, this article should be used for background guidance only and should not be understood as one to one, personal business advice. No liability can be accepted by Freelance Marketing Ltd or Shell LiveWIRE.

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