BusinessDay

Evolving your USP: A step-by-step guide

Competition is the natural order in business, and companies compete with local and international brands for market share. This leaves customers with options and they want to quickly understand what makes one product or brand different from another. Therefore, knowing the right way to position a company and its products/offerings can make the difference between standing out and blending in.
This why it is crucial for every business owner/manager to understand how to identify a USP – a unique selling proposition or unique selling point – that makes your business stand out from the crowd and tells your customers what is special about you.

What is your USP?
Your USP is what makes your business and its products or services different. It’s what you offer that no-one else does in your market – whether its higher quality, a lower price, a better customer experience or a new technological innovation.
If you can’t identify your USP, you’ll have a hard time convincing prospective customers to buy from you instead of your competitors.

Why you need a USP
We read about consumers being bombarded with tons and tons of messages daily. They cannot re-evaluate services and products every time need to make a purchase. To make life easier, they tend to organise products and services into groups and position them accordingly – for instance, the safest car, the most expensive car and the best value car.

A strong selling proposition, well communicated, will help customers quickly understand what your business offers and why they should choose you over the competition. Your USP is not necessarily your company’s slogan or marketing message, although it can act as this in some scenarios. Instead, a USP is more tangible. It can work as a backbone for your business decisions, processes and overall culture.
FedEx has one of the most recognisable USPs of any company: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” This quick sentence is not just a surface level promise, but the impetus behind FedEx’s overall mission as a company.

Read also: How brand endorsement works

How to find your USP
Finding your USP means having a good understanding of your target market, your competition and your industry.
Understanding your target audience
Developing a USP begins with your target audience. What do you know about your target audience and why they buy items from the market you are operating in? What needs do those items meet for them? In other words, are they looking for a time saving, some expertise, a trustworthy product or something else?

What is your competitive advantage?
You should be able to pull out one or two things that you believe your business is really good at. Make a list of your competitors and see which needs they are meeting.
Next, evaluate how well they meet those needs. Just because someone currently has a good position in a market doesn’t mean that they’re delivering on their promises. If you can do better, that’s a strong basis for market entry.
Ask yourself: “what makes our organization distinctive?” Is there something different about the way you make your product or provide your service? What are your values and what are you trying to achieve? For example, some businesses base their USP on ethical behaviour.

Testing and refining your USP
Come up with a strong statement that conveys your USP. Talk to five or ten potential customers to get their feedback on the different ways you are positioning your brand. The results of these interviews should help you to choose the best positioning statement:
what business you are in
who your target customers are
the single most compelling benefit you offer – the unique selling point that sets you apart from the competition
how you deliver on what you promise

How to communicate your USP
Your USP should drive the development of your business and your marketing strategy, whether you are creating a website or a logo, or embarking on an advertising campaign. Always ask yourself if your image and activity clearly communicate the benefit you are offering.
It’s not advisable to change your unique selling proposition too often, but it is important to keep it fresh. Watch out for any shifts in trends or competitors that could undermine your USP.

A step-by-step guide to creating your USP
Make a list of what you know about your target audience.
Make a list of all the needs that your product or service could meet – these attributes are all potential selling points for your business.
Screen these against trends and competitors. Now remove the selling points that are already being well met by competitors. Don’t forget that your USP is a unique selling proposition so you are looking for a gap in the market.

Match each potential USP against what you and your business are especially good at, and how you want to be seen.
Conduct short interviews with about ten people in your target market to choose the strongest USP for your business.
Double-check that you have the right USP. Does it convey one strong benefit? Is it memorable? Is it clear who the brand is targeting from the USP? Can you deliver what it promises? Is it really unique – or could a competitor claim the same thing?

Use this positioning to develop your business and your marketing strategy. Evaluate your activities using your USP as a benchmark.
Keep monitoring trends and new competitors that could affect how customers see your USP.

Last line
A USP isn’t merely a persuasive line of content, and it defines how you position your products – or even your entire business – to the world. Your products needn’t be wholly unique for you to have a strong, unique selling point, so long as you look for a gap in the market that others have missed.