They call it a Unique Selling Proposition or USP. In laymen’s terms it is the equivalent of a small hand jutting out of your product packaging, waving frantically “Pick me! Pick me!” In the markets we face today, with tremendous competition and a downward trending towards commoditization in many industries, the ability to differentiate your company and your product can be the difference between a won or lost sale. A few points on differentiation:
An Old Lesson with Modern Application:
I remember being at lunch with one of my first mentors when he proclaimed to me, in between mouthfuls of food, “Seth, you can’t be everything to everybody.” Cliché? Sure. Still relevant today? Absolutely. Many are the times I have seen corporations stray away from their core audience searching for additional revenue and customers on the horizon. It distracts you from your core business and stops you from building upon the work you have already started. Even worse, almost always these efforts dilute your unique selling proposition and differentiation in the hopes of saying something that might appeal to this broader audience. Even the most universal of brands like Coke and Pepsi understand who their core audience is and focus on creating unique, differentiated messaging that speaks to that audience. Does that mean you shouldn’t have a secondary audience? No, but it means that your efforts and energies need to be properly prioritized, both in terms of dollars and manpower, and you need to know your limitations. Your company and your products will not be everything to everyone, so let it go now and focus on being something important to that smaller cadre that appreciates and at some level relates to the uniqueness of your brand.
Salient and Sustainable
When I think about defining the USP for an organization I start by looking at two things:
1) What does the organization do well and can keep doing well? (Sustainable)
2) What is of greatest importance to the target audience? (Salient)
A differentiation strategy that is not based in those elements of key importance to the customer will not work. Flashback to the early 2000s, I am sitting in a meeting with Sales, Marketing, and Engineering for a company that specializes in bathroom cabinetry. The head of engineering states that he thinks the company should promote the stainless steel hex screws that are used in cabinet construction. Do these screws make for a better product? Sure. Does the customer care? Probably not. When you are concocting your USP make sure it is something that your customers care about. Your internal team probably has a very different idea with regard to what is unique or special about your products. Don’t know what your customer value? Ask them. Not all market research needs to be done formally and keeping strong, regular communication with your “A” level customers to ensure you are meeting their needs is not only good common sense, but a necessity in these competitive times.
Your unique selling proposition and your differentiation strategy will ultimately limit your audience, but it will make your company and your products more important to the people that matter.
Do you have a sustainable USP for your brand or product? Post a comment on what differentiates your company.