Developing and Managing Your Unique Selling Proposition
People buy products and services because of the benefits they derive or hope to derive from them. Whether you are a manufacturer, wholesale distributor, retailer or consumer, the focus or every purchase is the benefits derivable from the product or service offering.
These benefits are presented in the seller's communications on how your product offerings perform better than those of competitors. The unique advantages a product has over those of competitors which is communicated to buyers and potential customers is simply called a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), sometimes referred to as Unique Selling Value (USV) or Unique Selling Point.
Developing a USP begins with the product development process. Customer needs are identified and the product is developed to fill those needs.
How to Develop a Unique Selling Proposition
Your USP are those attributes that make your brand uniquely better than competing brands in terms of the value and advantages delivered to customers. Developing unique advantages over competing brands is critically important for business success. But you also have to communicate your brand's uniqueness in a way that clearly differentiates your product around the needs your target audience cares about.
In this respect, you need to ensure that your USP align with these key elements:
- It Should Be Compelling: A USP should be defensible and project a compelling position that clearly stands out as a selling point. It should reflect in what you do and be seen to be impactful in your operations and marketing program. Something like a "30 day money back guarantee" if a customer is dissatisfied compels the buyer to see the product as coming with an assurance and less risk as an option of refund is available for defective products and cases where customers suffer some cognitive dissonance and chooses to return the products.
- It Should Focus on customers values: You can't build unique advantages outside what your target customers value. For example, if you deliver already prepared foods, you cannot advertise foods prepared with too much spices in an environment where cultural values do not encourage spicy foods. So, your food offerings to a Chinese will be significantly different from your offerings to an American.
- It Should Have Measurable Effect: The advantages your USP has should be measurable. For example,, you should be able to predict how much increase in sales can be achievable with a 30 day return policy and how much loyalty you can get with a free installation at customer location or a free after sale service. If the outcome of your USP is not predictable, then your investment in promoting the advantages could become more complex and difficult to plan.
- Functional and Emotional Attachment: Your Unique Selling Proposition should be developed to provide both functional and emotional advantages. This can be particularly very useful in cases where products or services are largely homogeneous. For example, in the pest control industry and in domain registration business where you really will not find many areas to differentiate. Apart from ensuring that customers get the expected performance from their purchase, you need to differentiate your offering by being emotionally attached to the customer, showing empathy and providing service that builds a strong bond between your company and the customer.
Writing your unique selling proposition
Now that you understand the key elements of a USP, you might be wondering how you should write a USP.. Here is our suggested guide to writing your USP:
- List all the potential advantages and differentiators of your brand and product. Start with a list of all the advantages and attributes that differentiates your brand and product. You need to be very precise, clear about each differentiator and communicate them in clear terms.
- Research your competition. You will further need to do the same thing you have done in (1) above for your competitors, listing their differentiators and product advantages. You will then be able to identify what their USPs are and try to identify gaps in how their USPs are communicated.
- Research your customer needs: Do proper research into the needs of your customers. This has to be as thorough and extensive as possible to identify their buying motives, personal needs, the colors they like, their buying pattern including the time they buy most and how this fluctuates during the day, week and seasons, their response to price changes, their dislikes and so on. Gather as much information as possible about your target customers.
- Compare your most unique qualities against your customer needs. Now, you are to match your brand offerings with the specific needs of your target audience. In doing this, you need to calibrate how your product advantages meet the needs of your target audience - very strongly, strongly, moderately, poorly or very poorly. You will further need to determine if there are areas that customer needs haven’t been filled by your product and how competitors fare in these areas. You can further identify if there are some prospective areas of benefit which exist with your product but are not yet visible or captured in customer perception of their needs.
- Compile the data. Now you need to analyze the information you have received and have them presented in usable format. Your focus and emphasis is to determine how your product advantages and what can stand out as your strongest Unique Selling Proposition.
- Determine how to practically apply your findings in your business. Beginning from your product development phase and down to after sale service, you will now need to determine how to implement your identified USPs into your business. This could affect your entire business and lead to a total turn around from your brand name, service, product development and sales channels. Implementing identified USPs could sometimes lead to a product rejuvenation, involving engineers who develop the products and marker researchers who determine the basic expectations of the consumers and other users.
Once you have established your advantages, you can begin to craft a position statement which will be communicated in your advertisement and corporate culture and eventually will become visible in entire business operations as these core values and advantages become what every employee wants to stand for and project and protect at the workplace.
How to Communicate Your Unique Selling Proposition
Once you are done with the specifics about your Unique Selling Proposition, the next step is to decide on how these unique advantages will be communicated to your audience. Here are some tips you have to keep in mind in that process.
1. Prioritize your differentiating qualities.
Do not create USPs that can be easily advantageous to your competition. If you create a unique selling proposition that a competitor could use easily, you are actually helping them correct a disadvantage and bounce stronger. Try to create USPs that are clearly unique to you and can hardly be copied, if ever, by the competition.
2. Be very clear about your points.
Unique selling propositions should not only be ambiguous. They should be clear to everyone and not just company staff. The USP is the strength of your company and product. It clearly puts forward the advantages your audience has to derive from the use of your products and services and should be communicated very strongly, confidently, enthusiastically and with pride of its authenticity.
3. Exaggerate Your USP.
Your unique selling proposition is your pride and key selling point. You should be proud of it and this pride should reflect in your communication and dealings with customers.The tone should not not necessarily try to show leadership but should stamp your authority and advantage as one that customers will rely on for excellent service to fill their needs without regret.
Using words like, leading, No. 1, only, greatest, best, first, favorite, etc. to refer to your product can communicate the exaggeration of your excitement about the benefits your product offers.
4. Focus on customer benefit.
The whole essence of business is to satisfy the customer. Do not simply project your product and company but your focus should be on how your product offerings meet the needs and expectations of the customer.
This means that your unique selling proposition should be about the happiness of your customers and how your products enhance that happiness and simplify the attainment of customer purchase goals. Ultimately, your goal is to serve your target audience in the best and simplest ways that helps the attainment of their goals.
How to Manage Your Unique Selling Proposition
The market place is dynamic, the business environment itself is constantly changing and so also are customer needs and how they are being met being altered by technical advances. What became a clear advantage yesterday may no longer serve as a strong selling point today as new ways to serve customers are being developed. So in the course of the business life cycle, you need to constantly review your environment to determine the position of your product offerings and its unique advantages.
Here is a guide to how you can manage your distinctive competitive advantages and stay ahead of competition.
Continually Research The Behavior of Customers
Keeping an eye on customer needs, likes and dislikes, consumer patterns and changes to these patterns as well as technological influences on buyer behavior will help your product development and improvement process to accommodate new expectations of customers and keep your brand ahead of competition or at least, help you stay competitive.
To do this effectively, you need to put yourself in the position of your customer and take note of your expectations, how you feel about the product when compared to competitors, and what are your future expectations. Then you commit to build the expectations into future product development. Remember to always test your findings before final implementation in order to avoid the launch of a product that will be largely rejected.
A good starting point in understanding your customers will be researching their motives for buying products, what needs they seek to satisfy and then finding out how environmental and social changes are shaping these needs and motivations. For example, the growth and development in the mobile phone industry has closed the fixed landlines telephone service industry.
Monitor Competitors and Product Improvements
Having an advantage is good but your advantage may be obsolete if competitors' get more innovative and perform better. It then means that your USP must remain within competitive scope and continue to give you advantage. One best way to maintain this kind of advantage is to continue to invest in research and development and to keep an eye on competition.
Continually Review The Message Used to Communicate Your Unique Selling Proposition
Some generally acceptable messages today could become offensive in some climes due to events and changing circumstances. A good example will be the downturn created for companies known for selling Russian Vodka in the west following the recent conflict and invasion of Ukraine by Russia. In this instance, a strong distributor of Russian Vodka who once prided as the ultimate source of the best Russian Vodka can no longer advertise this clear advantage as the name "Russia '' is being presented in the west following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is just an illustration of how businesses are affected by a sudden social event. In this case, a USP will suddenly turn into a weakness. and no longer a strength.
Improve Product Performance
The advantages you have today will not be permanent. You need to explore new ways of delivering service and improving the goals and expectations of your target customers. That will be possible with continuous product and service improvement and it is important to invest in this area to stay ahead of competition.
The Unique Selling Proposition is about your company positioning in the marketplace. It's not just about the claims you make but the experiences of your customer which are driven by your communication and product offerings.
USPs therefore need to be very precise, communicable, clear and be designed and implemented to meet the needs and expectations of the customer.
Because they serve not only to grow your business and increase sales but also play a role in your brand reputation, companies must live up to the claims they make and carefully draft their USP to stay within the limits of what they do and can deliver to customers. Making claims and promises which cannot be fulfilled can hurt the reputation of the brand and ultimately slow down sales and profits and in some cases can lead to avoidable litigation.
Notwithstanding, a carefully designed and implemented USP is a great strength and advantage for company growth and profitability.