USP is much beloved on the Dragon’s Den. Often you’ll hear Peter Jones saying: “I like that, that’s your USP.” USP, of course, stands for unique selling point (or proposition).
To explain USPs, I’ll tell you a personal story. When I started my first business more than 20 years ago, I went on a high-growth, business start-up programme. The guy who was teaching us about marketing was obsessed with USPs.
Problem was, he was trying to apply multi-national corporate thinking to my small start-up. His approach was totally inappropriate. I was going to be doing the selling myself and he wanted to construct a fake sales pitch for me that followed a big business template.
If you’ve been to one of these start-up seminars, you’ll know there’s always some bloke or woman standing there telling you how important your USP is. So how do you identify your USP?
Well, today, you’re going to get the Glasgow guide to USPs. In other words, straight forward, no messing around.
Basically, a USP is something that makes your product or service different. It enables you to charge more or sell more because it separates you from the competition. A USP allows you to you make more money as a result of the competitive edge it gives you.
How do you find your USP? There’s only one way – get people to sample your product or service and listen to what they say. In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk – you “conversate”. You talk and you listen. Listen, listen, listen.
Matter of taste
Making cakes was my first business and the guy who was running the start-up course I went on asked me what my USP was. I simply stuck a slice of cake in front of him, he had a bite and replied: “Ooh - that’s delicious”.
My chocolate cake was vastly rich. It was made of pure chocolate, raw cane sugar, good chocolate shavings on the top, no preservatives, no additives and extremely high quality. That tells you that my cake was special, aimed at the top end of the market. It didn’t look perfect, so I stressed its homemade qualities, giving it a sense of authenticity and wholesomeness, both powerful USPs.
When you’re trying to find your USP, you need to identify something that makes your product, service or business distinctive. How do you do it? As I did with my cake, you should take your product or service and shove it in front of people as much and as often as you can. Ask people what they like best about your offer. You might find that certain phrases and words will be repeated. In the case of my chocolate cake, it was, “My God, very rich!” and “Wow – really chocolaty”.
Ever heard of Kobi beef? It’s the world’s most expensive beef – I think it’s looked after by nuns or whatever. Actually, I’m kidding, it comes from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle, which is raised strictly by traditional methods. It’s renowned for its flavour, tenderness and fatty, well-marbled texture. Its rarity and great care taken in its rearing are powerful USPs, as well as its flavour and succulence. Its price is another USP (“The world’s most expensive meat”).
Does your business/product/service need a USP? Absolutely. Whether it’s chocolate cake or Japanese beef that you’re selling, if you can come up with something that marks your product and business out as different – as special – you’ve already got an important head start.
Iain Scott, Enterprise Café
How confident are you in the strength of your brand? Do you find yourself nervously checking your competitors' websites to see what they're up to, only to find your heart sinking at their latest marketing campaign?
If you have a strong brand, if you've differentiated yourself from your competitors powerfully, then you won't be doing this. You'll still probably have a healthy awareness of what other businesses operating in your market are up to: but you won't be lying awake at night worrying about it.
Successful businesses start by defining what makes them unique. They look at what their clients want, what they themselves are good at and what they know they can deliver. And they operate in a niche. They don't get overly worried about what their competitors are up to because they know that to their target clients, their offering is irresistible.
But how about you? Which camp does your business fall into? Do you have a strong brand and a clearly defined niche or are you still looking over your shoulder at your competitors? Either way you'll probably find my Brand Profitably article helpful. You can download it for free on our website. Enjoy!
Fiona Humberstone, Guildford printing.com www.guildfordprinting.com
I recently interviewed Dan Germain, the Head of Creative at Innocent Drinks.
A jovial, bright eyed, bearded chap who clearly loves working at (read: being one of the driving forces behind) Innocent 10 years on. We had a great chat, and he shared a lot about how the team at Innocent have managed to make it all work.
In fact, he's the guy responsbile for the packaging on all of Innocent's products. He now has a team of people working with/for him, but the very different packaging is his baby.
We had an interesting conversation about being different. And Dan's view is that you don't actually need to be different. You just need to be better than the other guy. So in the case of Innocent Drinks, they aspire to offer the best smoothies on the market, alongside a whole bunch of other "bests". Best distribution. Best packaging. Best communication etc etc.
Interesting theory which I could spend some time debating (largely with myself). My view is that whether you aim to be different or better could just boil down to semantics and how you view the world. But the key thing (which applies in equal measure to both "differentiation" and "being better than") is to ensure that you stand out from your competitors thereby getting the attention of the people you want to buy from you.
Watch this interview in our upcoming Business Startup series on yourBusinessChannel, which we'll publish soon.
Whether your business is large, small, new or been around the block a few times, every penny in your marketing budget has to work hard and give you a return. Remember though that doors opened through your marketing now may lead you down a profitable path in the future, but not yield a financial return just yet.
Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune and there are many effective marketing activities that you can do that won’t cost a penny yet will point you in the right direction to get your business to where you want it to be. Here goes …
The best thing to reduce your marketing spend is to Stop & Think before you commit any money. There may be a free or cheaper alternative … effective marketing does not have to cost a fortune.