Get a U.S.P. or R.I.P.
by Chad Rueffert

During a creative brainstorming session with a new client last month, I asked one of my standard, and yet most important, questions:  What makes you different from your competition? 


He didn’t have an answer, so we talked about it for awhile.  Their product was pretty much the same.  Price was similar.  Quality was comparable.  Finally we struck onto something that WAS different.  This client was not only the manufacturer of the product, but also the distributor and the installer.  None of their competition offered installation services.  Finally, a unique selling point.  This company had been in business for years and yet never talked about the one thing that set them apart from their competitiong.  Finding a U.S.P. allows you to provide some differentiation between your company and your competition.  It’s the answer to the question, “Why should I buy from you?” 


Most small businesses don’t have a unique selling proposition.  Or if they do, they fail to focus on it.  The client mentioned above refused to allow us to highlight the U.S.P. in their new brochure because they don’t really like to do product installation.  Amazingly, they are giving up their U.S.P.  Without it, they are forced to compete with larger, better funded, better recognized companies with no answer to the question, “Why should we buy from you?”


World renown business consultant Jay Abraham says it this way in his book “Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got”:  “How can you elevate yourself or your company to a position of notable superiority over your competition?  In order to stand above the crowded marketplace, you or your company must offer your prospect or client a unique and distinctive benefit or advantage above and beyond that of your competitor.  If you don’t, people have no motivation to do business with you instead of your competition.”


Customers not only need a reason to buy, they need a reason to buy from YOU.  And that reason needs to be something they can easily understand and identify with, and something you can prove.  Most small business owners are competing with larger companies who are probably better known in the marketplace.  Without a USP, your potential customers will default to the better known company. 


How do you determine your USP?  The easiest way is to look at what your competition does poorly and offer a better alternative.  If your competition is over priced, offer a lower priced product.  If your competition has slow turn around time, offer faster service.  You can create a USP on nearly anything, but you have to deliver on your promise. 


“When you identify what that distinct advantage is, you then must integrate it into all your promotional, marketing, advertising, and selling operations…You don’t just want to say it, you want to constantly demonstrate it.  You want to live it.  That means whatever your USP stands for, you do at all times,” says Abraham.


So if you choose to be the highest quality provider of your product or service, you need to fully embrace that U.S.P.  Offer an unlimited warranty that surpasses your competition.  Offer a money-back guarantee or a free trial.  Don’t just tell your potential customers your quality is better, give them concrete proof and then back it up by delivering the best product.


One of the reasons a U.S.P. is so important is that it provides you with a strategic direction from which you can make important decisions.  If your U.S.P. is “low price” it’s very easy to decide not carry a new high priced line of products a vendor is trying to sell you.  It’s also easier to choose your target market – price conscious shoppers.  It can help you determine your advertising message – save money! It can help you determine your physical location, your packaging and your media selections.  And once you begin making decisions based upon your U.S.P. you’ll find that your U.S.P. becomes more memorable, more powerful and easier to prove to skeptical customers. 


Says Jay Abraham, “Most (business person) have no U.S.P., only a ‘me too,’ rudderless, nondescript business that feeds solely on the momentum of the marketplace…It’s no surprise that most businesses lacking a USP merely get by.  Their failure rate is high.  Their owners and employees are apathetic.  And they get only a small share of potential business.” 


Unless you are introducing a truly unique and never-before-heard-of product to the market, you are competing in a marketplace where consumers have a choice between you and other providers of the same product or service.  There’s only one way to stand head and shoulders above the crowd – find something tall to stand on.  Your U.S.P. can elevate you above the crowd.  Without one, you may just be slowly digging yourself a hole where your company will rest in peace.