Got one? Two? Three?
If you have competitors, then you should have at least one
Unique Selling Proposition (USP). The more REAL ones you
have, the better – for your Branding, your business
recognition, and your sales!
We all have competitors, and the more you have, the more
important it is that you have a Unique Selling Proposition
(at least one).
Allow me to explain. Let’s use a recent example of a company
that sells laser toner cartridges… Do you think they have
competition online? You bet they do, another category that
is swamped with resellers. Sound like yours?
The task of coming up with a USP can sometimes be tough.
But every company needs this, it sets you apart from your
competitors. Let me stress this again, it is one or more
reasons why prospects should work with you, or buy from you,
or do business with you, instead of your competitors, period.
Let me narrow this a little further, it used to be if you
had the best price, – you got the business. Although still
a minor USP, price alone should not be the only consideration,
it’s not really that unique… Yes, you still need to be
competitive, but I don’t want to be the cheapest guy…
we’re in this to make a profit, right? So don’t make price
your ‘only’ USP. Combine it with more value, something
your competition doesn’t do, or doesn’t offer.
O.K., back to our example. This company needed more than
price, their product pricing is right inline with everyone
else, so now what?
First of all, you need to know what your competitors do offer.
This is not a new concept. You can’t compete if you don’t
know what you’re up against. So take a little time and
check out what they have. Do some research, you’d be surprised
what you might find – or not. Special offers, free shipping,
a contest, great customer support?
Take a step back, imagine you are the customer and you do buy
toner from someone a few times a year. If they do not get great
service or it’s just average, then chances are you can sway them
your way. This references “customer loyalty” another chapter,
but it follows first getting the customer. So, let’s get the
prospect as a customer first.
Now, what do we do to sway these prospects? We offer them what
the competition doesn’t. This can be discovered with your
competitive research. Oh, and if you still haven’t found a
USP or a few – then Hyperformance Media can help you with
this as well.
Write down every idea that you and your team come up with.
Please don’t worry about how silly they might seem (at the time),
just brainstorm with the data you have gained. The reason I say
to include the silly ones, and others is because sometimes those
little ideas that you laughed at can actually be morphed to
create your USP. No idea is too far fetched at this point, and
usually the ideas you laughed at are, in fact, some things your
competitors don’t offer. That’s where we go next.
On the toner company we came up with all kinds, some were already
offered by competitors, some were not. The idea is to initially
come up with as many as possible. Here are some of what we
narrowed the field to (we started with about two dozen);
* Price (of course)
* Free Shipping (varied by quantity/price)
* Great Customer Service (so everyone says)
* A Contest / Promotion (a what?)
* Free Gifts (vary)
* Referral Savings (with parameters)
* Reminders? (to buy)
The next step is again to nail down our list, get creative, really
think here. This alone still makes us more competitive
(once implemented), even if others use the same approach. Why?
Because before we did this, there was a ton of competition, and
as we add these USP’s we now narrow the list of our ‘real’
competitors. We are now more competitive within our industry,
because we now offer things that (most) of our competitors do not!
We are getting more competitive immediately by implementing some
simple offerings. Let’s take each one in this example and see
how we can use it or discard it to our advantage.
* Price – Still very important in any market, but very tied to
customer value (or perceived value). If your product or service
is not competing here – it does not necessarily rule you out,
more on this later. However, this is usually where a shopper
starts (because it’s easy), and you want to be considered with
this group. In this example, we agreed that (based on our research)
we were in the market on price. So our price is competitive and
that’s great, but not unique enough to get the business.
* Free Shipping – In our research, we found that most of the
company’s who were offering this service were just a couple
dollars higher in price (covering their “free” offer).
So while it may have some perceived value, it was not enough
for this company to offer that, so we discarded this one.
If however, your costs are such that you can ship for free
and still be competitive and profitable, this is a worthwhile USP.
* Great Customer Service – This is stated everywhere, making it
tough for the consumer to know what is reality. It is hard to
judge until you are a customer. It would be more valuable to
offer testimonials of Great Customer Satisfaction. Not Customer
Service, but Customer Satisfaction. There is a big difference
here. So we DO want to take some of our really satisfied
customers and put together, or request their testimonials.
This is much more powerful than the words or promise of
“Great Customer Service”. So we will use this, but focusing
on satisfaction with testimonials in our advertising pieces
and website, etc.
* A Contest/Promotion – This covers a broad area, but can be
extremely successful when implemented and marketed properly,
so be creative and if possible, develop one for your business,
product or service. After our discussions, and research,
we have begun developing this idea. Example: Every time you
buy from us, you get another chance at winning “Free Toner
for a Year”. I know you’re saying… free toner for a year
– what are you crazy? Bear with me on this… first of all,
most of their customers use 4 to 6 toners in normal use in
one year (In our contest, we can actually cap that in our
rules, i.e., “Not to exceed 6 cartridges”. So we associate
our costs to that, which does not make this a cost prohibitive
program at all, depending upon the program success.
Again, the mileage and customers we gain from our contest is
potentially huge, and if it works well, we continue it… at
a maximum cost of 6 toners per year for a Grand Prize.
* Free Gifts – Don’t discount this one, many people grab hold
of these ‘offers’ to feel like they are making out. All else
being the same, the customer does get something for nothing.
Now, if the item truly has no value, then the customer has
little to no interest. And, it actually ‘cheapens’ the image
of your firm (be careful). We decided with our products and
business customer profile, this would not work for this business.
But it could work for you or your products.
* Referral Programs – Another potential attraction (savings) for
your customer. I say potential because this type of referral
program, like price, should not be the only USP. When used in
conjunction with others, this can steadily grow your business
(sales) as well. You need to develop a program that somehow
rewards referrals. For example, it can be something simple like
“Refer a customer to our business and when we ship their order
you will receive or accrue credits, dollars, points, or 5% off
your next order”. Get the idea? The key is to make it of value,
and still keep it cost effective.
* Reminders – This was it! The big one, it was unique, it has
great value to the customer, and it reinforces our Customer
Satisfaction! This was also laughed at when first mentioned.
So? What was the plan? We acquire a software program that can
be set to automatically e-mail each customer based on their own
usage when their toner and supplies were potentially running low
(i.e., 30 or 90 days or any date we choose. Once set-up it is
all automated (cost effective)! It also gave us their e-mail
address (important anytime) and with our reminders we could include
any special or seasonal offers that might further attract more sales.
So, what did this company find?
In a nutshell – Their products are priced well to compete. In this
case, we discarded free shipping as not really cost effective.
We stressed Satisfied Customers in all of our marketing materials
with testimonials and real-life examples. We are also developing
a contest to further set us apart from our competitors. We could
not find a free gift we thought would add any value to the customer
(but continue to look). They are considering a Referral Program as well.
The real USP in combination with the others was our unique E-mail
Reminder System. At that time, no other competitor was offering
anything like this! This IS a Unique Selling Proposition and was
perfect for our example. Put all these together, and this company
has numerous ‘edges’ on their competition. Once customers are aware
of these differences that set you apart from all the rest – growth
is almost certain! That company is in a much better position to ‘own’
their market online, or at a minimum increase their market share.
The more you get the word out, the more you’re sure to benefit from
these type ideas.
I understand this was a pretty broad example but you should get the idea.
You won’t always come up with an idea that no competitor has or offers,
but if only 3-6 competitors offer that same USP, you are still in
the top tier of your competition instead of lost somewhere un-noticed
while buyers continue to purchase through your competition. You decide.
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