Whatever your business is, someone else is doing it too.
Some sectors are more crowded than others, but there are always competitors, and the success of your business depends on how well you stand out in your particular crowd.
And that means pinpointing and developing your unique selling proposition. Your USP is what makes you the go-to supplier in your product or service area. If you’re not the go-to people, your USP needs a bit of work.
For many business leaders, just identifying their USP can be hard enough, never mind working out if it needs to be tweaked and how to go about achieving improvements. However, there are three tests that can help with the process.
Test One: Does your consumer want your product/service?
Before you eye-roll and exclaim “Duh!”, let me remind you about Microsoft Zune (people in the market for an iPod, bought an iPod), Cosmopolitan Yogurt (readers stuck to reading), and Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water (turns out beer drinkers were quite happy with their beer – who’d have thunk it?).
You may well be the world’s premier hedgehog masseuse, or offer a 24-hour remote control finding service, but if people don’t want your product/service or aren’t willing to pay for it, find something else to build a business around.
However, there can be another reason consumers aren’t coming to you for a product or service. They think you do something else.
Imagine two companies:
Gerry’s Green Fingers Ltd is a garden services provider, offering garden maintenance, tree surgery, turf laying, and landscape design.
Garry’s Green Visions Ltd provides landscape design.
Consumers in the market for landscape design may not realise Gerry provides the service they’re looking for because they think of him as a gardener. But even if a potential customer is aware that Gerry’s services include landscape design, that customer may choose Garry because they feel he is a specialist. As far as attracting landscape design business, Garry has the advantage because he makes it very clear what his company is about; he has a strong, well-defined USP.
Test Two: Does your competitor do it better?
If your customers’ needs are being served better by someone else, you have a problem. But the good news is that you know your successful rival has a USP that works. Study it.
Why are you being beaten? Look at price structure, but remember that price isn’t always the main reason people buy, and look at product characteristics, at placement strategy (ie location and distribution), and at promotional strategy. What does your competitor offer that you don’t that appeals to customers? Is it as simple as price? Or is it convenience, customer service, reliability, or something else?
When you understand their USP, both its strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to choose a different USP that trumps theirs, or you can set about working hard at claiming their USP for your own.
Test Three: Are your competitors doing it just as well as you are?
You may find that you and your main competitor are performing equally well. This isn’t a bad position to be in, but it’s not especially safe. This position is unreliable, leaving you exposed to potential drops in sales.
If you find yourself in this situation, you need to find out what the differences are between you and your rival, and this involves researching why customers are making their purchasing choices. If it turns out that there is nothing that you can change and/or improve – such as convenience, customer service, price or reliability—to separate you and your competition, then you might want to tweak your USP to give customers an emotional reason to choose you over your rival(s).
Study your rivals’ advertising and marketing, taking note of what they say about themselves and their products/services. Also research your customers; by getting to know them, and by taking into account your competition’s messaging, you’ll be able to pinpoint what might sway purchasing choices. This may involve a comprehensive image change, or be as simple as supporting a charity (perhaps one that offers retraining to out of work hedgehog masseuses).
Staying on top
Does your USP pass these three tests? Or is a USP upgrade called for? If after applying these tests, you’re doing what you do better than your rivals, congratulations, your USP is sound.
But don’t rest on your laurels. A competitor may be reading this and setting their sights on your USP. Slip on your customers’ shoes, think about what motivates their buying behaviour and decisions, and with that in mind, look at your business and your rivals with the same critical eye. Why are you beating the competition? What do you do offer that your competitors don’t? Know your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, keep a close eye on your competition, and be ready to see off any challenges to your go-to status.
About the author:
Shweta Jhajharia is Principal Coach and founder of The London Coaching Group, an ActionCOACH company. Shweta is a multi-award-winning business coach, and a popular keynote speaker. She has been recognised both by external bodies and the industry awards panels as the top coach in the UK, and the Number 1 ActionCOACH from over 1200 worldwide. She has also been invited to speak at large business events such as the bi-annual Business Show.