The second rule of good communications states that three letter acronyms (TLAs) should be avoided. Acronyms obscure and alienate where plain English illuminates. But we’re going to make an exception in this case. Why? Because the first rule of good communication states that any successful product or service needs a USP – a unique selling point.
A well-conceived and communicated USP is immediately understood. It helps turn would-be customers (or donors) into actual customers (or donors) by making it clear why the product or service is different. Examples of brands that understand the power of a well-communicated USP include FedEx (“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”) and John Lewis (“Never knowingly undersold”).
So how do you develop a USP?
If your product or service already exists, spend time identifying its truly unique features, those that answer a customer need. The first thing to accept is that it is highly unlikely that any product or service is wholly unique in every aspect. Most borrow something from elsewhere, so strip away the conventional and every day until you get to the exceptional. This might be the speed of delivery, the cost, the ease of use or something else again.
If there is nothing exceptional, nothing to differentiate you from the rest, return to the drawing board. On that virtual drawing board, identify and think about the following:
– The customer. Identify and flesh out personas for you key audience or audiences, and then ask: what do they need? What do they desire? What are their current frustrations? How can those be resolved?
– Your market. Make a list key trends and competitors, and then ask: what are the opportunities presented by those emerging trends? Where are the opportunities being missed by competitors?
– Other market(s). Make a of list innovative models that work elsewhere, and then ask: how can I transfer USPs from another market to my market?
Once you think you have identified something worthwhile, sanity check it. First ask yourself if it:
– is truly different (unique)
– is wholly persuasive (selling)
– presents a coherent and understandable message (point/proposition)
Then ask yourself the following question, first posed by marketing specialist Dan Kennedy:
“Why should I, your prospect, choose to do business with you versus any and every other option?”
If you can coherently answer that question, you’ve got yourself a unique selling point.
Finally, make sure you never use the term USP in front of your customers.
By Jon Bernstein
Jon Bernstein is an associate of Slack Communications