If you’ve been involved in marketing of a product or service for any length of time you’ve probably come across the phrase “Unique Selling Proposition (USP).” Some will know it as Unique Selling Point and others as Unique Value Proposition (UVP).
By whatever name you know it by it essentially boils down to this – “How are you going to differentiate yourself from all of your competitors?”
I first heard the phrase from marketing legend Jay Abraham back in the 1990s but the phrase was actually coined by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves back in the early 1940s. So, it’s not exactly a new concept. But its importance in the positioning of your brand, whether your brand is you, your company, or a specific product is probably more important now than at any time in history.
We’re bombarded with thousands of advertising messages every day. If you think about all the ads that you come across on a daily basis what strikes a chord with you? What really stands out as a reason you’d rather do business with one company versus another? All of the following are differentiators companies have used to try to grab the attention of the marketplace:
- Lowest Prices
- Widest Selection
- Highest Quality
- Better Service
- Longer Operating Hours
People typically try to set themselves apart from their competition in two primary ways. Number one is as a cost leader. Cost leadership puts a priority on saving money and appeals to those people who are budget minded. The second is through product differentiation which focuses on providing quality.
Personally, I feel trying to be the lowest cost provider of a product or service is a quick route to being out of business. We are not Wal-Mart or Amazon. When you try to compete on price you are working on smaller margins and are always susceptible to someone else undercutting your prices and taking that low-cost leader role from you.
Product differentiation is, in my opinion, the route to go. But, what if you’re selling a product that people view as a commodity? How do you distinguish yourself from the myriad of other companies who offer the same products?
Or, what if you’re a business or personal growth coach? You’re just one of hundreds of options for a potential client to choose from. How do you stand out from the crowd? As a coach you have your own unique set of experiences that you bring to the table. It’s incumbent on you to highlight that uniqueness that is truly you so those prospects truly understand what it is you provide that can help them on a greater path to success.
My good friend Armand Morin of MarketingUniversity.com prides himself on not teaching anything to his coaching clients that he hasn’t done himself. He is, so to speak, his own guinea pig and the fact that he’s been there and done that himself is a powerful attraction to those who want coaching on Internet marketing.
But what if you’re playing in the “commodity” world? It’s the factors beyond the product itself you need to emphasize. Maybe you have more locations so there’s one nearby for convenience. Maybe you have longer operating hours so they can come to you after work or on weekends. What factor or combination of factors makes you truly unique?
Remember, all of the factors that make up your business are part of your brand. Your logo is not your brand. According to Sergio Zyman, author of The End of Advertising As We Know It, a brand is essentially a container for a customer’s complete experience with a product or company. Your logo could be part of your brand but all of the following can also be part of your brand:
- Your tag line
- Your product packaging
- Your pricing
- Your guarantee
- Your reputation
- Your history
- Your customer service response times
- Your email communication
All of this, and much more, make up your brand. Your brand is what your customer or prospect perceives it to be. Every point of interaction between you and them frames that perception of what your brand is. And once you’ve “created” your brand you need to be true to your brand. Deviation from your brand in any way can potentially do massive damage to your long-term success.
Here’s a quick story to illustrate the importance of being true to your brand. A few years ago I sat down for lunch with a guy who had created a nice foothold in the financial services industry. He had built a substantial list of 55,000 subscribers to his list. His readers had grown accustomed to the frequency and tone of his messages and it had all become a part of his brand.
Then he decided to bring in an outside person to help him craft some new email marketing campaigns. This person apparently didn’t take the time to fully understand his brand because he came out with a hard selling email that was the direct opposite of what the readers had come to expect from this financial services marketer. So, it began to happen immediately – unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. Before all was said and one a list that had been 55,000 people was now a list of just 5,000 people.
Why? Because he hadn’t been true to his brand. He’d created a set of expectations with his regular communications that was contradicted by the hard selling message from the outside Internet marketing guru.
Your brand is a highly valuable commodity and every move you make in your business contributes to the formation of what your brand is in the minds of your prospects and customers. Whether you’re branding yourself or branding your company or branding a particular product or service you’ve got to think deeply about you want your brand to be and how you want to communicate that brand message to the marketplace.
Will it be easy? Of course not. But it will pay greater dividends long-term if you pay attention to how everything you do affects your branding.