Unique Selling Points

Finding and Using a Unique Selling Point to Stand out From the Competition

A Unique Selling Point, or USP, is something that makes your micro-business stand out from the competition, but it’s not always easy to work out what it actually is.

White duck standing out from the crowd

What makes you stand out in your customers’ eyes?

Many businesses – both micro-businesses and large companies – advertise themselves saying ‘quality, professional, friendly service’, or state they are the cheapest or ‘best value’. If that sounds like you, it’s time to find a more effective USP. A good USP will make your micro-business stand out from competitors by telling potential customers exactly what you offer them and why it is better than competitor offerings.

The trouble with saying ‘quality, professional, friendly service’ is that it is often identical to what everyone else says, so doesn’t make your micro-business stand out. In addition, it’s meaningless as it’s customers who ultimately make the decision on whether you deliver the promised level of service or not, regardless of what you claim.

Using Price as a Promotion Tool

Price is not a way of differentiating your micro-business as other companies can replicate it, merely by charging the same amount. You can then end up competing solely on the basis of who is cheapest. For ‘cheapest’, substitute the words ‘lowest profit per sale’ and see if you still want to compete on that basis.

It’s tempting to think that customers will always go for the lowest priced option, but this isn’t true. If they did, the cheapest product available would always be the biggest seller and there would be no innovation as businesses would be concentrating on cost-reduction, rather than improving the products and services. Would Apple be so successful if everyone bought purely on price? Think about things you buy yourself – do you always buy the cheapest of everything? Sometimes you will – but not always.

Good USPs

Look for a message that doesn’t sound identical to all other competitors and isn’t price-driven. It should be something that tells customers what you provide and why they should get it from you, plus ideally allow you to charge a higher price, rather than driving prices down. You might say, for example:

Widest range of colours available
Free delivery within 24 hours
Pre-scheduled delivery slots – so no waiting around

These are specific points that people can relate to and where there is a clear difference between what you and the competition provide. They also illustrate service much better than saying ‘quality service’.

Finding Your Micro-business USP

The secret to finding unique selling points lies in identifying what makes customers buy from, you rather than the competition. Ask your current customers why they chose you rather than someone else and you’ll soon identify your USP. You will start to see patterns in what they say, indicating what made you attractive to them. But you need to ask, rather than guess or assume.

Another method is to list every feature provided by your micro-business, product or service and then write beside it; ‘which means that …’. This converts a feature into a benefit, i.e. something customers might find attractive, stated in terms of what’s in it for them. Do the same exercise for your competitors too. Any features superior to what competitors can offer are USPs, providing they are expressed in terms of benefits, i.e. what it means for customers. How to find these USPs is also covered in Creating Unique Selling Points.

Highlighting the main benefits to customers is something that should also go into your advertising. Stating benefits rather than features means that prospective purchasers can see clearly what they will get from you, rather than having to work it out for themselves.

If you’re wondering about the best way to promote your micro-business and its USP, read Essential Marketing Materials and Types of Advertising for tips on marketing activity.