With marketing being such an integral part of running a small business, you’ve probably heard people talking about their USP – or unique selling proposition.
Defining who you are and who you want to do business with is the first step to attracting your ideal client. And having a solid USP will help you with that – and more. So let’s have a look what this is all about!
What is a USP?
A unique selling proposition (sometimes called a “unique selling point”) is something to set you apart from your competition. And it can be anything: You can be the green local taxi company with lots of hybrid and electric cars and other environmentally friendly services. Or you can be a remote worker friendly cafe, with booths for meetings, and charging plugs at every table.
If you are the only one in your target area to offer that, excellent! You are one lucky entrepreneur and you probably know it. But your USP doesn’t need to be truly unique; you just have to be the only one shouting about it.
A USP also creates and defines your niche or your audience. Look for example at British supermarket chains. They basically sell food. All of them. But when you have a closer look, Waitrose doesn’t directly compare to Lidl, right? That is because every single one of them has claimed a niche for themselves, along with a suitable USP.
Waitrose is the up-market, high-quality version of a supermarket for people with higher income and foodie genes. They don’t have the Royal Warrant for no reason.
Lidl, on the other hand, has chosen the opposite end of the price scale, with the slogan ‘Big on Quality, Lidl On Price’.
So your unique selling proposition is all about your positioning in the marketplace, defining how you do business and with whom.
Why do I need a USP?
Imagine you are at a networking event. You have been to several similar events and you have met your share of, let’s say, photographers there. Their respective ‘elevator pitches’ have been fairly straightforward: I take photos, I do weddings or headshots for your website, whatever you need. Fair enough. But what if one of the photographers said: I specialise in food photography?
They might not get the job for your niece’s 10th birthday party. But they are memorable, more so than the other nondescript photographers. And they just established themselves as an expert in their area instead of doing a little bit of everything. So when you next talk to a restaurant or cafe owner who needs a new website with lots of photos of their fantastic food, who do you think of?
By defining your niche you position your small business among your competitors. It makes it easier for people to remember who you are and helps you target exactly the right people for your small business.
It also gives you an expert status because your clients feel in good hands. They are not just hiring anyone, they are hiring a specialist!
Check out these 8 great examples of USPs for your small business.
How do I define my USP?
1. Check out the competition
First of all, have a look at your competition (Not sure who that is? Then find out who your actual competitors are, first!):
- How are they representing themselves on and offline?
- Do they communicate a slogan or a specific USP in their marketing material?
- Who are they targeting?
- What do they offer and at what price?
This way you know what choice your potential customer is confronted with when looking for the service you and your competition offer. And shows gaps in the market you can use to set yourself apart. Sometimes simply having a USP – no matter what kind – can set you favourably apart from other businesses.
2. Define your target groups
Then have a look at your target groups:
- Who do you want to do business with?
- Who will benefit most from your service or product?
- What do they need and want?
- How do they use your product or service?
At this point, it is very important that you don’t describe who you can do business with but who you want to do business with. Of course, if you just started your small business you want to get as many clients as possible without being particularly picky. But defining your ideal client will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
3. Analyse your products and services
Now have a closer look at what you are offering and what you’re doing better than your competitors:
- Are you cheaper or more expensive?
- Is there anything you offer that they don’t?
- Or the other way around?
- How do you deliver your service or product?
Then get clear on what that means for your target audience. How does your competitive advantage provide value for your customers? And again, focus on your ideal clients, the clients who benefit most from what makes you unique.
Check out this post if it’s been a while since you sat down and assessed exactly what it is you’re selling!
4. Describe your values
Finally, think about your values and strengths:
- What is important to you?
- How do you want to be perceived in the market?
- What do you want to stand for?
- Have you e.g. always been a promoter of a healthy lifestyle or saving the environment?
Then make sure your marketing, products and services reflect that – using your small business’s USP. For example, if you are a plumber and you have never been late in your whole life, for what it is worth, shout about it. People will love you for it.
5. Pick your USP
Now have a look at all the information you have gathered:
- Is there anything that stands out?
- Anything that is so particularly you that nobody else offers it to their clients?
- Something that your competition doesn’t seem to have covered yet?
Always keep in mind: Your USP is as much about setting yourself apart from your competitors as it is about representing you and how you do business. And: The best USP is worth nothing if you don’t deliver on your promise.
If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
8 Great Examples of USPs for Your Small Business
What’s a Marketing Strategy, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
Small Business Brand: What Is It, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
The 5-Step Guide to Find a USP for Your Small Business [Infographic]