Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Forget your USP, it probably isn't 'unique'

Ever been asked what your USP is?  Difficult isn’t it?  You may well have one but can you honestly say it’s something that you genuinely believe in, deliver against and is compelling for your audiences?

Far too often sales teams latch onto what they think is a USP without really thinking it through.  Several years ago I joined a sales-led business as marketing director and made the point of asking everyone I met what the USP was.  There were several responses but the most common was “we were founded in 1980”.  It was a clumsy attempt to show that the business had critical mass, a good track record, some really valuable know-how and was a much safer bet than many of the one-man bands that had been established in the sector.  But unfortunately it hadn’t been thought through and no one seemed able to answer my follow up question:  “that’s great, but I see that one of your immediate competitors was founded in 1948.  Does that make them twice as good as you?”.

The problem with USPs is that nothing is really ‘unique’ in business, at least for long.  Yes there is first mover advantage but what is potentially ‘unique’ today is more than likely to be copied tomorrow.  The net result?  You and your competitors suddenly start looking very familiar.

Instead of spending time agonising over your USP, focus instead on your ‘brand value proposition or promise’ (BVP) and ‘brand story’.  Ask yourself and colleagues some searching questions:
  • What is it that we do particularly well (beyond the purely functional)?
  • What do we stand for and believe in?
  • What is our culture?
  • What tangible and intangible benefits do we deliver to our customers?
  • How do we make our customers feel?

Out of this process will come the core of a BVP and brand story – a clear statement of what your business is all about, how you deliver real value and what your customers feel about doing business with you.

And then of course comes the real work:  making sure that your interactions with customers and prospects really bring your BVP to life.  Oh, and of course, convincing your sales teams that they really don’t need a USP.

More on BVPs and how to develop yours coming soon.