Why do some businesses stand out from the crowd while others seemingly disappear?

That’s a complex question. But one of the main reason businesses blend into the background is they simply don’t know how to project themselves to the forefront. They fail to demonstrate what makes them great.

If you find yourself in the same position, if you’re just “another” business, then it might be time to find (or re-evaluate) your USP – Unique Selling Proposition.

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

When I go grocery shopping, I hit two stores: Walmart and Fry’s Food and Drug. Yep, I’m one of those people who actually shop at Walmart. But they usually have the best prices on everything. And when you’re on a budget, that is an attractive feature.

So why do I hit Fry’s Grocery Store, too? Because I will not buy Walmart produce. At least not at my Walmart. It’s horrible. Everything goes bad within a day or two. At Fry’s Food and Drug, by contrast, I can always find great produce. It’s fresh, crisp and tasty.

Consider this: I go to two stores to complete my grocery shopping. One I go to for prices, the other for fresh produce.

They sell the same items, but they are not the same. And everyone knows it!

So what happens when a business does not stand out from others?

Think about a service you don’t usually need. Maybe it’s pest control. Maybe it’s a landscaper. An auto-mechanic. How do you select these businesses?  

Well, in the old days we used to open the yellow pages, call several companies to price shop, and then randomly pick a business once we got tired of making phone calls. In my lazy house that usually meant we went with AAA everything: AAA pizza, AAA dentist, etc. (I sure hope you’re old enough to remember businesses adding the A’s just to get top listings.)

Today, you can’t rely on top listings in the yellow pages. You need something that genuinely makes you stand out. And that something should be included on your website, in your advertising, and in all of your print materials.

It’s called a USP – Unique Selling Proposition.

What Makes You Different? Nope, It’s Not Your Service.

You may be the exception, but in my experience, most business owners don’t really get what a USP is. And if you’re not sure you do, then there are a few “mistakes” you need to avoid when creating your USP.

Let’s start with the erroneous belief that a business can successfully use Great Customer Service as a selling point for their business.

Faux conversation with a business owner:

  • “So what makes you different from other companies?”
  • “Our service. We have great customer service.”
  • “Why is your service so great?”
  • “Because we are fast and friendly.”
  • “Why aren’t other businesses fast and friendly?”
  • “Well, they might but we do it better?”
  • “How?”
  • “I don’t know.”

Every business owner thinks their service is better, faster, more amazing than the next business. And of course that’s how you feel. If you didn’t, you would give up on your own business.

But guess what? Good customer service is not a USP. Anyone can make claims to good customer service whether it’s true or not.

A USP is a benefit that truly makes you stand out from the competition. Let me give you some examples and then you can think of some on your own:

  • Plumber: Our plumbers will smell good, or your money back.
  • Dominos: Hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free (By the way, this one was absolutely revolutionary for the pizza industry).
  • Dentist: Same day veneers

Get the idea?

A USP must be:

  • Beneficial to the consumer
  • Something none (or few) of your competitors can claim
  • Compelling

When you know your USP, you will be able to keep a consistent message in all your marketing pieces. And, assuming your USP fits certain criteria, it’s the first step in helping your business stand out from the crowd.

People need a defining reason to make a choice. The USP will give them a reason.

Haven’t figured out your USP yet? Then you may want to try our “Fail-Proof Process for Finding a USP” that makes your prospect sit up and take note.

Step 1: Read through your testimonials and see if a general theme pops up.

I was helping a health insurance agent rebrand his company and asked him to answer a handful of personal questions I had about insurance. He was extremely helpful and, in five minutes, gave me more clarity about my personal insurance needs than I had found browsing websites for a few hours.

Furthermore, I found a testimonial on his website from a woman who said that health insurance agents are notorious for selling you on services and then disappearing. My client, she said, was the rare exception. He was constantly reaching out, checking to see if she had any questions or concerns.

Combining these two thoughts, we redesigned his website to include a blogroll where someone could pose an insurance question and my client would answer it in the following blog post. Then his USP became:

The health insurance company where
answering your questions is our top priority.

And to make sure that message came out loud and clear, the website was rebranded, his testimonials took center-stage on all his marketing pieces.

If you read through your testimonials and come up with nothing…that’s okay, you can move on to step 2…

Step 2: Answer our signature series of questions to see if you can determine your USP.

In most cases, one of these questions will spark something you hadn’t considered about yourself or your company before.

1. Do you enjoy a celebrity endorsement or partnership with a large, well-respected company?

Dave Ramsey (financial expert) will endorse a handful of businesses that take the time to learn from him and prove they can help his loyal listeners. He doesn’t endorse just anybody, so his endorsement would certainly set you apart. The same is true with other experts.

2. Is there something special about the way you do things?

I’m going to bring up the Domino’s pizza example right here again. Their delivery process called for 30 minutes and changed the face of the pizza industry. And then, Little Caesars comes along 20+ years later and offers Hot ‘N Ready pizza for just $5. Love it!

Another example I came across is Mast Brothers Chocolate. It’s all made by hand, including choosing the Cacao beans. Which is also very unique.

3. Is there something about you (as an individual) that might draw people to your business?

On the show Dancing with the Stars, returned army soldier Noah Galloway competed with a prosthetic leg and a missing arm. The judges tried to be fair, but you could tell that everything he did impressed them because it was way beyond what the average person could accomplish.

Maybe you are an adoption lawyer who was adopted out of foster care when you were 5 years old. Perhaps you’re a dietician who suffers from Celiac’s disease or diabetes. Is it possible you’re an educator who has struggled with dyslexia.

I just read an article about a boy with Down’s Syndrome who is actively helping grow his own business that sells “awareness” socks. (Not just for Down’s but for any disorders.)

Sometimes that which makes you extraordinary makes your business extraordinary.

4. Do you reach an exclusive audience, or do you have something only YOU can sell?

People love exclusivity. And if you specialize in something, you could make that your USP. For example, you might be one of the few golf experts that can sell tickets to the Masters.

5. Does your company offer a service, resources, or money for special causes?  

My kids are fanatical about turning in their Box Tops at school. For every Box Top (found on signature products) turned in, General Mills will pay a school 10 cents. Every month our PTA sends out reminders to have kids turn them in – with the class who brings in the most winning a pizza party.  

6. Do you have specially made or signature materials in your products?

When you can claim that your products are Made in the USA, that’s pretty cool. And if you are the only one offering real Alpaca wool, well, that’s neat, too.

Step 3: Ask a customer why they buy from you specifically.

If you really haven’t thought of anything unique about your business yet, then take the time to find out what your existing customers like about you. They made a purchase. They must think you had something different to offer.

Email them. Call them. Tell them you’re doing a customer survey so you can improve your products and service and ask them to give their unfiltered opinion. (Hopefully, you’ll find your USP, and just maybe you’ll also find some ways to improve your services and products.)

If asking your customers still doesn’t bring you clarity, then try step 4…

Step 4: Spend time using the products or services of your competitors and see what makes them unique. (And take note of their marketing to see if they recognize their own value.)

Again, this should spark something. And, if it doesn’t, I have failed you and need you to tell me so I can change the name of my “Fail-Proof Process for Finding a USP.”

Please keep this one idea in mind: USP’s do not have to be revolutionary claims or earth-shattering marketing ploys. They just need to succeed in making your business stand out from the competition.

Just be careful what USP you choose. You’re setting a standard that your prospects will expect. Don’t say it unless you mean it.

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