How to define your business’s unique selling proposition

It's important that you know what the unique selling proposition is (USP) for your business and the products or services you sell as this is what sets you apart from your competitors. In short, why should customers buy from you instead of the competition?

A USP should focus on the main benefit to the customer of buying your products or using your services. Popular examples include fast or free delivery, good customer service, price, ease of use and offering a guarantee. Whatever you decide, it must help your customer in some way and it must be unique.    

By answering the following questions the information you gather will help you to define what the USP is for your business. You can develop USPs for your business as a whole or for each product or service you offer.

What do you do? 

What is it that your product or company does? What services and/or products do you provide? Who are your customers? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Why do your current customers buy from you?  

Don't be afraid to ask your existing customers why they buy from you. You can do this in a number of ways – by speaking to them, asking them to fill out a survey or providing reply cards with every purchase. Read our guide to asking for customer feedback to find out more.      

Research your market  

Use all the research available to you to understand your market and what potential customers want. What are their biggest fears? What problem are they looking for you to solve?     

Once you have an understanding of what customers want, make a list of the top five to ten. Then measure what you offer and your strengths against these. Give yourself a score out of five.     

Competitor research 

Next, look to your competitors – how are they meeting the needs of the market? Again, give them a score out of five to rate them on how they meet these needs.    

Review and compare 

Compare your performance against that of your competitors. Where you and your competitor both do the same thing or meet the same need, cross this from your list – it is not unique. What you're left with after doing this should give you a good idea of what your USP is. If you have more than one, you'll need to choose the strongest.    

Look for opportunities 

If you and your competitors are doing the same thing, don't fear. Go back to list of what customers want. Are there any areas where customers' needs aren't being met at all? This could be a great opportunity for you to develop new products and services, find new business and steal a march on your competitors.    

Stake your claim 

Some industries and business areas are so crowded that it's very difficult to find a unique selling point. In this case, unless your competitors have already claimed the USP you want to use, there's no reason why you can't stake your claim to it.     

One of the most famous USPs is Domino Pizza's "fresh hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it's free". They weren't the only company who could deliver pizza in 30 minutes, but they were the first to guarantee that they could, and they became famous for it!     

Test your USP 

Your USP has to be sufficient to persuade customers and it should be specific and measurable, not vague. Ask people in your target market, colleagues and friends what they think of the USP and ask them to give you honest feedback. Once you've set your USP it isn't a good idea to change it too frequently, so it pays to get it right first time.     

Communicate your USP 

Once you've decided on your USP, make sure everyone knows about it. Use it on your website, adverts, emails, letters and other sales materials. If customers don't know what you're offering, they won't know why to choose you over the competition.    

Live up to your USP 

Make sure that your USP is realistic. For example, customers may want you to be available 24/7 or to deliver on the same day, but you shouldn't guarantee to do this if you can't deliver. This will only create frustration towards your company and can potentially damage your reputation. Make sure that all your staff know about it too, so that they can live up to any guarantee you've made.    

To find out more about marketing and how you can grow your business by increasing sales to existing customers and attract new ones, click here.

Last updated 1st June 2016

Introduction

Why should customers buy from you instead of the competition? 

Headline

How to define your business’s unique selling proposition (USP)