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Position to stand out and stay strong

Retail Rescue

With your company/product name established, it is time to tackle another wordy task: Creating a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). When a customer says, “50 other companies sell the same products and services as you do. Why should I do business with you rather than one of your competitors?” your USP gives the answer.

Every product, business or service needs a positioning statement that makes it stand out from the competition. It is up to you to discover this element of uniqueness. If you can successfully differentiate yourself, your business and products from your competition, the road is clear to a flood of prospective buyers and a tidal wave of profits.

Steps to USP success

While most business owners understand they need a USP, they just do not know how to develop one. It is a shame because the process is fairly simple, although you will have to put on your creative “thinking cap.” The following approach should help you create an effective USP without too much mental wear and tear:

Step 1 – Know your rivals USP

Seek out competitors online, in the phone book and in newspaper/magazine ads. Select three to 10 businesses that are doing well and try to determine their USP. If they don’t have a clear USP, try to identify the features or services they stress in their messages.

Now comes the tricky part: Look for the gap in their products or services that you can bridge. What area of the market is not being serviced where you can make your mark?

Believe it or not you may be able to sit down with a competitor and talk. You need to always be thinking of new ways to get information about your competitors.

Step 2 – Get to know yourself

Sit down and brainstorm with your staff, family and friends about elements that should be included in your USP. Don’t judge the ideas, just write them down.

Stimulate discussion with questions like these: What do we do better than our competition? What do our customers say about us? What praise do we often get from our customers? What endorsements from celebrities or well-known organizations do we have or could we get? How does our business model differ from our competition? What market category or niche is not being served by our industry?

It is helpful at this stage to interview and survey your current and past customers. Ask them why they bought from you rather than your competition. What are they looking for in a provider of your product or service? What is important to them when making a buying decision? What feature or benefits do they value most or would like to see added to your product or service?

Step 3 – Record your ideas

Write down the key points of your USP concept. Focus on the benefits to your customer. Develop a list of five to 10 possible positioning statements.

Once you’ve created some concepts, show this list to your staff, friends and current customers. Get their input and use suggestions and comments to narrow your USP concept down to a single main differentiating concept. Less is sometimes more.

Once you have settled on the unique and compelling feature of your product or business, begin to distill it down to one paragraph that clearly communicates and sums up why your customers should buy from you. This paragraph can be used on your Web site and in your marketing materials where you have more room to explain the unique benefits you bring to your customers.

Step 4 – Integrate your USP into everything you do

Once you have carefully constructed your powerful positioning statement, put it on your letterhead, business card, answering machine message, Web site and in all advertising and marketing. Every time you talk to your customers, employees or suppliers, you should mention your USP.

The 'U’ is for ubiquitous

Once you have determined your USP, it becomes of paramount importance this message is communicated in all of your advertising and marketing.

  • If you run media ads, your USP can be illustrated in the headline and in your ad copy.

  • If you do telemarketing, communicate it that way.

  • If you have salespeople, your USP must be in their sales presentation.

The same headlines can be used in radio ads, television commercials and magazine display advertisements.

Once is not enough

You may find it valuable to have more than one USP. This would depend upon the markets that you go after or the mix of products you carry. For example, if you offer casual furniture in the summer and fireplace or Christmas in the winter. Sizzling Summer Sales — It’s Time to Cash-In!

Watch out for words

Beware of positioning statements that may express double meanings. In the example above, using the words “cash in” with seniors could sound like you’re talking about death.

After you have collected as much information as you can gather, it’s time to ask yourself:

  • What can you offer that your competitors don’t?

  • What can your business do now that fills a void or offers something no one else in your industry offers?

  • What are the reasons people do business with you?

USP Think Tank

Selection, price, guarantee ... these can all be part of your USP and your extended “brand identity.” Visit for more examples of 10 proven USP categories to help you create a benefit-rich positioning statement that zeroes in on a key need of your target market. These may include a USP based on size/selection, your guarantee, service, pricing or discounts.

Every successful USP has three characteristics:

  1. The appearance of uniqueness. The feature you decide to promote in your USP does not have to be unique to your product, but it has to seem like it is.

  2. Usefulness. The appearance of uniqueness is not enough. If the distinguishing feature of the product is not desirable, no one will want it. In deciding on your product’s USP, it is better to select a feature that isn’t entirely original and make it seem unique than to select a feature that is unique but useless.

  3. Conceptual simplicity. It’s good to remember that you have to sell the USP — and nothing sells that is difficult to explain.

What about your USP?

Is it unique, useful and simple?

Does it clearly define what sets you apart from your competition?

Can you prove it to your customers and prospects? For more, visit

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