New customers standing in line

No matter what type of business you run, there is one question you must answer if you want to reach new customers: What is your unique selling proposition? A unique selling proposition (USP) is a vital tool that will help you stand out from your competition and give customers the best experience possible.

What is a unique selling proposition and why do you need one?

The basic definition of a USP is the reason or reasons your business’s products and services are different from your competitors’ offerings. Your USP is the characteristics that make your business stand out from the crowd.

Identifying your USP can lead to a number of potential benefits, including customer loyalty, a clear brand identity and improved sales. Here are four tips to use when coming up with a USP and putting it to work for your business:

1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

One popular adage when thinking about a unique selling proposition says, “Before you sell anything to customers, you need to sell to yourself.” Imagine how your target customer thinks, feels and behaves, and ask yourself why they would purchase your products or services. What makes you stand out?

Of course, this can mean a lot of different things for various types of businesses. If you’re an electrician or a plumber, for instance, it might mean you offer the fastest service or the lowest prices. If you’re a clothing boutique, it might mean you have the most current fashions or that you showcase local designers. If you’re a pizza shop, it could be your ultra-fast delivery or that you use locally produced, organic ingredients.

There are many possibilities for each type of business. The key is to choose a USP that fits with your branding and the way you’d like your business to be perceived in your community.

2. Identify your own strengths

One USP strategy that works for many companies is to identify your own strengths and focus on those. The idea is to become the best at something and then use that as your selling point.

For example, an auto mechanic may not have the lowest prices, but their craftsmanship may be top-notch. Their USP would be that the shop can fix anything it comes across, leading to high customer satisfaction and more return visits. For this and many other types of businesses, customers are willing to pay for what they know is the highest quality work available.

Or, perhaps a business owner’s strength is their personality and ability to relate to people. This owner’s USP could be the friendliest customer service in the area, making customers feel welcome and building loyalty over time.

3. Solve problems and meet needs

This tip returns to putting yourself in the shoes of your customers. Ask yourself what needs your business fulfills, or identify ways that your business can solve a problem your target audience might have. Then think about how you can deliver that solution to customers better, faster or at a lower price than your competitors.

For some businesses, this might involve filling a niche in the market by offering a unique service that your competitor doesn’t. Or, you could become known as the quick-response business, offering your products or services for those who need them in a hurry.

4. Know your competition — and their USP

One component of your USP is communicating how your business is different from the competition. Once you know what your competitors offer, you can determine how your business can better meet your target customer’s needs.

After you figure out what your business can offer that others cannot, you need to let your potential customers know. If you run a food truck and have unusually short wait times, you can spread the word among customers looking for a quick bite during lunch hour. Or, if you’re the only pet boutique in the area that creates personalized items, such as collars or sweaters, you could advertise that to area residents using print postcards or brochures.

Creating a unique selling proposition takes some time and energy, and these four tips are a good way to get started. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, fulfill their needs, play up your own strengths and figure out how you stand out from the competition. That will help you define a USP that you can use as the cornerstone of your business for years to come.

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