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The point of a unique selling point

The Point of a Unique Selling Point

You can’t escape the term “USP” in most writing on marketing. In case you haven’t done much reading in that field, we’d like to tell you that USP stands for Unique Selling Point (or Proposition). It’s what differentiates your product or service from those of your rivals, the one thing that singles you out from the competition.

Now, you would be right in asking how all products or services could have a USP, especially when there are so many well matched offerings in the marketplace.

Allow us to clarify. A USP is something that singles you out in the mind of your customer. There might or there might not be any difference in reality, but it’s the perception that counts. Take Citibank’s legendary slogan “The Citi Never Sleeps”, which created an image of a safe and responsible bank in the minds of the public. Other banks could make a similar claim, but Citibank clearly took ownership of that property.

Having a Unique Selling Proposition is not just nice to have, it’s a must have. Without it, your business runs the risk of

• Getting lost in the crowd, as a me-too

• Not being able to attract the target clientele, who might be using another product and is given no incentive to switch

• Being caught in a price war, since that would be the only differentiator, given all other things are equal

That being said, your product or service must clearly deliver value to the user, or it will fail, USP or no USP!

Establishing a Unique Selling Point, especially for a run-of-the-mill or non-breakthrough product, is not easy. Rarely will a USP be obvious at first glance – why would clients pay multi million dollars to advertising agencies to create one, if it were? If you’re looking to establish yours, try the following process of evaluation:

• Compare your product with those of your competitors in terms of the features and benefits that each offers. Does your product offer a unique benefit?

• Assuming that most competing products satisfy the same physical needs, evaluate how different they are when it comes to satisfying emotional needs. The strength of the brand plays a very important role in this case.

• Features and benefits need not be the only differentiator. Analyze whether your distribution network is wider, or whether you deliver in a shorter time. Service is as big a USP as any.

• For products that are high tech and expensive, the availability of spare parts and a servicing network plays almost as big a role in the buying decision as the product itself. So, if you have it, flaunt it!

• Only when you’ve run through this list, should you even consider looking at price. Price as a USP is good only as long as a cheaper variant doesn’t come along.

You may find it interesting to know that not all USPs are established by clear verbalization. Many are depicted visually or implied. What is important is that the (unique selling) point must be made in no uncertain terms!

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