#gxmxp Series

Unique Selling Propositions

In our last post, we talked about Unique Value Propositions (UVPs) – clear statements of the tangible results a customer gets from using your product or service. You should have catalogued your UVPs in our UVP Document

Unique Selling Propositions (USP) are different. Your USP is a statement about what makes your company distinct compared to other vendors.

The goal of a USP is to communicate competitive differentiation.

Context Matters

We started with UVPs because those are the straight truths about how your product or service helps your customers. A USP takes your UVP one step further with context regarding other offerings in the market.

Those other offerings might be competitors, but it might also be the status quo. Speak the customer’s language and put your product in a context they’re familiar with.  

Context refers to understanding what your potential buyer already knows. Today, the average buyer has done a majority of their decision making before they’ve even had a conversation with you.

They’ve probably already seen your competitor’s website or they’ve been using a similar product, so you shouldn’t be speaking to them as if they have no context of products like yours or the industry.

Think about cell phone carriers. If they say they have a fast network, that’s a UVP. However, saying they have the fastest network is a USP. Customers already know that everybody has a fast, 4G network. So when a company says they’re the fastest, they’re distinguishing themselves from the other carriers because the context is already there for the customer. 

Your Biggest Competitor is the Status Quo

A customer who’s considering you is probably going to make a competitive matrix of your features and benefits compared to similar products. With your USP, you should do that work for them and just tell them how you compare. 

The #1 competitor for most startups is not another company; it’s the status quo. Click to Tweet

Founders spend a lot of time and energy preparing to defend their product against competitive products in the sales process when in reality you rarely go head-to-head against another solution. The main exceptions to this rule are where the customer is already using a competitor’s product or if you’re selling to a large enterprise with a procurement department that requires an RFP process.

Just focus on what we talked about back in the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) exercise. How are your customers doing their job today? What tools are they using or hacking together to get their work done and how long does it take them?

For example, spreadsheets are one of the most misused pieces of technology. Only a small percentage of people use them for what they’re built for, which is mathematical formulas and calculations. That’s your competition and as such it is your job to identify and communicate how you are different.

Developing Your USPs

Before continuing, scroll over to the Resources/Downloads section and download the USP Document and open it up.

Doing this exercise is very similar to how we came up with your UVPs in the last post. Brainstorm about 20 USPs. Don’t worry about getting the wording perfect, just get the essence right using plain-English. These USPs will be reworded depending on the medium we use them in later. 

Think about the classic categories of differentiation. You could have a unique specialty or market, like only working with enterprises or small businesses. You could also have a guarantee (“we guarantee your product will be delivered within one day”). It could be your methodology, like a proprietary system that gets your customers results in a way that’s different from your competitors. You may differentiate on product quality (“these apples are organic”).

Keep in mind that you’re not working to convey how you’re better. You’re working to convey how you’re different because the context for the customer is already there.

Once you have 20 USPs, you’ll need to narrow them down to about 10. Order the list so that the first things you talk about are what’s going to get people hooked. If you only get to say one of these USPs to a potential customer, which one is it? Then if you get to say one more after that, which one would it be? Work your way down the list like this and you’ll have about 10 prioritized USPs. 

Then, just like with UVPs, you need to take your USPs out for a test drive. Start with people who fit your ICP. Do these people agree with your USP or do they push back?

Your USP list is a hypothesis of what you think your competitive advantage is.

Once you get some verbal confirmation about what your customers care about, then you can solidify the order of this list or tweak the language so it’s as relevant and accurate as possible.

You’ve Built Your Foundation

The USP Document, along with everything else we’ll do in Market Messaging, will create a clear, holistic message about what you do.

Most companies start creating messaging with a firehose of product features completely devoid of context. Instead, you’re going to be shooting a laser beam of value at a specific person.

You should be able to trace every single piece of collateral you make to the most important UVPs and USPs in your UVP and USP documents

With a working list of UVPs and USPs, you’re ready to create a Market Message Map – clear messages that convey the business impact of your product or service. That’s up next in #gxmxp! 

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