If you've done any reading on the subject of marketing, you've certainly heard the term "Unique Selling Proposition" or "USP."
As a reminder, your USP is what positions you in the marketplace --- are you, or what you sell, the best, the cheapest, the fastest, the easiest, the longest lasting, the most reliable, the most prestigious? Your USP is what makes you distinct from your competitors, but it's often the thing first-time business owners don't fully understand.
Lara and I just started working together last month, and one of the first things we had to tackle was her USP. As a web site designer, she is part of a well-developed marketplace often competing with several other companies for every job.
"I really don't know why they keep picking the other guy. It's so frustrating after I've worked so hard to get in the door in the first place. The only way I feel like I can get the job is if I underbid it, but I'll never be able to keep my business running that way."
"Well, you're right," I replied. "You shouldn't have to lower your prices just to get every job. There are certainly web designers out there who are charging less than you, but there are probably an equal number of them that are charging more. So, if we assume that there are companies hiring your higher- priced competitors, then maybe price isn't what every prospect bases their decision on."
"It sure has been for me. That's always the reason they say they didn't choose me. It makes me think that I'm going to have to lower my prices in order to get any work, but like I said, I'm not charging anything out of the ordinary. My hourly rate is at the market average as far as I can tell."
There were a couple of issues that we explored during the rest of the conversation, including her pricing, her competitors, her target market, her mission, etc. But the one that really hit home was her USP.
Up until this point, Lara didn't realize that she was the one forcing her prospects to make their decisions based on price. She was marketing using the Competition Model instead of the Distinction Model.
In the Competition Model, your prospects see you as offering the same service as your competitors. In their mind, there is no delineation between what you and your competitors offer and how you offer it. So the only decision-making factor they are left with is price.
If they think all web designers offer the same level of web site design, can complete it in the same time frame and will be equally professional, what's left? That's right ? price.
Think about how you make buying decisions. If you are getting your clothes dry-cleaned every week and you think that the three local dry cleaners all do a decent job, will have your suits ready in two days, and are equally friendly or disagreeable, aren't you going to go with the cheapest one?
But some dry cleaners pick up and deliver don't they? Some offer tailoring and mending services in addition to dry cleaning. Others set up shop inside large grocery stores, so you can knock out two errands in one stop.
These things make them distinct from their competitors. There are people who will pay a little more in order to have their dry cleaning picked up. There are others that will pay a little more to be able to drop it off and pick it up at the same time they are buying their week's groceries.
If you don't want to compete strictly on price, you've got to be DISTINCT from your competitors. That way, your prospects have something, besides price, to base their decision on. By emphasizing that distinction in your marketing efforts, you will naturally attract those prospects who value your distinction.
And when you are Irresistibly Attractive, the sales pressure is off. You just go out there, show them who you are and what you can do, and they come to you!
So how do you make you and your business DISTINCT and, therefore, Irresistibly Attractive? By creating your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
What makes you different than your competitors? Are you faster? Do you deliver better quality? Are you more responsive to their needs? Are you closer in proximity? Do you specialize in a particular industry?
Take a moment to put yourself in the mind of your prospects. If you were hiring someone to perform your kind of service, what would you want?
You can practice by thinking about your own buying decisions. If I was hiring someone to clean my house, I would want them to:do an impeccable cleaning jobshow up on the scheduled day/timeavoid breaking/taking thingssmoke outside of my house, if they smokecharge $100 or less
If I could find someone to do these things for $65, I would hire them. But, if I would have to sacrifice the quality of their work or their reliability in order to pay the lower price, I would go with someone else. It's important to me to have a clean house and to know that I can count on that person to show up on Thursdays before I have guests arrive on Friday.
So, here's the process:make a list of the things you would look for if you were a prospect hiring someone to do your serviceput that list in priority ordergather all of your sales materials together (e.g. printout of web site, business cards, letterhead, brochures, email signature lines, proposal, trade show displays, newsletter, sales letter, direct mailers, cold calling script, elevator speech, etc.)set aside 1-2 hours to review all of your materials to see what message you are sending to your prospectsrevise your materials as needed
When you review your materials, try to look at them with fresh eyes as a prospect would. After going through them once and making notes about the impression they set, go through them again specifically looking for the top two distinctions from your list.
Do your sales materials/tools really bring your message home? Are your top 2 distinctions clearly emphasized in your materials? Are there things you need to add, omit, or revise in order to create your distinct impression on your prospects?
Once you are communicating a very specific and consistent message about yourself and your business, you will find that you no longer have to sell. Business comes to you ? and it's the kind of work you like that pays you what you deserve.
About The Author
Kimberly Stevens is the author of the ebook series, *The Profitable Business Owner: A Step-by-Step System for Starting & Running a Successful Service Business*. Download Sample Chapters & get her free MiniCourse, *The 10 Most Common Mistakes Business Owners Make & How To Avoid Them* at: http://www.askthebizcoach.com/ebooks.htm