Seven Reasons Your USP Isn’t Selling Your Business
- “To let my target market know what my business is about.”
- “To let my target market know how my business is different from my competitors.”
- “Wait–my USP is supposed to do something?”
All three answers come from the “build it and they will come” mindset appropriate only for a restaurant on an island full of shipwreck survivors. The truth is, your USP needs to do a lot more than let people know you exist. It needs to add something to your bottom line, just like every other piece of your business. Here are a few indicators your USP is just taking up space on your business card.
It doesn’t meet the needs of your customers. Try attaching “I’m lovin’ it” to any company that can’t plant a glowing double arch on a red ground beside it on bus stops, billboards, bus flanks, banner ads, TV spots and Times Square, eventually tattooing your brain cells with billions in advertising dollars. It’ll just sit there looking silly.
It tells how you’re different, not why they should care. NyQuil is “the nighttime sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever, best sleep you ever got with a cold… medicine.” It goes on at length, and doesn’t stop until you care. It’s hard to ignore a brand with a USP like that. Don’t you want to sleep well, even with a terrible head cold? There are definitely sales in that sentence.
It isn’t a little outrageous. Is there anyone who really internalizes the fact that the Energizer bunny will… well, stop going at some point? Think about that. Of course it will. But Energizer makes its batteries seem eternal because “Nothing outlasts” it. It ends up being an outrageous claim we actually believe. It’s a brilliant way to get people to buy on the power of the USP alone.
It doesn’t offer anyone anything. You don’t have to be brilliant. There are standards people expect you to meet because other brands do. You probably do meet them. So don’t make us guess. Tell us the pizza’s free if it’s delivered cold. Make sure we know there’s a discount for seniors or toddlers. Guarantee us our money back if we’re unhappy. Sticking your neck out makes people feel safe to buy from you.
It doesn’t save us any money. If you can offer lower prices, if you won’t be undersold, if you’ll eat anybody’s coupons… Okay, I couldn’t make this line rhyme with “sold,” but I’ll remember you, and I’ll tell my friends. Again, you don’t have to be slick or crafty to get people to pay attention–and buy. Money will do just fine. So don’t save it for in-store signage if it should be a proud cornerstone of your business’s brand.
Last week, it was something else. And the month before that, it was a whole other focus. And at the end of last year, you wanted a change. There may not be anything wrong with the USP you choose, but you’ll never know if you keep fiddling with it. If you feel your USP is still “not quite right” it probably stems from problems with recognizing your business’s identity. If you don’t know, we don’t know. It’s next to impossible to buy unknowns.
It doesn’t rally us around you. Lululemon took a risk recently when it added the code question, “Who is John Galt?” to its shopping bag. It completely turned off customers who thought the grassroots-friendly, pricey-sweats seller’s philosophy was the opposite of that described in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. But other shoppers were delighted that Lululemon is powered by their own personal worldview.
What does your USP do?
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Thanks for the shout-out to my blog, Customers Rock! Yes, customer expectations are indeed set by other brands and their USPs, so it is important not to be shy and tell our customers what we will (and won't) do for them. Let customers know you love them!
BeckyCarroll You're welcome, Becky. I really found your post insightful when I followed the link from @adamtoporek's place. I think the potential for a USP to establish that customer connection is nearly limitless.
Great post, Shakirah. This is something that's so important, yet often overlooked. To have a successful business, you must have a memorable brand. Your USP is a big part of that. I hope folks take your advice and pay attention to this.
lauraclick Thanks, Laura. There are so many ways businesses can make themselves memorable that I can even understand the difficulty making the decision, myself. But the most beneficial USP has a good sales potential.