Forget UPS, Forget FedEx: You Need A USP

By , October 16, 2013

I like to ask lots of questions. Especially when meeting with new clients and learning about their business challenges. My inquiries are always direct, to the point and easy to understand.

Well, almost always.

There’s one particular question I ask that often confuses the client sitting across from me. Here it is: “Can you tell me your company’s USP?”

For those working in the marketing world it’s a simple inquiry. But to the unacquainted, it can sound downright perplexing. The client will generally stare at me for a few moments with a bewildered expression and finally respond: “Are you asking if we deliver with UPS?”

And that’s when the fun really begins.

I’ll explain to my client that I’m talking about a USP – a term which stands for “Unique Selling Point” – and I let them know just how important this acronym is in the world of business.

The USP theory was created in the 1940s by advertising mastermind Rosser Reeves to explain why some ad campaigns succeed while others fail.

According to Reeves, a USP is used to identify what makes a company unique and how they set themselves apart from their competitors. He encouraged business owners to figure out one particular “thing” that boldly differentiated their brand – and then promote that “thing” as a way to stand out in the minds of consumers.

Sounds overly academic? Check out this actual example.

For many years, pizza shops across America all seemed the same. You could get pizza, fries, soda and even free delivery service at any of them. So how does one stand out from the crowd? Just ask a company called Domino’s Pizza and the sure-to-succeed USP they crafted: Domino’s advertised that they’d deliver their pizza pies to customers in 30 minutes or less… or the pie would be free.

This memorable USP resonated with the public and it worked; the Domino’s Pizza chain currently has thousands of stores across the globe.

Although the times have clearly changed since Rosser Reeves postulated his USP theory, the underlying premise of it remains as relevant as ever. There are plenty of other companies offering the same products or services that you do. In a crowded marketplace, differentiation is a key strategy that you and your company can’t afford to leave to chance.

Whether you’re a start-up looking to make a splash or an established name that needs a repositioning to boost sales, you’ll need a believable USP to stand apart. Here are a few Ptex Practical Pointers to keep in mind when it comes to identifying, creating and promoting your USP:

Identify The Need: Determine whether there’s an unmet need or noticeable gap in the industry. Then go ahead and fill it. Starbucks did it with coffee. Barnes & Noble’s did it with books. Zappos did it with shoes. You get the idea.

Determine The Target: Cater specifically to a niche target market and you’ll stand out more. For example, if you’re a contractor that specializes in building medical offices, it’ll be easier to advertise your services and get noticed by your defined target market, compared to a general contractor who must spend more time and money reaching out to the endless masses.

Tell The World: Creating a new USP is a pivotal first step – but the real work is about to begin. You need to communicate that new message to your clients, employees, shareholders and the press. To get the word out, your USP should be front and center of your website, advertisements, marketing materials, sales collaterals and social media platforms.

So the next time you’re sitting in a meeting and the word “USP” comes up during the conversation, forget about the international company that does overnight truck delivery and focus on the importance of differentiating your evolving brand. And leave all those heavy boxes for the UPS. Or FedEx.

Onward and upward,

Meny Hoffman

P.S. What is your company’s USP? Send it to me and I’ll be delighted to take a look at it. If you’d like, I will offer my thoughts on it as well.

Meny Hoffman

Meny Hoffman is the Chief Executive Officer of Ptex Group, an Inc. 500/5000-ranked marketing and business services firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.

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