How to identify your business’s unique selling points

In a world of increasing consumer choice that’s more crowded than ever before, what is the differential that can make your small business stand out from its competition? Knowing and utilising your unique selling points.

Unique selling points form a key part of your business’s brand identity and help to set your business apart from your competitors and to make it more memorable. So what is a unique selling point? It’s a quality your business possesses that no one else has. Of course, “no one else” can be a relative term. If the majority of your customers and competition are local, then “no one else” could just mean “no one in the surrounding area” and work just as well.

What are unique selling points?

Unique selling points, or USPs, can be almost any differentiating factor, from a totally one-of-a-kind product or the fastest shipping around, to the best customer service or the lowest prices on the market. Their importance extends to attracting new customers, retaining existing ones, growing brand recognition, and more. If a customer was asked to describe your business, they would likely mention your USPs, or at least, you would hope that they would!

Some unique selling points are stronger than others

Not all USPs are created equal. Looking at the examples mentioned above, it’s clear that some may be less stable than others. Imagine you are relying on being “the fastest” provider around, using what you consider to be a speedy two-day delivery guarantee to draw in customers. Then what happens if a competitor decides to offer next day delivery? Your USP could be immediately wiped out.

On the other hand, if you run a locally-sourced, family-run, organic farm shop offering “service with a smile”, that is much harder to replicate, and those values are also more likely to foster long-term loyalty through the personal connections they allow you to build.

What effect can focusing on your USPs have?

There are some good examples out there to take notes from. Chief among them is Starbucks, just one of a host of coffee chains. Despite the competition, they have still been able to achieve significant growth, doubling their global store count in the last ten years and capturing nearly 40% of the US coffee shop market. Having a strong USP is essential in such a crowded space and Starbucks place real emphasis on creating a culture, a community, and positive change.

How to define your business’s USPs

There are several stages to defining and using your USPs to your advantage, beginning with a broad knowledge-gathering approach and leading to a narrow focus on meeting your customers’ needs.

Define your business and your product

The first step is to ensure complete definition and understanding of your business. One way to approach this is to “try out” your products or services from the perspective of a new customer. Ask yourself what is available, what new customers will be looking for, and what they will expect of your business. Knowing your customer base in detail will be beneficial here!

Consider your competition and what they offer

It’s important to know who your competition are as well as what they’re offering potential customers. As mentioned above, who you consider your competition can depend on the market and your customer base.

If you do a lot of business over the internet targeting younger, more tech-savvy generations, you can expect that any other business they can find online will be a competitor. It may be possible to narrow down who they might come across when looking for your products by examining your strongest search engine keywords.

If your business’s trade is predominantly done in person, and you know that your customer don’t drive more than three miles to get to you, it’s reasonable to assume that any businesses within a six-mile radius (just as close to your furthest away customers as you are) can be considered prime competition.

If you can capture the USPs of these businesses, it may be clear what your company offers that no one else does. This is your unique selling point! You may even discover further opportunities in the form of a gap in the market to offer something brand new.

Consider new ideas

If the above steps have yielded limited results, all is not lost! There may still be unique aspects of your business that you can use or even add. In small businesses, your own contribution as a manager could be an important consideration. Do you add something to the business that your competitors can’t? Do your relationships with your customers inspire loyalty?

Alternative ways to add to your appeal include offering a combination of services, products, or experiences that hasn’t been tried before but will appeal to your target market. The sudden explosion in popularity of cat cafes is testament to how unusual combinations can take off if they offer similar things—in this case, the relaxation provided by comfy sofas, hot drinks, and petting felines.

Narrow your focus and promote it

With fresh ideas of or for your USPs, the trick to choosing ones that will positively impact your business is to narrow them down to meet the needs of your customers. Having hand-reared steaks on your menu when 80% of your customers are vegetarian won’t do you much good. And express shipping isn’t worth shouting about if the vast majority of your orders are picked up in store.

With relevant unique selling points in mind, find a clear and simple way to communicate these to your customers. This will make your business more recognisable and memorable, and customers will naturally associate you with the promises you’re making. FedEx’s famous slogan, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” made it clear what they offered and what customers would expect. Try to find a similarly succinct way to express your own unique offering, even if you have no plans to use it—just being able to say, at a moment’s notice, exactly what your business is about can be a huge boon.

With these tips, you can identify the unique selling points that set your business apart and set it up for success.

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.