Dec 18, 2012

What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition?

In business, there will always someone bigger than you, who has more marketing money than you, has been in business longer than you, and who may even be able to deliver a product or service at a lower price. Your competitors may have higher internet search rankings and an army of followers on Facebook. How do you compete in the marketplace with disadvantages like that?

As a smaller player, you have some advantages of your own. You can address markets that are too small for large players to compete in at a profit. You may be able to serve the specific requirements of a niche better than your large competitors. Your level of service may be superior to what is available at your more established competitors. Perhaps you can offer a guarantee that larger competitors can't match. You can certainly make changes in the way you serve your market faster than larger competitors. Your products might be higher end with better quality and performance than those offered by mass market sellers. Finally, you may have an expertise that is important to a set of customers that large competitors can't match. However, in most cases the very worst thing you can do is compete on price against larger and better established competitors. It may work for a little while, but with limited exceptions, in the long run you're not going to be successful or make as much money as you should doing that.

The answer to competing in very competitive markets against larger and more established competitors is to develop your Unique Selling Proposition. The thing that makes your product or service different than all the others out there. Your product or service can't be an undifferentiated commodity. All of the possible advantages I listed above are unique selling features. They establish that your product or service is different than everybody else's, is not a commodity and offers customers a unique value proposition that they would find difficult to find somewhere else.

So what is your Unique Selling Proposition? What differentiates your offering to the marketplace? What combination of features will your customers find benefit them more than your competitors' offerings? If you're a distributor or manufacturer, can you deliver complete orders faster than your competitors, allowing your customers to keep less inventory? If you're in financial services or real estate, do you have some special education or experience that your clients would find valuable if they knew about it? Do you have so much confidence in your product or service that you can offer your customers a performance guarantee others can't or won't match. Can your customers call in and speak with a real human being on the fourth ring or better 98% of the time, making working with your business an exceptionally pleasant experience? You get the idea.

The key to knowing what your Unique Selling Proposition is lies at the intersection of two sets of information:

What you're really good at and are in a position to provide
What your customers find valuable

I've said it before: if you can't establish value, the only thing to talk about is price. So find out what your customers value and are willing to pay for that may not be evident at first glance. Ask them and keep asking them. Find out what they want, what they dislike, what they fear, what they are trying to accomplish with their purchase and what they would really like to see in a product or service offering. These are all clues as to possible points of differentiation. Then find a way to offer your product or service in a way that addresses that point of differentiation at a profit.

Once you've established your Unique Selling Proposition, customers need to know you offer it. It should be on your website, your collateral and your sales scripts. Every time a customer or prospect comes in contact with your business, they need to hear about or see your Unique Selling Proposition. When they do business with you, they need to experience it every time. It's your brand from that point forward. It's what you'll be known for. It's the reason prospects will choose your product or service over others in the marketplace, and the reason customers will keep coming back. It's what makes your business, products and services unique in the marketplace, and how you can compete with larger and more established competitors.

John Bulman is an author, business coach and corporate trainer in Orange County, California. He has an MBA and has recently published the book Profitability Thinking. John believes that when thinking and skills are changed at the same time, amazing results happen. His website is He can be reached at or 949-667-6111.

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