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Five hints to help you find your company’s USP

John Nelligan


The USP – unique selling point – has been bandied about as an essential of marketing since the 1940s. But in reality, understanding your USP is fundamental to every aspect of your business and not just to how to promote your company or brand. Here’s five tips to help you define and integrate yours.

1. Understand what your USP is. This seems obvious, but a USP is not simply a tweak to a company’s product or service to make a bit different. It is not great customer service, or top quality, as those are a given and are easily copied. It is more fundamental than that. A good USP should be difficult to copy because it is at the core of a company’s existence. It is about understanding why a company exists, and why it does what it does. It is about discovering a company’s core purpose: what it believes. A USP is discovered through an internal review of the fundamentals of an organisation’s existence.

2. Once a company understands its core purpose, it needs to ensure that its products or services confirm that belief. A USP starts to take shape by looking at the three key areas of a company’s business model:

-How it will validate what it believes (its value chain)
-What it will produce (its products and services)
-Who its target customers will be (which group of customers believe in the same things)

3. A good USP disrupts the status quo either through radically re-engineering the industry value chain, redefining a company’s products or services, or all three elements of the business model.

4. A USP is delivered through a company’s products or services as a confirmation of what a company believes and is experienced through the eyes of its target customers. Therefore, a good USP is not created to appeal to the whole market but seeks out a customer group who will most value the company’s unique offering. Understanding who this customer group is becomes a key element in discovering a company’s USP.

5. For a company to successfully communicate its USP, it needs to stop communicating what it does and start communicating what it believes to a target market of customers who believe in the same things. When a company’s products or services are a confirmation of what it believes, then customers who believe in the same things will naturally be interested in the company’s offering. Therefore, to successfully communicate a company’s USP the marketing plan needs to include stories as examples of what a company believes and the reason it exists.

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