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How to identify and promote your USP

A unique selling proposition is what makes your business stand out from the crowd and tells your customers what is special about you. So it's vital to get it right, as Amanda Walker, marketing consultant at BusinessSmiths, explains

We're always reading about how many messages consumers are bombarded with every day. They cannot re-evaluate services and products every time they need to make a purchase. To make life easier, they will simplify this process by organising products and services into groups and position them accordingly - for instance, the safest car, the most expensive car and the best value car.

Understanding your target audience

Developing a USP begins with your target audience. You have to identify the group of people who will be most likely to help you achieve your business objective and be interested in your products and services. What do you know about your target audience and why do they purchase items from the market you are operating in? What needs does that market meet for them? In other words, are they looking for a time saving, some expertise, a trust-worthy supplier or something else? By consulting customers, colleagues and friends you should be able to make a list of all the reasons why someone might choose to buy your type of product or service.

What is your competitive advantage?

From this list, you should be able to pull out one or two things that you believe your organisation is really good at. Next make a list of your competitors and see which needs they are meeting. Evaluate how well they meet those needs on a scale of 1-5. Just because someone currently has a position in a market doesn't mean that they're delivering on it. If you can do it better, that's a strong basis for market entry.

Think a little broader

At the same time, you need to look at those needs that aren't being met and also think about the key trends in the industry. If you are an accountant, for instance, these trends could include changes in legislation for example. Consider current trends and those issues that will be most important in five years' time. Now see if you can extend your advantage into these areas.

Testing and refining your USP

You should have three or four possible approaches now - key benefits that you provide relative to your competitors together with reasons why consumers should believe you. Come up with a strong statement that conveys each USP. You could also give each idea an image to help bring the concept to life. Talk to five or ten potential customers to get their feedback on the different ways you are positioning your brand.

The results of these interviews should help you to choose the positioning statement that was of most interest to your target audience. You should also choose the single most compelling reason for that positioning.

Communicating your USP

Your USP should be driving the development of your company and your marketing strategy, whether you are creating a website or a logo or embarking on an online advertising campaign. Always ask yourself if your image and activity clearly communicates the benefit you are offering.

It's not advisable to change your USP too often but it is important to keep it fresh. Watch out for any shifts in trends or competitors that cause consumers to view you and your USP differently. It's important to keep abreast of industry trends and talk to your customers regularly.

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