This article is designed to give you, the business owner or someone responsible for growing the sales and profit of your business, an insight into how to discover, acknowledge or create a Unique Selling Proposition for your business.
You are going to learn how to spot the powerful points of difference that already exist in your business or how you can create some that will really differentiate the way you do business in your marketplace.
You’re also going to find out how to articulate your Unique Core Differentiator(s) in all of your marketing materials to help you begin positioning yourself as an authority in your industry.
Simply put, here’s what you must do:
“A great unique core differentiator must articulate exactly why you are unique and why potential customers or clients should do business with you. If you don’t do this, they’ll make their buying decision on other matters, such as price.”
It’s important here to make the point about ‘core.’ In Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Harpercollins 1994), James Collins makes the point strongly. Collins traces the differences between directly competitive companies and points out that some of them outlast, outperform (by an average of 19 times!), and outrun the competition.
These he calls the ‘Built to Last’ companies. The key differentiator is that these companies have a ‘central core’ that is the basis upon which all business decisions are made. This, he says, is what differentiates them from the others.
Once you have your Unique Core Differentiators, whenever you’re faced with a judgement—should we do this or this—you go back to the core to find the answer.
It’s something that allows you to build consistency of purpose and focus. And get better results from your marketing.
And that’s because a well-formed Unique Core Differentiator targets the ‘hot buttons,’ real buying concerns, or ‘key frustrations’ for your clients. In one statement or several, it tells potential clients exactly why they should buy from your business and reminds current clients why they should continue to deal with your business.
Finding your Unique Core Differentiators then, is a critical task. There are several ways you can do this.
The first is to sit down with someone from outside your business and have them interview you.
Have them ask you what it is you do differently. Be sure to tape the session because, without knowing it, you’ll probably articulate your Unique Core Differentiator right there at the meeting!
Also, the way we speak tends to make great marketing copy because when we talk about it, our enthusiasm, excitement, and genuine commitment to what we do as business owners or managers tend to shine through. So this tape can literally be translated into your marketing material and your USP or Unique Selling Proposition statements.
The story below is a perfect illustration of how to create a great unique core differentor. Read...
The owner of a fast food franchise was interviewed, and brilliant Unique Core Differentiators were actually roughed out at that meeting. Read on…
The core product sold by the business was BBQ chickens. The owner was asked:
What is the Unique Core Differentiator of your business? What is unique about what you do?”
The business owner replied ‘Nothing, there is really nothing we do differently than any other chicken or fast food retailer.’ The interviewer pressed the owner:
“Tell me what you do and how you do it from start to finish.”
…brilliant Unique Core Differentiators were established.
You see, the business owner went on to explain how the team arrived at 5:00 a.m. every day to literally scrub the entire premises from the floor upwards. And that they finished at 10:00 p.m. because they did the same thing at closing time. He was asked:
‘Why? Why, do you do it that way?’
The owner explained that the premises were thoroughly cleaned twice a day, to hospital standards so that they were always spotless. He said this was important because people tended to think chicken, as a food product, was more susceptible to food poisoning. And that cleanliness is important to people buying from fast food outlets.
He also went on to say that it was important to be open early to take delivery of hundreds of fresh chickens—daily.
Again when asked ‘why?’ That is, ‘why did he have to take delivery daily?’ he said it was because they only used fresh chickens, not frozen. The chickens BBQ much better and have more flavour than frozen product. Flavour at a fast food outlet is often considered mutually exclusive! So that’s an important issue for customers.
When the interviewer delved a little deeper, it turned out that it had taken years for that business owner to find a good supplier of fresh chickens.
In fact, these chickens came from a large family-owned poultry farm that did NOT use hormones to accelerate the growth of the chickens—something that has been turning customers away from fast food chicken and that is becoming a bigger concern in the market every day.
Also, the chickens from this supplier had a maximum fat content of 20%—another key concern to customers who are turning to healthier food products.
The business owner was in fact doing things differently, only he didn’t realize that the way he actually ran his business was a critical point of differentiation for his marketing. And that each of those points would strike a cord with his customers.
This business owner went on to document the ‘story’ and put it on posters in his store. While customers waited briefly for their orders to be packed, they would read this poster. The result? Sales increased dramatically and repeat business soared.
Perhaps your story of how you do business and why it’s interesting, too? To find out, have someone from outside your business interview you. Allow them to play devil’s advocate by asking you questions like those outlined in this example. Let them dig deeper to find out more about your business.
There are several others things you can do to create
your Unique Core Differentiators. You could take it further
by asking yourself this question:
Why Do People Buy From Me?
The problem is this: If most business owners answer the same way, then they aren’t unique, and the client has no compelling reason to choose one over another. In this situation, the client bases the buying decision on the only variable—which is often price!
To take that a couple of steps further, ask:
After you’ve written your list, you might like to survey some of your customers to find out specifically why they did buy from you.
“Specifically, why did you decide to go with
[Your Business Name]?”
“What differences did you notice between
[Your Business Name] and other providers/suppliers?”
“What were the top 6 things that mattered most
to you when you were selecting someone to provide
your [product or service type]?”
These questions can be helpful because your perception of why people buy from you can often be different from your customers’ reasons.
For example, one property development and building company thought the major reason tenants moved into its townhouse complex was for the facilities, such as a pool, children’s play area, tennis court, and security.
In fact, the tenants moved there because the townhouses had 3 bedrooms, were brand new, and cost £120 per week. The tenants considered the facilities a bonus. It wasn’t the facilities that potential tenants set out looking for when they were house hunting.
So promoting it wasn’t targeting the customers’ ‘hot buttons,’ and that meant the advertising simply wasn’t working. (When the company changed the advertisements and placed those top 3 considerations in the headline of the ads, the complex was fully occupied within 2 weeks and had a waiting list for future tenants!)
The next step, then, is to add to your list of reasons all the reasons your customers gave you. Then work through each point and ask yourself this question:
“Whether it’s true or not, would my
competitors say the same thing?”
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any point, you must cross that point off your list. So, even if your competitors don’t do a particular item on the list but promote that they do, you must cross that item off your list.
This is an important distinction to note. You see, your customers don’t know your competitors don’t actually do what they say they do—they can only take them on their word. Therefore, it is negated as a point of difference.
Go through your list once, then go through it again and ask the question again to double-check.
At this point, it’s important to be brutally honest with yourself.
On the other hand, you may also find that there’s nothing unique about your business!
Usually, this isn’t a true reflection of your business. Every business has something unique to offer the right type of customer. In this case, think about those special things you might do for customers, times when you’ve gone out of your way for customers, and see if you can turn those experiences into something more.
You may want to think about how you could tell your ‘story,’ like the Schlitz Beer Company or the fast food BBQ chicken retailer, to create a Perceived Unique Selling Proposition.
Or you may want to look at what you need to do to have a Created Unique Core Differentiator. That is, to create a point of difference, change the way you’re doing business to make sure you’re doing it better than your competitors from the customer’s point of view.
Once you’ve created your Unique Core Differentiator, make it the focus of your marketing. Articulate and promote it everywhere—on your stationery, vehicles, advertising, promotions, and building signage.
Remember, a Unique Core Differentiator is not a logo, although it is incredibly powerful if you can make it part of your logo. Federal Express’s ‘Absolutely Positively Overnight’ is a great example of a Unique Core Differentiator brilliantly and succinctly expressed.
But don’t concern yourself with brevity.
For example, the fast food BBQ chicken retailer explained its Unique Core Differentiator on large posters in the store.
PRET A MANGER shows it well, too. You might remember that example from ‘Perception is the Reality—People Buy Differences They Perceive and Unique Core Differentiators.’ That deli was more than your average deli!
In that case, the sign on the shop window—‘Passionate about Food’—was a shorthand version of the deli’s Unique Core Differentiators.
The deli adds to that through the diamond on the window and by repeating the message on every sandwich bag. In fact, the company takes that message one step further by adding this:
And then the closing line on the bag is this:
If you would like to speak to me or one of my colleagues regarding anything to do with PRET A MANGER, please feel free to call on XXXX-XXX-XXXX. Thank you. Julian Metcalfe.
And a visit to their store completes the picture.
Whatever it is for you, the important thing is to get it. And then articulate those Unique Core Differentiators any way you can!