How to Find a USP That Is Truly Unique in a Crowded Market

What makes your startup different?


Tom Denz

3 years ago | 7 min read

I live in a fairly small region in the UK, about the size of Connecticut, with a population of just over 1.85 million people. There are only four of five main insurance companies and brokers there. However, each of them claims to be one of the following:

  • The best in……
  • The Number 1…..
  • The Top……
  • The Favourite……
  • The Leading……

This phenomenon is just limited to insurance companies. In nearly every category of business, you will see the same claims rolled out again and again. Every company calling on different sources, opinions, values, and surveys to help justify their claim. In the end, they all trying to claim the same thing, that they are the best and deserve your business.

When Everybody Wins, Nobody Wins……at Least in the Customer’s Eye

The problem with everyone claiming to be the best is that the customer ends up seeing them all as equal. In turn, what happens is that everyone just ends up with a similar piece of the sales pie.

Indeed, this is what ends up happening where I live. The insurance companies are all about the same size, with the same number of customers and they all exist comfortably. They win some business from their competitors and they lose some too. Everything stays the same, there are no losers, but no real winners either. This is the way it has been for the last thirty years and probably will be for the next thirty too.

But if you are a company, large or small, competing on a global stage, that sort of beige existence isn’t an option. The market is too big, too competitive and too flexible to sustain a status quo model.

In order for you to succeed and grow, you need to have a USP that is truly unique beyond lukewarm claims of superiority.

1. Accept That it Won’t be Easy

Anything that is worthwhile and valuable takes hard work and effort to achieve. The first step in trying to identify a truly unique USP is to acknowledge that it won’t be easy. It may sound counterintuitive or off-putting to think this way, but it will actually do is prepare you mentally for the struggle ahead.

If you were to just jump straight it, the likelihood would be that when you came up a brick wall or ran out of ideas, your natural reaction would be to think that this is too much effort and just give up, or worse still opt for something generic and weak.

Instead, taking the time to accept the fact that the process is going to be challenging allows you to let go of the pressure of instant success and instead move forward in the knowledge that it won’t be easy, you will get frustrated, your ideas will seem rubbish and you will feel like giving up sometimes. With this settled in your mind, you will be able to proceed at a steady pace, fully aware and at peace with what lies ahead.

I can’t overstress enough the importance of this first step. If you ignore it, you will make the chances of mediocrity much higher. We need to prepare mentally for tough tasks and accept they are going to require hard work. To do otherwise is just to be foolhardy in believing what is practical and realistic.

2. Invest Time in the Process

In order to go in-depth enough to find something of value, you have to be prepared to allot the appropriate amount of time to the task.

It takes real effort, dedication and resilience to identify a truly unique USP. There are a lot of elements to consider. There will be a lot of layers of fluff and inadequate thoughts and suggestions to work through and critique. If you truly want to come up with something of lasting and impactful value, then you will have to invest the appropriate time to do it.

You like any other essential or mandatory operational task that you have to perform, you will need to set aside specific chunks of time for researching, thinking and creativity.

The best approach is to block out time to work specifically on your USP, over a couple of weeks. It may be 1hr every morning, or 4hrs every week, the important thing is that you intentionally make time to do the hard work of creation.

Leaving everything to the last minute, or only giving it a 5 min slot at the weekly sales meeting does a disservice to you and your companies efforts.

Be intentional in your strivings for developing your USP and you will benefit from better outcomes.

3. Put Yourself in the Client’s Shoes

The ultimate aim of any USP is to appeal to the customer in a way that speaks to them and is potentially useful for them. In order to be able to serve those two elements, you are first going to have to understand what your customer’s day to day life and challenges are. What is really going to make a difference to them?

The trap you want to avoid here, and so many falls into, is thinking of a solution and then trying to reverse engineer that into some proposed benefit for the client. Software and technology is a great example of where this problem can rear its head. Your company may have developed the most technically advanced solution, with the best circuitry or programming, but that is of little interest to the client. Most of the time they do not want to know, or even care, how something works, they just want to know if it makes their life easier, better and more productive.

So the challenge is to start with understanding what challenges they are having in their jobs and companies. What causes delays, re-work, inefficiencies, frustration, etc. What parts of the job do they hate doing, or see as being of little value?

You then need to think about how your solution is going to address those. What is it about your product or service that will make life easier for them. What will save them money and time?

However, that only gets you halfway there. There will be other companies that can help your clients out in slightly different ways. So you have to dig deeper and think about what will appeal to your client and cause them to see you like a more suitable partner and vendor. Go beyond just your basic product and services, instead of looking into things such as company culture, history of the company in the market place, reputation for service and after-sales support, etc.

What really is going to make your client sit up and take notice? What is going to catch their attention and appreciation beyond your basic product or service offering?

4. Focus on Yourself

It can be very tempting when looking to identify and establish your USP, to look at competitors and try to think of a way to differentiate yourself from them. In fact it is often misunderstood that the aim of a USP is simply to provide differentiation.

It is a mistake to start looking for your USP by trying to find a gap between two competitors. What you are doing in that scenario is actually letting the competition determine and influence what your USP is. It just becomes a case of thinking “we can’t use that, nor can we use that, so we much pick X”.

This approach completely redirects the focus away from identifying the USP that you have. You need to concentrate on you and what you do, not concentrate on finding what others aren’t doing.

5. Ask Your Own People

As a leader or a marketing associate within a company, it can be easy to get caught up in your own interpretation and perception about what is good or not good about your company. You live in the same space all day every day and think along the same lines. Therefore it is very difficult to see what is outside those clearly and well-trodden lines.

Some of the best people to ask about what a company does well or doesn’t do so well is the employees themselves. If you can build confidence in them and open up a trusting line of communication and feedback, they will be able to provide you with very meaningful insights into the company culture, employee engagement, organic innovation, etc.

Often the employees of a company are the ones best placed to tell you what makes a company unique compared to other businesses or competitors. Indeed, it is also the employees that will sometimes have more open and direct lines of communication with your clients. There a lot of “off the record” conversations during business meeting lunch breaks and factory tours when the client is more willing and open to reveal to your employees what they really think about and value about your company.

It is important and vital therefore that you establish strong lines of communication and feedback for your employees, so they can share their knowledge and help provide that invaluable guidance.

6. Be Bold

Sticking between the lines is useful in many situations in business. But if you really want to be unique you are going to have to take chances in both establishing and framing your USP.

Going down the same old paths for idea generation and assessment, will just leave you with the same old results. It is not a time to be conservative, it is a time to open up your mind to any new and interesting possibility.

You have to take chances, go against normal practices, ask unusual people, reframe your thoughts and perceptions to truly find something unique.

It is also important to remember that the quest to find your USP is a journey. You may not get it right first time, or second time, or third time. You might have to test out your USP on a range of clients, new and old, getting their feedback on understanding and clarity.

So don’t be afraid to take chances, or go down rabbit holes in search of something better.

So what steps can you take today to enable you to better think about what your USP is and if it is as unique as you think it is.

Thanks for reading.

Originally posted on Medium by Tom Denz.


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Tom Denz







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