By Goke Ilesanmi
Life is about (healthy) competition. Whether you are a businessman, student, job-seeker, worker or even a beggar, you are daily confronted with peer competition. To stay ahead of competition, you need to identify and effectively communicate your Unique Selling Point (USP) also known as “Unique Selling Proposition”.
Some years ago, a man who said he had just been released from the prison was begging people for money at Ketu, Lagos. Midway into his narration of how he had been mistakenly arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned, the wave of his good command of English Language caught almost everybody around and aroused sympathy towards him.
Before he could continue giving details, almost all the people around had started giving him money because they were convinced that he was not just an ordinary beggar begging for money (out of sheer laziness). Because English Language has become a non-material instrument of gauging people’s height on the socio-intellectual ladder, people quickly believed that he could not have been a criminal after all. He was able to get attention ahead of other competing beggars there because of his impeccable English, his linguistic Unique Selling Point.
As a job-seeker for instance, while preparing your curriculum vitae or cover letter, you need to think about your Unique Selling Point, what stands you out. As a business organisation, for instance, identifying and communicating your Unique Selling Point will greatly boost your chances of survival and profitability. The benefits you derive from effectively communicating your Unique Selling Point are embedded in the three words making up the phrase “Unique Selling Point”.
In other words, through structural decomposition or segmentation of the phrase into its constituent parts, you can clearly understand the benefits. Let us start with the first (adjectival) word “Unique”. Being unique implies that you will clearly stand out in a crowd of your competitors. When you are unique, especially through excellence, you will become the standard of measurement even when competitors try to stand out. But it can only be achieved through extraordinary hard work and strategy among other things.
The second constituent word is “Selling”. Being able to stand out and even become the standard of measurement will help you easily persuade prospects and customers alike to exchange money for your product or service. The third constituent word “Point” refers to a major strength, quality, attribute or advantage that is peculiar to you, which will easily help you get business or sales, especially that it will make you stand out in a competing crowd. You can see the interconnectedness in the constituent constituent words of the phrase in terms of benefits.
Building your Unique Selling Point requires investment of a lot of efforts. But it is a worthwhile venture due to the added advantage derivable from it in terms of edge over competitors. The task of composing a USP can be challenging. Yet, every business needs to identify and communicate its own, to be able to stay ahead of competition. The Point or Proposition must be Unique and be able to Sell you, your services and/or products.
A lot of businesses market their Unique Selling Proposition by stressing the advantages of their products or services. In your Unique Selling Proposition, place emphasis on the positive differences between you and others in the marketplace. However, if you cannot differentiate your business in terms of what you sell, why not capitalise on the way you sell or your accessibility or good location? Most often, the Unique Selling Proposition is articulated through a slogan or credo.
One major factor that is worthy of note when determining your Unique Selling Proposition is the ease with which your competitors can copy it. Many people and organisations mistakenly use extremely cheap pricing as their Unique Selling Point. But this is ineffective and weak except you are capable of selling a large quantity on a consistent level. Just as Andrew Griffiths says in his book, “101 Survival Tips for Your Business”, you need to charge the price your product or service is worth irrespective of the pressure of competition, especially when you focus on quality.
Price competition is risky. There is no disputing the fact that you need to know what your competitors offer. In short, you cannot compete effectively if you lack knowledge of what you have to contend with in terms of competitors’ activities. So take some time and conduct research into what they have. Even though there are many possibilities of composing a USP, the best thing to do, however, is to adopt a Unique Selling Proposition that creatively offers an answer to a clear vacuum in the market that you can actually fill.
You can easily discover the vacuum by applying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis to the operations of competitors in your industry and building your strength in the areas of your competitors’ weaknesses. Then you can communicate this strength through your Unique Selling Proposition. It is also noteworthy that communicating a Unique Selling Proposition that a person or an organisation lacks competence for can be very tragic as credibility may be eroded.
For instance, imagine a transport company that has vehicles plying only half of the 36 states in Nigeria using a Unique Selling Proposition such as, “We cover nooks and crannies of Nigeria”! What happens if prospective passengers go there to get vehicles to other states not covered, only for them (the passengers) to be told that services have not been extended to those states? If we apply Aristotle’s Inductive Reasoning under Theory of Syllogism, such prospective passengers will just conclude from a specific instance to reach their conclusion that the transport company may not even be plying other areas effectively or at all. So using an empty slogan as your USP may cause more harm than not having a USP at all.
In writing your Unique Selling Proposition, be specific not vague. For instance, “This vehicle is the fastest” is vague. Instead, say, “This vehicle covers… kilometres in… hour(s)”. Effective USP communication will help you stay ahead of competition.
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GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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