Unless your business is supplying knitted jumpers for unicorns, you are unlikely to be the only one of your kind in the marketplace.
Whatever your business – solicitor, accountant, fashion designer – there are other businesses offering similar products or services.
So how do you make your business stand out from the crowd?
You need to identify what makes you different or, in marketing terms, your USP (unique selling proposition or point).
Deciding what makes you different can be difficult for some businesses. After all, if you are an accounting firm that works with small businesses providing tax services, how do you set yourself apart from the multitude of other tax accountants?
You could promote that you offer a personalised service but that won’t set you apart. Most accountants, solicitors and financial advisors would claim they offer a personalised service. It’s simply not enough to set you apart.
Therefore, you need to dig a bit deeper. The below categories give you a few ideas on how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. Once you develop your USP make sure the key words that describe your speciality are included in you marketing materials, particularly your website, as this is important for search engine optimisation (SEO).
What your clients want
The foundation of any business is your clients or customers. Think about your current clients and what they are looking for when using your service or product.
You may want to position yourself as the only real estate agent in your area who competes in marathons but your clients don’t care about your fitness levels. They would much prefer to know that you’ve sold property in your area for the past decade and have been the top salesperson in the region for three years in a row. Your experience and award wins are a better selling point than how many marathons you’ve completed.
However, if you’re a personal trainer and want to specialise in training runners then your marathon experience is highly relevant.
If you are in a business where it’s important to be local, then you can use that as part of your USP. Location itself is often not a selling point. After all, if there are other businesses like yours in your area then you still need to differentiate yourself from them.
For example, your bakery may be one of 20 bakeries within a five-kilometre radius. However, if you have won awards for your pies or are the only bakery in the area that sells organic breads, then you have identified a unique selling proposition.
If you specialise, this can set you apart from your competitors. For example, most accountants who work with SMEs offer tax services. However, if many of your clients work in the building industry and you know the intricacies of tax laws relevant to construction, you can use that specialisation to attract a certain type of client.
There are two considerations when using a specialisation as your USP. Make sure that your specialisation isn’t too narrow – you need to have a large enough target market from which to draw clients. If you decide to specialise, make sure it’s an area in which you have a genuine interest. After all, if construction-relevant tax advice does not float your boat now it certainly won’t if you continue to do it as the main part of your business for the next few years.
The advantage of specialising is that you can become an expert in that field, you can be more targeted when marketing to prospective clients, and word-of-mouth referrals are more likely as existing clients refer you to their peers.
Risks when developing a USP
It’s important that when developing a USP you don’t inadvertenty detract prospective clients because they don’t think you cater for them.
For example, I’m a Brisbane-based copywriter who works with small and medium businesses. They receive the expertise of someone who has worked for 25 years in communications and marketing for big businesses, without the big-agency fees.
My USP is based on my experience (25 years), my location (Brisbane), clients (small and medium business) and pricing (no big-agency fees).
This is the positioning I use to attract new clients because I want to work with small and medium businesses in my area. However, I certainly don’t rule out working with bigger organisations or those outside my local area and many of my existing clients are larger businesses or those that aren’t in Brisbane.
These clients have generally come from existing professional relationships or through my networks so they hired me based on my track record rather than my USP.
The key when developing your own unique selling proposition is to be specific enough to attract the type of clients you want to work with, without closing the door on prospective clients.
So, what sets your business apart?