What Distinguishes You From Your Competitors?
In marketing, U.S.P. is the acronym for unique selling proposition. The USP process answers the distinct question: "What distinguishes your product or service from similar products or services, even businesses as a whole?" After continually battling my wits using other recommended USP models, I developed my own -- a list of 50 questions -- that gave me the same results, but faster. [For simplicity, allow the word product to mean service as well.]
First, select an equal, or as closely matched as possible, playing competitor. Even if you sell apples, be careful in choosing your comparison. A Granny Smith apple is different from a Winesap. Even though both are a snack, each taste different and cook different. If you think there aren't any equals, be mindfully open, somewhere there is a close match -- guaranteed.
Second, gather whatever product information is available -- print or electronic. Lay the material out in singles for easy viewing. I like to color code, using highlighters, each set of USP characteristics. For instance, yellow for features, blue for the benefits. Later, when I'm ready to compare the apples, I use the abbreviations S and D for similar or different to mine. Poorly written material will produce limited results in your analysis. If this occurs, record their limitations and choose another player. Later, use this error list as a checklist against your own created material.
If you are a new player, select a player with fewer than two years in business or with the same number of selling products, otherwise, you will be working under "measurement stress." Measurement stress pleases the inner critic but will challenge your focus, energy, and your commitment.
Third, answer the following questions to create a list of their unique selling points:
1. How long have they been in business?
2. Where is the product on the maturity line? Is it a new product, old, or somewhere in-between?
3. Are there any business stories they tell? What type of story is it and how do they use it?
4. What is the size of their business? What are the advantages or disadvantages to their size?
5. Highlight all the product?s benefits.
6. What product stories do they use? How and when do they use them?
7. Identify and list the features the product offers.
8. What features are least important to the buyer?
9. What features may be assumed to be there but are not stated?
10. How is each feature used by the buyer?
11. Why would buyers see the feature as desirable? Examine one by one.
12. What is their price?
13. Where is this price in line with other similar products in the marketplace?
14. What emotional needs/desires does the product meet?
15. What customer physical needs or desires does their product meet? Even services meet some needs and desires.
16. Does the product sell better at different times of the year? If so, when, where, and why?
17. Does the competitor have an office? Any advantages to that location? How about their website location or domain name advantages? Disadvantages?
18. Where are they advertising the product? Find and keep copies on file.
19. Do they have a media kit? Obtain a copy.
20. What are the product?s demographics?
21. What type of customer care services do they offer?
22. Do they offer any special type of advice?
23. What is the guarantee or warranty for the product?
24. How does the product get into their customers hands?
25. How fast do they fulfill their orders?
26. What type of questions and answers do they offer to consumers about the product?
27. How long does it take for them to answer "contact us" type of questions? Submit a few to find out.
28. What are their payment options? Is there room for expansion?
29. What is their customer service policy?
30. List the number of ways their customers can contact them? Test and track each one.
31. What are their "available" (contact/support) hours? Their time zone?
32. Do they offer product discounts? What must a buyer do to earn them?
33. How do they ship? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?
34. Do they offer any value-added incentives seen from the customers point of view (freebies, documentation, support, newsletters, ebooks, or other items)?
35. Do they offer purchasing gifts? Are they one-of-a-kind type or generic? What needs to occur to receive one? How often do they change and why?
36. Brainstorm a list of unique, customer-valued gifts, that they don't offer.
37. What special qualities do their employees contribute to the product?
38. Do they offer any type of training?
39. What would make you excited about selling their product?
40. What do their customers say about the uniqueness of that product?
41. What statistics do they have on the product that shows, not tells, its uniqueness?
42. Do they have any celebrity endorsements?
43. In what ways does the product change buyers life style or shift their mindset?
44. How long does their product last with consumer use?
45. Where is the product in the economic trend line? Is it at the beginning or end?
46. How frequent does the company change a feature on the product and remarket it as an update? Examine the product?s history and look for patterns.
47. How fast can consumers obtain the product?
48. Were they the first to develop this product? When was it developed and first marketed?
49. What are the advantages and disadvantages the product holds in the marketplace now? How is that different then when it first appeared?
50. Where are the product distribution locations? What are the advantages and disadvantages for each?
Always remember, people are attracted to restaurants with full parking lots. The perception is...if lots of people are eating there, it must be good. This is why all restaurant employees are encouraged to park out front. A good USP process will provide the support you need to gather the information needed to fill your parking lot.
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About the Author: Catherine Franz, veteran entrepreneur and CEO of Eagle Communications, is a syndicated marketing columnist, radio host, International speaker, and master life and business coach. A supporting form, FAB, is available: http://www.abundancecenter.com.