If you have a product or service, it’s likely that you already have unique selling propositions, even if you’re not quite sure what they are.
Your USPs are in fact all the things about your product that make it distinctive and stand out from the competition.
It’s important to define these and narrow them down so that you have two or three main USPs on which to concentrate.
Doing this will allow you to pinpoint what your product is, at its core, and help you to communicate your brand identity to your customers.
But how do you go about fostering that brand identity using USPs? Read on for five top tips that will tell you just that.
The first thing you’ll need to do is sit down and write down everything you can think of that makes your product or service unique to your brand positioning.
The trick here is not to think too hard when you’re doing the initial list, and just throw out as many thoughts as come to mind. It could be something tiny and seemingly insignificant that could be the key to your USP standpoint.
This will work even better if you do it with a group of colleagues. It will allow you to gather and record a larger range of new ideas quickly and in an open forum.
In these forums, it’s very much the quantity, and not quality, of ideas that you’re looking for. The goal is to generate as many new insights as possible for you to evaluate and narrow down at the next stage.
For the next stage, you want to evaluate and define these ideas into targeted USPs.
You want to find only two or three that you can really embrace as a company. This will allow you to foster your brand identity through the entire customer journey.
Things to think about when evaluating and defining your USPs include:
You will then need to put the USPs in order of importance. You won’t be able to give all of them the same amount of attention. This is so everyone at your company knows at all times which to concentrate on, and in what order.
Your final step at this stage is to communicate out to your organization what your USPs are, and ensure that everyone at all levels is aware of them.
Getting buy-in from colleagues is essential before you start communicating your USPs out to your audience. You want everyone in the company singing from the same hymn sheet.
Someone wise once said, “It’s impossible to please everybody and, if you try, you’ll end up pleasing no one.” Now, it’s understandable that you don’t want to be put into a box and only please a small window of customers.
However, it’s also true that marketing to too wide a spread will mean you’re unlikely to really tap into your customers’ wants and needs effectively.
You shouldn’t be trying to impress everyone that comes across your marketing or product. That will just lead to disappointment.
The hard truth is that your product or service won’t appeal to everyone and, if you make it seem like it will, you’ll only be letting people down once they’ve bought into your brand.
Disappointed customers become detractors and will actually push other potential and current customers away. And they do so very easily. In this day and age, all it takes is a well-timed tweet and immeasurable damage can be done to your brand.
This is especially true when it comes to promising customers that your product will meet their needs if in actuality it falls short.
Instead, think about your core group - or groups - of customers and who would benefit from the unique selling points you defined in step one.
There are various ways to do this, but one of the easiest is to utilize customer segmentation. This will allow you to tap into your customer personas and decide which you should prioritize when marketing your USPs.
An example of where this could work is if you were selling video conferencing software for mac users. You would want to be able to narrow down your audience to customers, or potential customers, who have Mac computers and who are likely to want to do video conferences.
This narrows down your audience massively. All of a sudden you have a defined segment of the audience who would have an interest in Mac video conferencing software!
Your ultimate goal here is to find the customer segment that will build your brand into their identity. So, by defining your USPs and prioritizing your customers, you’ll find you can foster your brand identity.
Then, you can market that brand identity toward customers that will both purchase your products or services, and also promote your brand as part of their identity.
Now that you’ve pinpointed, prioritized your USPs, and narrowed down your target audience, it’s time to make your business brand identity stand out.
The focus here isn’t on marketing yourselves as the best, or necessarily pointing out your competitors’ flaws. Branding yourself the top call center providers isn’t enough.
You need to make your business distinct and different from everyone else.
You’ve found what makes you distinct, now you need to make sure the way in which you market it carries through this message.
This is true of all the channels you use when marketing; from posting something to the brand’s Instagram account, publishing articles, or even when using an email blast service.
For example, you wouldn’t want to publish a blog post titled “how is VoIP used in business,” but then have a business number that doesn’t work on a VoIP service. You have to be able to practice what you preach.
The best way to explain this is by giving you an example.
Let’s look at Rihanna’s beauty brand, Fenty.
Fenty launched in September 2017. By November 2017, it was named by Times Magazine as one of the most important inventions of 2017. That’s right. In two months this brand was listed as one of the most important inventions of the whole year.
It did this by quickly becoming known for its “quality-to-affordability ratio and its emphasis on inclusivity.”
You’ll be aware of the rise in marketing that targets inclusivity. Fenty wasn’t targeting a new USP or a new market, necessarily. What it did — and does — well is delivering on the promise of its marketing.
Fenty marketed itself as a truly inclusive brand and one of its USPs is that it delivered on this premise.
While other beauty brands were marketing themselves as inclusive and stocking eight or so foundation colors, Fenty was stocking 40 shades of foundation in every outlet that launched in 17 countries simultaneously.
In this way, Fenty revolutionized the beauty industry that had until this point catered, almost solely, to a narrow range of skin tones and gender.
Fenty found their USP — supplying the same type of beauty products for all — and zeroed in on their target market.
They made this distinctive by showing off their wide range of shades that were suitable for all skin types, colors, and gender. And then they proved it by using a diverse range of models for their campaigns.
The stats speak for themselves. In September 2017, the month in which Fenty Beauty was launched, one Pro Filt’r So Matte Foundation was sold every minute.
The brand itself was said to have made $72 million in media value in just one month. Today, the brand is worth $17 billion and now boasts a 50 strong range of foundation and matching concealers with many more products in their arsenal.
As the previous example showed, your product or service can be bigger than itself. In this day and age, customers are looking for more than just a product or service.
They’re looking for brands that buy in, or make them buy in, to something bigger than themselves - something they can identify with or make their own identity.
Your company vision and values really matter here. In order to have a successful company, you would normally have established a company vision and related goals.
These should be the ‘laws’ that everyone in the company lives and breathes by, and they should flow through to current and potential customers.
This also applies when marketing with affiliates or selling through channel partners - anyone who has contact with your product or service needs to know what it stands for.
Company values should be the cornerstone of everything you do and are key to fostering your brand identity.
Company values are almost always just as — if not more — important for success and customer perception of the brand as the products or services it sells.
Customers often align themselves with a brand identity that is similar to their own values.
A great example of this is the clothing company, Everlane.
Their aim was to disrupt the fast-fashion industry through “radical transparency.” This is shown throughout their marketing and branding and is an incredible example of how a brand can build a true identity.
Their core values are based around ethical factories, quality and transparent pricing.
This is shown clearly throughout all their customer-facing branding, and it’s clear that they have a distinct brand identity based on defined USPs.
And, it’s not just something that Everlane says that they do.
They back up their claims visibly with videos of their factory, ethically-sourced quality clothes and, even more uniquely, a full breakdown of the cost of making each item of clothing and what the markup is.
This ultimately markets to a very specific type of customer who holds particular values, and feels that they are contributing to society when they make a purchase with the brand.
Now that you have your USPs based on your company values and know what audience you want to target, all you need to do is deliver.
You have to make sure that the products and services that you offer live up to the hype that you’ve created. If they don’t, you’ll definitely hear about it.
And there’s no guarantee that you will hear about it before thousands of other people.
In this social day and age, a customer’s negative review can be seen by countless eyes before you even notice.
Of course, it’s not just the bad reviews you’ll be worried about. Earlier, we mentioned how having a brand identity that resonates with customers can turn customers into brand promoters.
Targeting the right people with the right message can get you customers that build themselves around your brand identity. It’s basically free marketing. If your product or service falls short, this simply can’t happen.
So make sure your USPs are accurate for your product or service and that the audience you’re targeting is defined.
This will then make sure that the statements you’re making about your brand identity are true, and you’ll gain your customers’ trust and loyalty.
Deciding and building on your USPs does take some time and effort. But, putting in the work now will reap the rewards for years to come.
So, don’t be put off by what might seem to be a daunting process. The best piece of advice about going through the process is to get started on this right away.
It’s tempting to push this aside as it could seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but this is simply not the case.
Defining and capitalizing on your USPs will foster your brand identity and allow customers to fully engage with your brand.
A set of simple, clear, and defined USPs will also allow your colleagues to buy into the brand identity and give them something to really get behind.
This will mean that you will be setting an expectation for the people that work with you and also providing consistency in your messages to your customers.
The process detailed above will not just help you define your USPs in order to foster brand identity, it will help create and shape your marketing and sales plans in the process.
Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and VoIP phone service. He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia.