HIGHLIGHTING “unique selling point” (USPS)

The idea of a “unique selling point” seems to underpin the very nature of competition. It suggests that every product should have an effective, direct, and easily summarized “selling point” that appeals to the customer and is not shared by competitors. Yet surprisingly few businesses have actually employed this idea, content merely to meet the industry standard without surpassing it, relying solely on market momentum for profitability. This approach was rejected by Tesco—Britain’s largest retail chain—which decided instead to go the extra mile for market superiority. It took the decision to remain open 24 hours a day, becoming the first British supermarket to do so. Tesco also introduced a number of other USPs—including the promise to open checkouts for customers if there was more than one person in front, and providing a complimentary bag-packing service (a service that is still a rare concept in Britain).

As well as “practical” USPs there are “emotional” USPs. While they may not seem to provide a practical advantage to the customer, they enable businesses to differentiate themselves and their products by using marketing to trigger emotional reactions in prospective clients. These reactions include the desire for status or a feeling of success. The luxury car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz is a prime example. Although its cars feature many practical advantages, it is arguable that its mainstream success is due to people with 22 HIGHLIGHTING UNIQUE SELLING POINTS (USPS) 111175-100 GI Business.indd 50 1/5/09 10:38:13 100 GREAT BUSINESS IDEAS

• 51 limited knowledge of cars and a desire to project a certain image of themselves in society. The constant striving for USPs is what drives the industry forward, prevents stagnation, and benefits both consumers and the profits of successfully differentiated organizations. Recognize that your USP may well have to be dynamic and quickly changing. If it is successful, it is likely that competitors will begin to mimic it. Innovate to find new USPs and remain ahead of the competition.

• Find out what it is that your customers value most, currently lack, and will pay for—and develop this as your USP. This may be the product’s benefits to them, its price, or the service they receive.

• Offer the highest quality: this can ensure your product gains both a practical USP and an emotional, status-oriented USP.

• Offer the widest choice—this can involve specializing and segmenting your market.

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