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Tips on how to find your unique selling point

Read time: 3 minutes


The most important part of a marketing plan for any business, but especially a start-up, is determining the business's position in the marketplace.

Positioning is often considered merely a marketing chore, but it is central to a business's strategic, financial and marketing planning. Without it, everything else is just a collection of numbers, opinions and tactics.

Generally, positioning is the strategic thinking process that determines what will make your business different from competitors. Perhaps the product or service is different, or the method of delivery, or the value that is added to it.

Making your business stand out

A unique selling point (USP) is the essence of your business, because it governs your marketing, operations, and, eventually determines the business's financial success or failure.

It is what makes your business stand out in the marketplace and what determines why customers should buy from you instead of competitors.

A USP could be best product or service, continuing contact, lowest price, highest quality, the most innovative thinking, the best staff, top delivery or any other factor that influences customers' buying behaviour.

Creating a lasting impression

Whatever it is, it must be unique to your business, creating a lasting impression in the customer’s mind.

Some examples include: Domino's Pizza formed a USP based on delivery—it promised to get a pizza to a customer within an allotted time, or it was free. Another USP might be a cellphone service that offers the lowest price by shaving its own margins.

A product USP might be guaranteed reliability, while a service USP might be 24/7 support.

Your positioning strategy

While a USP has a large impact on how a business performs its daily tasks, formation of that USP grows out of market research and strategic planning.

Once a new business has conducted its market and competitive research, it identifies a niche, or business opportunity, and develops a profile of a target market in that niche that it wishes to serve. Then it forms a strategy regarding how it will attack that market. An essential part of that strategy is the USP that forms the company's "differentiating factor.”

Formation of the USP usually involves a survey of the "4 P's" of marketing, also known as the marketing mix—product, place, price and promotion (in the modern era of service business, a fifth P, people, has joined the mix). A company chooses one of the P's as the area in which it will find a primary differentiating factor and may then further refine the strategy to concentrate on an aspect of that area.

Strategic positioning is a visioning process that shouldn't be ignored in favour of more tangible marketing chores. It should be the overriding reason for performing more routine tasks like market research. It will also become the basis of a company's business plan.