How to define your unique selling point

Your USP, or Unique Selling Point, is at the heart of your business. It’s that special sparkle that sets you apart from your competitors – something you do that nobody else does. And every business has one. It’s just a matter of finding it, defining it, and ensuring that you use it to your brands’ advantage.

Examples of your USP could be as simple as the fact that your business is first to market in a very niche field. But if you’re a business operating in a crowded market – say, a coffee shop – you might need to go a little deeper. Maybe you have the best customer service, delicious vegan cakes in an area otherwise unfriendly to veggies, or obscure single-bean coffee that caffeine aficionado are willing to travel for hours to reach. Here’s how you find out…

Analyse your strengths and weaknesses

First off, you need to think hard about what would make your customers choose you in the first place, and also why they would choose you given a choice between you and a competitor. What benefits do they gain from your service or product? Is it convenience, a superior experience, something they can’t get anywhere else? Pull out a couple of things that you believe set you apart.

Be honest when doing this, and also make sure to identify some elements that could potentially be seen as weaknesses too. Does your higher quality product mean your price point is higher? Or does your cheaper product or service mean that other areas are no-frills?

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

So now you have a list of what you’ve identified as your strengths - but what you think sets you apart or what draws people to your business might not be the same as what they think. If you’re already trading, there’s no substitute for asking your customers directly why they love you. If you’re not already trading, it’s vital to do market research with potential customers exploring why they would buy from you, and what draws them to your business.

Be specific

It’s easy in the excitement of staring up and developing a new product to want to do everything – to think you’re going create something that’s the best, AND the cheapest, AND the most innovative. But it’s best to focus on one area where you can excel. If you’re going to provide the best customer service, you can’t be the cheapest too – you won’t be able to afford it. Find that thing that sets you apart from the rest, and concentrate on doing it really well rather than on trying to please everyone.

Communicating your USP

When you’ve identified your USP, communicating it ensures that people know exactly what it is about your business that’s special – make it a key part of your brand identity. It’s the thing that will draw people to you, make them choose you over your competitors, so don’t hide your light under a bushel or make potential customers have to hunt down the things that make you special. This could be as simple as ensuring you sum up your USP in a catchy Twitter bio, or by adding a short tagline to your website.

Case study: Smith and Sinclair

Smith & Sinclair are a Virgin StartUp-funded business creating edible alcoholic fruit pastilles. Rather than drinking your cocktail, their unique selling point is that you can “eat your drink”. Their unique selling point is a product that hasn’t been done in such a premium and innovative way before – so how do they go about communicating this?

“With our product, we need a huge amount of consumer education,”says co-founder Melanie Goldsmith. “We want our customers to understand the difference in product rituals when eating versus drinking your alcohol, and also the fun that can be had with more 'adult play'.”

To aid in this, Smith & Sinclair are currently running the first ever edible alcohol pop-up on Carnaby Street, which has seen coverage in major media outlets and a lot of enthusiastic customers.

“Our shop is multi sensory. It has been designed to engage our senses and textures and we operate as a bar, as an experience and shop. We aim for people to leave feeling like they’ve had a real experience, than just buying a product which acts as a mean to an end,” continues Melanie.

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