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If you don’t know the answer to this question, you shouldn’t be in business

Whenever I start working with a new client, my first priority is always the same. I become obsessively focused on uncovering their ‘point of difference’.

What is the one thing about this fashion label, accountant, educational institution, law firm, retail outlet or real estate agency that makes it compelling, different or special?

Without a clear point of difference, your marketing efforts (such as your website and brochures) will be ineffective and easily forgotten.

And your business may not be viable over the long term.

What is a point of difference?

Otherwise known as a USP – or Unique Selling Proposition – your point of difference is something that your competitors cannot legitimately claim or easily replicate.

A good USP will meet these criteria:

  • Genuine: Don’t tell your clients that your printing business can turn jobs around in half a day if you typically take two days. Be sure you can live up to your claim.
  • Relevant: An effective USP must relate directly to what your target customers value. If your clients value top quality print production above all else, then don’t focus on fast turnaround times.
  • Original: Sorry to disappoint you, but your USP is not ‘superior customer service’. And it’s not ‘we really care about our clients.’ Why? Because that’s boring and unoriginal. It’s also vague (see next bullet point) and disingenuous.
  • Specific: What’s more effective: ‘We provide the quickest print service in town’, or ‘Get your brochures printed in 48 hours or receive a 25% discount’? Need I say more?
  • Easy to articulate: If you or your copywriter can’t clearly express your USP in two or three simple sentences, then it’s back to the drawing board. This one is easy enough to test. Simply ask your customers what it means to them.

My business doesn’t have a point of difference. But we are doing just fine, thank you very much.

The good news is that if you are running a successful business, you do have a point of difference. Okay, so you may not know what that is, but you do have one.

The real challenge is uncovering it.

Determining your USP is rarely easy. It takes time and hard work. You may need to brainstorm with key staff or talk at length with some of your loyal clients.

You may also want to consider engaging a marketing consultant. As a business owner, you may be too close to your own business to see things clearly. A fresh perspective can make all the difference. Just remember to keep an open mind: your USP may surprise you.

In fact, as a copywriter with marketing background, I often help my clients uncover their USP. (That’s my USP.)

We have three, four or more points of difference. Why should I choose just one?

Your business may have more than one thing that’s compelling, different or special about it. And of course, as your copywriter, I’d want to know them all.

But just imagine for a moment that your audience is only capable of remembering one thing about your business. What would you want it to be?

That’s your USP.

Have you heard the tennis ball analogy? It goes like this:

If I throw you 10 tennis balls at once, chances are you’re not going to catch any of them. But if I throw you just one, you’re likely to catch it… aren’t you?

It’s the same in marketing and communications. One idea is easier to remember.

Does your business articulate a clear point of difference? If not, I’d love to help you get there.