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Develop A Unique Selling Proposition to GET OUT OF THE COMMODITY BUSINESS

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What is a unique selling proposition and why is it important to your business? You know you’re marketing your business as a commodity when prospects start the conversation by asking you about price.

Positioning yourself as a commodity and being shopped on price alone is a terrible position for a small business owner to be in. It’s soul crushing and this race to the bottom is bound to end in tears.

The answer is to develop a unique selling proposition (USP). 

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WHAT IS A UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION?

A USP is something that positions you differently. It forces prospects to make an apples-to-oranges comparison when comparing you with your competitor.

If they can do an apples-to-apples comparison of you and your competitors  it’ll come down to price and you’re toast. 

Why? Because there’s always someone willing to sell cheaper than you.

That’s why I’m going to show you how exactly to come up with a unique selling proposition that sets you apart from customers and attracts the attention of the right lead. Let’s dive in.

HOW DO I COME UP WITH A UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION?

Fact. Very few if any businesses or products are truly unique. 

So a common question I get is, “If there’s nothing unique about my business, how do I develop a USP?”

There’s no quick and simple answer to that question but here are a few ideas.

STEP 1: GET INTO THE MIND OF YOUR PROSPECT.

Firstly, to come up with a unique selling proposition you want to get into the mind of your prospect. 

What do they really want? 

  • It’s rarely the thing you are selling. 
  • It’s usually the result of the thing you are selling. The difference may seem subtle but it’s huge.

For example, someone buying a $50 watch is buying something very different from a person buying a $50,000 watch. 

In the latter case they are likely buying status, luxury and exclusivity. Sure, they want it to tell the time just like the buyer of the $50 watch. But that’s unlikely to be their core motivation.

STEP 2: WHAT IS THE RESULT YOUR PROSPECTS WANT.

So to get into the mind of the prospect, we need to discover what result they are actually buying. 

Understand this first, then craft your unique selling proposition based on the result your prospects want to achieve.

For example, if you’re a printer, you’re a commodity business. You want to get out of the commodity business as quickly as possible.

I don’t mean get out of the industry.  You need to change how you position yourself.

Stop selling business cards, letterheads and printing.

Start asking open-ended questions such as:

  • Why are you coming to a printer? 
  • What is it that you want to achieve?

The prospect doesn’t want business cards and letterheads. They want what they think business cards and letterheads are going to do for their business.

So you could sit down with them and say, “What are you trying to accomplish? Let’s do a printing audit and evaluate all of the things you’re trying to use printing for.”

By taking them through the process, you can charge them to do a printing audit. Then if they end up hiring you to do their printing, you can apply that consulting fee towards printing.

This way you’re no longer viewed as a printer anymore. You’re now viewed as an advisor that’s serving their needs.

AN OUTRAGEOUS GUARANTEE = UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION

Another great strategy for creating a unique selling proposition is to offer an outrageous guarantee. One which completely reverses the risk of the transaction.

To be truly unique when using this technique you must avoid the vague crap that everyone says.  So stop saying satisfaction guaranteed, service quality, dependability.

You need a very specific guarantee to address the fear or uncertainty that the prospect has about the transaction.

For example if you’re in the pest control business you’re customers want to know: 

  1. The pests won’t come back.
  2. The technician won’t leave their house dirty.
  3. You won’t poison their family with chemicals

EXAMPLE OF AN OUTRAGEOUS GUARANTEE.

So your outrageous guarantee could be something like this:

“We guarantee to rid your home of ants forever, without the use of toxic chemicals. All while leaving your home in the same clean and tidy condition we found it. If you aren’t delighted with the service provided, we insist that you tell us and we’ll refund double your money back.”

Compare that to a weak, vague guarantee like, “satisfaction guaranteed”. That’s not a unique selling proposition. It’s a turn off.

Does an outrageous guarantee like the one above entail risk for the pest control service provider? Sure, if they do a crappy job. 

But under these circumstances they’re likely to have to give the customer a refund anyway. It may even be a legal requirement.

TELL THEM WHAT YOU DO IN YOUR GUARANTEE.

Here’s the other thing about guarantees. If you’re an ethical operator, you’re already offering a guarantee but aren’t using it to your advantage in your marketing. This goes back to having your marketing plan, your blueprint for success.

So why not make a point of talking about something you’re already doing.

Most people are honest and won’t abuse guarantees if they’ve received the service they were promised.

Even after accounting for the few people who do abuse them, you’ll be far ahead. Because a strong guarantee will attract more customers than a weak and vague one.

A strong, results-oriented guarantee will also drive you to deliver a great customer experience. This alone ensures that it’s worthwhile to have a strong guarantee.

Your customers have their own fears. You want to name their fears and guarantee against them in your marketing. This gives your business an overwhelming advantage over your competitors.

PRICING STRATEGY (NOT A UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION)

I’m sometimes asked, “can’t lowest price be my unique selling proposition (USP)?” 

Sure it can, but can you absolutely guarantee that everything you sell will be priced lower than all your competitors including the behemoths like Costco and Walmart? Unlikely.

So a USP that says “lowest prices on some things, some of the time” is not quite so compelling.

The fact is if you’re a small or medium business, you’re unlikely to beat the big discounters at the lowest price game.

Truth be told, you probably don’t want to. By charging higher prices you attract a better quality client. 

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, you get far less grief from high-end customers than you do from low-end customers. I’ve seen and experienced this in multiple businesses across multiple industries.

Resist the urge to discount. Here’s why. Instead, increase the value of your offering.

  • Bundle in bonuses. 
  • Add services.
  • Customize the solution. 

These are all way you can offer genuine value to your customer and cost you very little. It also helps you create that apples-to-oranges comparison that gets you out of the commodity game.

NEXT STEPS

Don’t hate the player, hate the game. So, as hard as it may be to resist, don’t play the commodity/price game.

Develop your USP, deliver on it and make those you deal with play your game, on your terms.

 

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy our article on Building Business Systems.  It will help you to skyrocket your sales, and attract investors. 

Don’t forget to share it on social media.

4 thoughts on “Develop A Unique Selling Proposition to GET OUT OF THE COMMODITY BUSINESS”

  1. Thanks for the post, Allan! I can attest that what you are saying is true. As a freelance writer, I compete against a LOT of low-priced competitors. And when I first started, I was sucked into the commoditized/compete-on-price problem. As soon as I shook myself free, and created a USP that helped me stand apart, I could charge a much higher price and never had a problem getting customers.

    It sounds counter-intuitive but it works! I urge your readers to try it.

    1. Hi Aaron,

      It’s also important note that a certain segment of the market equates higher price with better quality (and often they are right). This alone is great reason to be at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. These types of customers are usually much easier to deal with, pay on time and appreciate you more. Catering to this market segment means you can take on fewer customers while making or higher revenue. Therefore you can afford to give them the higher quality service they expect.

  2. I am a fashion Entrepreneur and i sell female fashion accessories. I love the idea of gaving a USP but i am having a difficult time carving one out for my business. Can anyone help?
    Thank you.

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