Your USPs are Neither Unique, nor Selling Points.

Core to any brand is the idea of what makes it special.  What differentiates it from other businesses that operate in the same sector, and in turn why a customer should choose them.  Increasingly, when I’m involved with new engagements with companies, I find myself questioning the ideas they have about what makes them special.  In most cases, this crystallizes around the concept of Unique Selling Points (USPs).

More often than not, the USPs that I see businesses claiming are neither unique, nor of interest to buyers.  In fact, you can see that they have been developed internally, probably by management committee, and trotted out without any real thought about what they mean.

If you want to see what kind of things serve as USPs, let me Google it for you, but here’s a sample from the top 10 results:

  • We prefer long-term relationships
  • Systemic and inter-disciplinary
  • Fast, flexible and focused
  • Our business model is all about shared risk.
  • Agile process to meet aggressive timelines & requirements

The problem with all of these is that they are so generic as to lose all meaning.  They could apply to any business or organisation, and say very little to the consumer aside from suggesting that the company has absolutely no idea of what unique means.

They might be selling points, but they’re not going to help a buyer.

And that’s the problem.  These types of quasi-unique selling points are all about the way in which certain individuals within an organisation see it, and more often than not, those people are not customer facing, and don’t necessarily have insight into how customers see an organisation.

Which brings us on to…

Unique Buying Points

Thanks to social media, the perception of what makes an organisation special is increasingly public and disparate.  Everyone has an opinion about their engagement with a company that they are free to express, and that’s a good thing.   It means that companies can get feedback about why people choose them, and the values that they associate with them.  I’ve written before about the fact that brands can no longer be controlled internally, and that if a business wants to have a social presence, it needs to be open to the opinion of their community.

Unique Buying Points are the customer centric view of a business.  They are not about what a small group believe are the reasons why people will be interested in becoming customers, but the factors that made real customers choose a particular brand.

Customer defined UBPs are less likely to be filled with corporate platitudes, and include a more realistic and compelling recommendation for other people to make a decision about who to choose.

UBPs could be perceived as a risk internally because they might contradict the beliefs held within an organisation, and they might include uncomfortable truths about the external perception of an organisation, but the truth is, a business that recognises and values the opinions and choices of their customers is likely to be more in tune with them, and put themselves in a position where they can use that external definition to promote their services in a way that actually resonates with their customers.