how to find your unique selling point and share it with your audience
A three part guide covering: what is a USP, how to identify your USP, and how to communicate your message effectively to the right audience.
Prefer your tips in podcast form? Listen here for an in depth look at finding your USP with lots of added examples.
PART ONE: WHat is a USP and HOW DO YOU USE IT?
what exactly is a Unique Selling Point (USP)?
Your USP(s) is what sets your brand apart from others in your industry: how you do what you do differently. You probably aren't the only one offering your products or services, but you are the only one doing it exactly the way that you do. The stronger your understanding of what's different about your brand, the more you'll stand out.
Once you figure out what your own unique brand of magic is, you have yet another challenge to face: how do you effectively communicate that message with your audience?
WHEN IS A GOOD TIME TO IDENTIFY YOUR USP?
The short answer here is: anytime, and regularly. In any business journey, there are different points where it becomes important to revisit this subject.
Planning your business/start up stage: identifying your USP right at the start of your journey will save you lots of time (and frustration) in the long run. Your USP acts as a foundation for all that you do, creating content, marketing, advertising- you name it, your USP ties into it.
Rebranding/pivoting: looking back at your USPs, you may find that they have evolved or changed along with your business. Over time you gain experience, you try new things, and you may find hat what you have to offer is different than it was at the start.
Established: even established businesses are evolving, and it's important to revisit your USPs and make sure they still ring true to your brand not only as it is, but looking ahead to where you want it to be.
How do you figure out your USP?
Start with your strengths. What makes you good at what you do? What areas do you excel at? What kind of feedback to your clients and customers share with you?
If you read through reviews or comments fro those who you've worked with, you may soon see a pattern of what things really stand about you from an outside perspective.
There is a second part to this step though: you then need to make sure that these points are unique to you, or find a way to put a different spin on them so you aren't just using the same USP as your competitors.
For example, reviews from my photography clients almost always point out my ability to help people relax in front of the camera- even those that hate having their photo taken.
That probably sounds like a no brainer for a USP- except for one problem. Almost EVERY photographer out there is making this same claim.
So despite the fact that this is an area I excel in, and is relatable to a lot of people, it's not a great USP because it's not unique.
That's not to say I completely exclude this from my marketing, but I have expanded from there, taking it a step further and delving a little deeper into my client experience. Instead of just saying I make my clients feel comfortable, I explain how I make them feel comfortable: the time I take getting to know them ahead of our shoot, the way I work, my focus on capturing candid images with minimal posing.
When in doubt, dig deeper- and really break that initial USP into smaller components.
PART TWO: HOW TO IDENTIFy YOUR USP(S)- FOUR areas to think about (with a bonus!)
Here are four 'categories' to get you started:
1. Brand Personality
You are your brand- and that is your greatest superpower. No matter how many other people out there are doing what you do, you are the only one who is you. Your personality is going to set you apart, and it's the most powerful tool you have as a small business owner trying to stand out. We talk a lot about a brand's personality, but for most solopreneurs, their own personality is knitted into their brand- they are one and the same.
Being yourself goes a long way, not only in helping you set your brand apart but also in attracting the right kind of clients. Think about it in terms of friendship: there are people you hit it off with/connect with instantly, and I like to think about clients the same way. If I show more of me, I'll attract more likeminded people.
This isn't always easy to do, especially at first. It can feel scary to be too "you", worry about being "unprofessional" or putting some people off but it's the only way to truly find your audience and to stand apart from your competitors too.
What if it puts some people off?
It's true that showing more of yourself might put some people off, but that's ok! If you being you turns them off, they were never your clients anyways. The more of yourself you put on the table, the smaller you're going to make your ideal client base. And that's a good thing- you don't want to pretend with your clients- you want to be myself and draw in the kind of people you love to work with, and who will love to work with you. Anyone else just isn't for you.
The bottom line: be honest and real and you'll not only set yourself apart, you'll find the right clients too. And the good news? The more you practice this, the easier it gets.
Everyone has their own unique style, which helps narrow your audience (a good thing, remember?) But how do you get your style to stand out as a USP?
Describing your style in one or two words like 'modern' or 'creative' isn't enough to differentiate- chances are there are lots of people use those terms. You need to dive down into the real creative aspects of what you do. Instead of just talking about process/materials, what if you talk about your inspiration? Share your story, your journey: how is yours different than the other businesses offering similar products or services? Bring yourself into it and dive deeper than the obvious stuff that sits right on the surface. Think about your personal connection to your work.
While you will likely be one of many working in a similar style in your industry, there will still be stylistic things that you do differently. For example, maybe you work with the same materials, but you use different colours or patterns or attributes to finish them. Talk about those differences, and not just in simple terms but also share the story behind why you chose them, how you developed these details.
The bottom line: get specific! Don't just share the big umbrella terms, delve deeper and see turn the reasoning behind those stylistic details into a story.
Approach and style go hand in hand: together they form the basis for the way you work and create. How do you approach your work? And what is it like to work with you? Most of us would use descriptive words like "friendly" or "detail oriented" or "relaxed" to explain our approach to our work, but again, we need to break it down further than that.
Too many others are using these same words to talk about their business and if you don't break these terms down into smaller points, outlining the main aspects of customer/client experience you aim to build, you'll just blend into the crowd.
Let's go back to my photography example. Many photographers claim they take a relaxed approach to make their clients comfortable- so how do I go above and beyond that well used statement? I need to break it down further to give a glimpse into the experience: highlighting the way we work closely together, the meetings we have before our session to get to know each other, the research I do into your brand and your industry.
The bottom line: think about the customer experience, and go beyond the general terms. Share the details!
How does your experience- in life and in business- provide a different experience for your clients? Your combined experience is another thing that is entirely unique to you- and another thing that can really set you apart and help you find the perfect clients and customers for you.
Think about your education and training, a niche area you specialize in, the types of clients you have worked with, or your own experience of starting and growing a business. Try to focus on the things that not everyone else has done- a course you took, an industry you worked in, the way your business came to light.
For example: I have the experience of starting a business in a new country (on a new continent actually) and that sets me up better to help someone else in a similar position. My experience is very different than someone's who set up a business in their hometown, with a network of contacts and familiar resources around them.
The bottom line: your experience can help you to find the right clients, and really stand out amongst your competitors.
Bonus! This is a biggie, and it's actually the topic for my next post because it's big enough to cover on it's own but I'm going to mention it briefly here too:
If something is really important to you, as a person and/or as a business, make sure that this comes forward when you're thinking about your USP(s). People buy from likeminded people, especially when it comes to values, and you will be a step ahead of the competition if your values match those of your audience.
An important thing to remember with brand values: it is important to be VERY honest with these, don't jump on a bandwagon or it will be obvious you aren't being genuine.
PART THREE: How do you communicate your USP's to your audience?
Getting the message across doesn't have to complicated- but it's way more fun (and engaging) if you get creative with it!
The obvious way to talk about your USPs would be to simply say/write them out loud in your content: "I am different because...". That's okay to do sometimes, but you may find you generate more interest by being a little less blunt about it.
Be subtle: don't just tell your audience about what makes you unique, show them! Try to inject a little bit of your own unique personality, style, approach and experience into the photos/videos/infographics you are creating and your ideal customers will soon see that you have what they are looking for.
You can share these subtle nods in everything you create, whether it's a 'behind the scenes' shot of your workspace or a short video showing your materials. Share your experience, your story, your journey, and your challenges using visual "hints" that will keep your audience engaged and curious for more.
You can also compare yourself to your competitors in a fun way (no need to drag anyone under the bus!) by talking about how you do things differently than the industry standards and stereotypes.
For example, most of us equate having our photo taken with very traditional, awkward, posed photoshoots- and as a photographer I create the opposite experience. I might say something like:
"Do you shudder at the cheesy, awkward grin of the studio photography session? It doesn't have to be that way!" I'm not calling anyone specific out here, but instead am speaking to the well known experience I'm trying to help people avoid. At the same time I'm being relatable, breaking stereotypes, and setting myself apart.
If you've made it this far, you might as well put your new knowledge to work! Set aside 20 minutes and try this quick two step exercise:
For each of the four areas I mentioned above (personality, style, approach and experience) jot down one or two things that are unique to your business.
Brainstorm an idea for each that would help you to share that message through your content
From there, you have everything you need to determine specific UPS(s) and start incorporating them into your content and messaging.
Still not sure what it is that makes your business unique?
An experienced, objective perspective can really help to identify your greatest strengths and the things that will help set you apart- and attract the right kind of audience.
Get in touch for more information about 1 to 1 brainstorming sessions or brand strategy sessions (two heads are always better than one!)
Click here to learn this info in podcast format (with more examples and details).