NCET explores business and technology
Years ago, my decade-long marriage came to a blindsiding end with a brick — a literal brick.
While the details aren’t important, suffice it to say the publicly displayed brick was inscribed with a message, but not to me.
Sure, the world was crashing down around me like a figurative ton of bricks, but I eventually decided to turn that potentially crazy-making symbol into something positive: I started a tongue-in-cheek blog about my you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up life. The first post was about the brick, and after links from Time magazine and Huffington Post, I began embracing the identity of “the girl whose marriage ended with a brick.”
Oddly, the brick had become my USP.
A USP — or unique selling proposition — is a marketing concept used to explain successful advertising campaigns of the 1940s. The concept: such campaigns offered original and compelling stories to the customer, which convinced them to switch brands.
How does this apply to modern business?
Given an abundance of competitors out there in your specific industry, you have to assume you have potential clients asking themselves, “Why should I choose/switch to you?”
Your answer should be, “Because I’m a good kind of different.” Your goal is to find what’s different, embrace it and tell that story. Specific to your business, the ultimate goal of your USP is to have people say, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of you. You’re the one who…”
Your job is to help them complete that sentence through awareness of your story — a story powerful enough to inspire change.
So where do you find inspiration for your USP? Consider:
- Personality/Voice: Is there something about your brand’s character or leadership’s persona that is clearly different from your peers?
- Experience/Perspective: Have you have done or seen things in a manner others haven’t/don’t?
- Innovation: Do you make/do/represent something altogether different?
- Audience: Are you targeting a niche previously unserved?
The USP will not always be the star of your communications, but rather should be woven throughout your larger narrative, much like a gifted storyteller would pepper a story with references to a common theme. Remember to use these storytelling skills across all platforms, including social media, traditional advertising, public relations efforts and on the mediums you own, like your website.
So your goal: Audit your business and determine what differentiates you — which doesn’t have to be revolutionary, just compelling to your target audience. Are you the quirky retailer with a talking rutabaga mascot? The accountants who wear suspenders daily? The only business in your industry that operates entirely virtually?
Identify it, own it, and develop your narrative. Keep in mind that the best USPs typically evolve authentically and unintentionally, but savvy businesspeople can recognize their existence and fold them into a larger brand promise.
The bottom line: Your potential customers love stories. Enlighten them about what makes you unique. Then build upon that story through your messaging and channels, brick by brick and layer by layer.
Mikalee Byerman is director of audience engagement for the Estipona Group (www.estiponagroup.com) and NCET’s VP of communications (www.NCET.org). And the girl whose marriage ended with a brick. That, too.