What a Staten Island attorney can teach us about Unique Selling Propositions and positioning your business for success
Since I’ve joined Yodle, I’ve been thinking a lot about why some small businesses succeed and others don’t.
Of course, it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one factor, but from a marketing perspective at least, what helps some small businesses attract customers and others to… well… not? I reached out to a number of small business owners I knew – both through Yodle as well as my personal network – to try and wrap my mind around this question.
As it turns out, a lot goes into a successful small business marketing program, but at the most basic level, marketing success seems to start with the small business owner identifying and articulating what sets their business apart from the competition. Sounds easy enough, right?
Promoting Uniqueness in Practice: A Lawyer’s Story
Yan Katsnelson runs a law firm in my hometown of Staten Island, New York. Despite being only 28 years old, Yan had managed to secure a number of high profile cases and, from what I had heard was having a lot of success with his practice. I wondered how he was able to obtain all of these cases despite not having as many years under his belt as much of his competition.
“There are countless firms that do bankruptcies and criminal defense in New York City,” Yan told me when we sat down to chat about his success, “at the end of the day it’s all about how you sell yourself to that client.”
After speaking with his clients Yan realized that an attorney who can focus all of their attention on a single case was attractive to prospective clients, often even more so than the competitive firms who boasted many years of experience.
“I realized that even though I’m young, unlike the bigger firms that just take on any cases for the money, I have the ability to choose cases that can really benefit from my added focus and attention.”
Yan also knew that not only could he offer more attention to individual cases, but he could do it at a fairer price than his competitors because he was so young and wasn’t strapped with the overhead of some more established firms. He used his age and boutique firm size to his advantage and made sure to emphasize his firm’s ability to give potential clients more customized attention for their cases in all of his communications with them – whether it be a flyer he printed up or a conversation he had with a prospective client on the phone.
Yan may not even realize it, but what he did was develop what marketing types refer to as his “unique selling proposition” or “USP.”
Marketers define a USP as “the factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.”
In other words, a USP describes why customers should buy from one business over another. After all, if a business owner doesn’t know why someone should buy from them, then their customers probably won’t either.
Yan developed his USP by first identifying what made him different, even if it originally seemed like a disadvantage. Then, and perhaps more importantly, he started communicating this to his prospective clients. Rather than talk about how long he’s been in business, Yan would explain to clients during consultations that if they worked with him, he could give their case the extra care they needed during such stressful times.
Important for Businesses of All Sizes
Large corporations and small businesses alike both have something to gain from developing and communicating a strong USP. Domino’s Pizza famously developed their own unique selling proposition in the 90’s (“Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less”) to great effect. At the same time, small businesses like Yan’s law firm can benefit from following the same model. Domino’s didn’t claim to have the most gourmet pizza in town, but they knew what they were good at (being quick) and they pushed that point in all of their messaging. Yan didn’t talk about his relative lack of experience, but instead focused on the extra care he gave every client. Rather than trying to wear many hats, they chose the one that fits the best and then emphasized it in their communications.
The Internet is chock full of great examples of other small businesses with strong USPs. If you’re thinking about going through the process of identifying your own business’s USP, you can use these examples as inspiration. Of course, don’t forget: once you develop a strong USP, be sure to share it with your customers in every interaction, online and off.
Inspired yet? Let’s break down the process of potentially creating your own USP now…
Constructing and Using Your USP Effectively
Developing your own USP requires some thought but you can begin by following some basic guidelines. Ideally your USP should be no more than a couple sentences in length, be authentic to the real strengths of your business, and articulate a solution to a real problem your customers have. Domino’s provided a solution for customers who want their pizza delivered fast. Yan Katsnelson offers a solution for clients who want more customized attention on their case. You can see why it’s helpful to first identify the problem your service solves and build on your USP from there.
To help identify your own USP, first ask yourself the following questions:
- What is truly different about your business vs. direct competitors?
- Which of these factors are most important to your customers?
Once you begin to answer these questions, your USP will start to emerge. If you need further help, you can use a structured USP statement that will help you construct the right USP for your business, such as the following:
(Business Name) is the only (Business Type) in (Your Market Area) that (Your Unique Quality).
(Source: Defining Your Unique Selling Proposition)
What sets your business apart from the competition? If you're not sure, your customers (and potential customers) probably aren't, either.