Not many of us are lucky enough to have one of those ‘Eureka’ moments that forms the basis of our business. Most of us have to work to establish exactly what sets us apart. In business-talk, this is called our ‘USP.’
With so many small businesses in operation, defining your USP can be tricky, but here’s the secret… You don’t have to offer a ground-breaking product or service to have a USP. Businesses of any size can and do have a USP if they dig deep enough. You established your business for a reason. Remembering why this is and using it to set yourself apart is key to defining your USP.
So, why am I - a PR blogger - talking about USPs? Allow me to explain… Before you can really get started with PR and media outreach for your business, it’s important to have a fully-formed understanding of what sets you apart. This blog explains why, and how you can go about defining your business’s USP.
What is a USP?
USP stands for ‘Unique Selling Point’. Essentially, your USP is whatever sets you apart from competitors within your niche.
Why is it important for PR?
Defining your USP is a crucial early stage for businesses as it can be used to inform your messaging and emphasise your competitive advantage in all your PR and marketing activities.
Stage one: Identifying your USP
Most small business USPs fall into one of the following categories. Have a think about some of these points to help you narrow down your USP:
Personality: your business’s USP could have something to do with you and who you are. If you think your target market would connect with an element of you, your life or identity, this could be what sets you apart. This is sometimes referred to as founder-focused branding and is a really powerful tool for constructing a memorable brand.
Process: your USP might be related to how you do things, perhaps how your products are made or your supply chain process. If your process sets you apart, use this to your advantage.
Product: if there’s something unique about your product itself, this alone can be your USP. Many brands find their USP here but, for that reason, product USPs can be the trickiest to pin down. The secret is that it doesn’t have to be something that only your business offers: you could just be the only brand promoting it in a certain way (e.g. as a solution to a specific problem).
Location: if you’re a unique business in your local area, this could form the basis of your USP. Shopping locally is becoming increasingly important to consumers; giving them the rare opportunity to connect with a business and its people, and to support the community and local economy in the process. So, if you’re the only business near you doing what you do, shout about it from the rooftops!
Values: if your business holds something close to its heart and this is reflected in what you do/how you do it, this could be the foundation of your USP. Examples of this might include a specific charity or cause you support, a focus on sustainability, a commitment to fair trading, etc.
Story: your business’s story could play a big part in forming its USP. As humans, we are hardwired to engage with stories, which is why storytelling is such a key element of PR. Ask yourself: why did I start my business? How did I get it off the ground? What has my journey been like so far? If any of your responses to these questions help to set your business apart, think about how you could shape them into your USP.
Stage two: Refining your USP
There’s no right or wrong way to refine your USP, but going through the following steps will help to ensure that you have covered all bases and will leave you with a fully-formed USP that can be used to shape your messaging and inform your PR activities.
Define your target customer: who are you targeting and why? See my recent Instagram post on audience personas for more information on this.
Research your competitors: a USP isn’t a USP if someone else has already claimed it. How are your competitors positioning themselves? Who are they targeting? What is your competitive advantage over them?
Assess your offering: what value does your business bring to the lives of its customers? What problem can you solve for them that your competitors can’t?
Consider your values: what does your business stand for? Is this integral to the way you do things?
Refine your USP: pool the notes you’ve made and use them to construct a few short sentences that outline your USP. Test them out by sharing them with your friends and family to see if they resonate, and refine if necessary.
Once you have established a solid USP, make sure to refer back to it and use it to its full advantage. Create messaging around it, include it in pitches, promote it on social media and use it to inform future business and PR decisions.
Finding and defining your USP is not easy nowadays. With so many great businesses out there, it can be hard to pinpoint whether and how yours is truly unique. It can often seem like everything has been done before, and there doesn’t seem to be many niches left for you to occupy. Well, I’m here to tell you that your business is unique, and I hope this blog has helped you define exactly why that is.
Stay tuned for my upcoming post on developing key messages for your business, and don’t forget to join The PR Pocketbook’s exclusive Facebook group for updates!