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Dispelling the USP myth

 15 April 2021     Donald Cooper 

For years business schools, business books and marketing consultants have been telling us we must be unique; we must create Unique Selling Propositions (USPs). Sadly, they’ve been lying to us! It’s not good enough to be unique. In today’s over-supplied, cynical and fiercely competitive business environment, we need to be compelling.

Unique simply means different. You could paint your business pink and you’d be unique – but not necessarily compelling. Compelling, on the other hand, means your target customers are drawn to you. Your value proposition is so powerful, so unique and so consistently delivered that your target customers feel compelled to do business with you and to tell others about you because you’re functionally, emotionally and financially the clear wise choice for them.

So, forget USPs. You need to create CPDs or Compelling Points of Difference that will do these four things for you.

They will: grab your target customers and bring them back over and over again; clearly differentiate you from your competitors; make you famous; and, grow your bottom line.

Is it more work to keep coming up with compelling products, services or experiences? Absolutely! But, if you don’t, you’re a boring and mediocre commodity, competing on price alone – and that’s a battle you probably can’t win, profitably. So, what will you do to be compelling?

Here are my two steps to creating compelling customer-owning value. 

Step #1: Develop a clear understanding of
what life is really like for your target customers.

You can’t have a relationship with people you don’t know a lot about. So, set aside a few hours with some of the best minds and hearts in your business to think and feel like a target customer and answer the questions below. Go somewhere quiet and uplifting. Together, get inside your customers’ minds and hearts! Dig deep!

Keep in mind that whatever you sell, people buy with both their minds and their hearts. If you’re not marketing and selling, intelligently and passionately, with both your mind and your heart, there’s a fundamental disconnect between how you sell and how people buy.

When our target customers, as a group, are choosing, buying or using what we sell:

  1. Functionally, emotionally and financially, what are they really trying to do?
  2. What do they want or need to know about what we sell to wisely choose and effectively use or maintain it?
  3. What do they want or need to know about us to be confident in buying it from us?
  4. What are their concerns and what do they fear?
  5. How do they want to feel when they do business with us and when they use or interact with what we sell in any way? and,
  6. About how much do they expect to pay?

Understanding your customers as individuals. Today’s technology allows you to know, understand, serve, listen to, have conversations and build relationships with customers as individuals. What could that look like in your business and what will you commit to do to embrace that extraordinary possibility?

Step #2:  Delivering your compelling value.

Now, based on your new and improved understanding of your target customers, commit to delivering compelling value and a consistent and compelling customer experience to every customer, at every touchpoint, every time. Specifically, what will you do every day to help them:

  1. Do what they want or need to do,
  2. Know what they want or need to know,
  3. Feel how they want to feel, and,
  4. Do all that at a price that they’re willing to pay?

Define the compelling value and extraordinary customer experience you’ll always deliver and the values you’ll always live by that will make a powerful emotional and financial connection with your target customers.

What products, services, policies, processes, communication and business culture will be required to be compelling? What will it feel like to do business with you? How flexible and adaptable will you be to customers’ needs and wishes? What will you do to be their caring coach? To be the business they can count on to help them wisely choose, effectively use and have the best possible experience with what you sell?

Here are examples of how this two-step process can work:

I invented this simple two-step process some years ago while creating Alive & Well, our award-winning ladies fashion store in Markham, Ontario. While every competitor greeted customers with signs demanding No food or beverages! and Limit three items in the change room, we offered a choice of seven free beverages, electric massage chairs for husbands, a pirate ship play area for kids, washrooms with change tables, free diapers, diaper wipes and cream for mom’s and babies in distress – and our magic sign saying, “Please take as many items in the change room as YOU wish!” We operated on a simple policy of, “No games, no tricks, no lies.”

One regular customer with two small children summed it up beautifully when she said, “It’s amazing, you’ve thought of everything! This is the only store in the world I can shop in and feel like a human being!” That’s compelling! That’s customer ownership! And thousands of women drove up to three hours for the experience. Have you thought of everything? If not, you still have work to do.

Our competitors told us over and over that we couldn’t or shouldn’t do all this neat stuff and they gave us 11 reasons why not. It’s sad that so many people are at their creative best when thinking of 11 reasons not to do something wonderful.

We took the time to understand our target customers. We knew exactly what compelling value and extraordinary experience they wanted and then we had the creativity and courage to make it happen!  So, whatever business you’re in, what might extraordinary look like?  What will be compelling to your target customers and what will you do to deliver that? Remember, mediocrity is no longer an option.

That’s it for this week. So, stay safe and live brilliantly!

MIFF Furniverse July 2022
Cocoon by Sealy
This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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