Being in business is tough stuff.  No matter how small or big you are, it never gets easier to achieve success.  Combine that with the fact that you have hundreds if not thousands of competitors out there, and the job just seems to get harder.  But it doesn’t have to be that way; not if you can differentiate yourself.

You see, there are numerous reasons businesses fail.  Lack of capital, poor planning, poor management, etc.  But an often overlooked cause is simply not being different enough.  You see, most customers don’t know your business from another one, unless you tell them WHY they should purchase from you.

Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a book called Man’s Search for Himself, and in it he writes: “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice … it is conformity.”  Within that single sentence, you have a powerful cause of so many failures. Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing why or where they are going.

So here you are with an idea, product or service that you think is better than what is currently on the market.   Your quickest way to ensure success is to determine your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and then tout it to the world.  Here are some tips to help you come up with your USP:

Analyze the competition. What do they do well and where do they miss the boat?  What don’t they offer that you do or could? Where are they geographically located in relation to you?  The key is to look for holes in the market to identify where you may be able to carve out a niche.  Remember, you never go head-to-head with a competitor…well, not at first at least.

Outperform on your core values.  At Wilson Rogers, we place a great importance on servicing the customer relation aspect of our customers.  What this means is that we go to great lengths to let customers know that they are NOT just another number on our P&L.  They are a person/relationship whom we value and we want them to know that we care.  This translates into customers who feel valued and they note this difference when comparing our company to our competitors.  Figure out your core value and then perform on it better than anyone else dare even try.

Determine what sets you apart. Maybe you’re the only jewelry store with a designer on the premises. Or maybe you’re a hand car wash that keeps a detailer on staff.  The key is to figure out what sets you apart that you can proclaim to your customers.  Once you identify what that claim is, you have an easy USP to hang your hat on.

Use consumer pain points as inspiration.   Sometimes, you just AREN’T different from your competitors. Thus, when all else fails, list the main frustrations customers in your industry face and devise a USP to satisfy them.  For example, if you are a plumber, you may offer a one hour service window for customer appointments.  This can be used to address the frustration of customers who call a plumber who says they will be there at 2PM, but then call at 4PM and state that they can’t make it because they’re behind on a job they had earlier.

Offer a guarantee.  They key here is to focus on offering a cure for common customer frustrations. Going back to our plumber above, they might guarantee that if they don’t show up within the last 15 minutes of the scheduled hour window they will provide the first hour of work free.  Or they could guarantee that they’ll leave the house cleaner than when they arrived, and show up in uniforms with belts. The goal: conquer plumbers’ reputation for lateness, messiness and embarrassing rear views.

Hey, I learned from the best of 'em!Hey, I learned from the best of ’em!

Be specific.   Baskin-Robbins was known for its 31 flavors, even incorporating “31” into its logo. You might be a heating company that’s on call 24/7/365, a manufacturer that offers 1,000 different SKUs, or a gym with 99 benches. The key is if you’ve got it, flaunt it and tell the world!

Always deliver.   The plumbing contractor mentioned above might established a series of systems to make good on its guarantee.  This could include equipping employees with handheld vacuums, booties and belted uniforms.  But whatever your USP is, make sure that you can deliver on it every single time.  If you can’t, it’s useless and you shouldn’t go through the effort of even creating it.