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An introduction to developing a clear unique selling point

1st October 2021

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This article was written and originally published by The Productivity Group (trading as Be the Business). Be the Business is an independent, not for profit organisation set up to help business owners and leaders improve the performance of their business. © Copyright 2021 The Productivity Group. All rights reserved. Everything we publish on Business Talk is provided as general information only. It isn’t advice or an insight into the views of TSB or any of our Partners. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Please think about getting independent financial advice if you want help with your personal situation. While we make every effort to make sure the content is accurate and up to date, no liability is accepted by TSB Bank for any loss or damage caused by relying on any statement or omission. Links to external content are provided for information purposes only and not a TSB recommendation of any brand or service.

An introduction to developing a clear unique selling point

October 2021


It’s easier than ever for customers to bounce between different businesses. The market is competitive, and customers can compare everything from product durability to company ethos online.

Having a point of differentiation gives you an anchor to ground your brand. It’s hard to compete on all fronts, but truly understanding what you do best gives you a niche to focus on.

This differentiation can also impact your bottom line. Research shows that the more customers’ understanding of your core brand message increases, so does the amount of money they will spend with you.

Whether you’re championing local manufacturing or have strong sustainable values, your USP will help your business to stick in customers’ minds. What’s more, it will give direction, meaning and purpose to everyone involved in your business.

This guide will look at some of the common mistakes business leaders make when developing a USP and quick wins you can make to get the foundations in place. The next step will be to use an action plan to direct your change and improvement.

What factors influence your unique selling point?

Customers expect higher standards

The standards of customer experience have risen in recent years, with online reviews playing no small part. Businesses are investing in making experiences smooth and consistent from start to finish, whether it’s personalised email updates or round-the-clock customer service.

Good service might still play a part in your USP, but it’s not a guaranteed differentiator anymore. Businesses will need to look closely at what competitors are offering and how to carve out a niche.

It’s hard to stand out in a competitive market

Customers looking for a product or service are faced with an overwhelming number of options. There’s a wealth of information available online and, as a result, it’s harder than ever for businesses to stand out.

It’s essential that business leaders understand exactly what makes their organisation unique and are able to communicate it to customers at every interaction. Otherwise, they risk blending in with the competition.

The rise of purpose-led buying

Buying decisions are no longer based solely on product quality, price, or customer experience. Customers are increasingly interested in what a brand stands for and whether it aligns with their personal beliefs.

Younger generations are driving the trend towards purpose-led buying, with many making decisions based on issues like sustainability or positive employment practices.

If a specific belief or value is central to your business, there’s never been a better time to rally around it.

The cold hard facts

What percentage of customers expect a consistent experience from a business?

Research shows around 75 per cent of customers expect consistent experiences across multiple channels when shopping with a business. These channels include websites, mobile, in-person and social media. What’s more, 73 per cent are likely to switch brands if they don’t get it.

Common mistakes when developing a unique selling point

Picking a USP out of thin air

In a lot of cases, your business will already have a unique selling point. There will be something your business does better than everyone else; something that keeps customers coming back again and again.

It might be something your team does on instinct, like getting customer service enquiries solved within 24 hours. Or, it could be a value that’s been important from day one – maybe you make a point of only using local suppliers.

A common mistake is assuming what your business does well isn’t unique enough. As a result, leaders choose something completely different and try to mould the business to fit the USP retrospectively.

The result? You’re ignoring what customers already love about your business and throwing your weight behind something that’s untested.

Not including staff in the process

Failing to involve other people in the process is one of the biggest mistakes companies make when developing a USP.

If you want to find out what sets your business apart, then speaking to your staff is a great place to start. Not only will they have insights on what customers like and dislike about the business, but they’ve made a decision to work there too.

Finding out what attracted them to the business in the first place could provide the building blocks for your USP.

Your USP is too complicated

When you’re creating a statement about what makes you different from other businesses, it’s easy to keep adding extra points. For example, you might want to include your eco-friendly ethos, but also show off your commitment to creating a great workplace.

It’s crucial to keep it simple and hone in on one point. Too much information can confuse customers as to what you stand for and leaves you without a single strong differentiation point.

Claiming to be the best at multiple things is easily done but will ultimately make your USP less believable. Keep it simple.

Not doing competitor research

Your USP should set you apart from the rest of the market, but that’s hard to do if you don’t know what your competitors are offering.

Before you develop your USP, make sure you know the strengths and weaknesses of similar businesses. Your USP won’t be defensible if a handful of other people claim to do exactly the same thing.

The cold hard facts

Which four features of a business do customers value most?

Speed, convenience, helpful employees, and friendly service matter most to customers, each hitting over 70 per cent in importance. The companies who get it right tend to have adopted technology that fosters or provides these benefits.

Quick wins for developing your USP

Speak to your customers

Ask loyal customers to spend a few minutes on the phone to find out why they’ve chosen your business, or send out a short feedback form to your wider customer base.

Seeing your business through the eyes of customers allows you to build an understanding of what others think you do. That external perspective will make sure your USP is built on what actually makes your business unique – not what you think makes your business unique.

Collaborate with employees

Arrange a workshop with a volunteer from each department to brainstorm ideas about your USP. Base your workshop around these three questions:

  1. What product or service do we sell?

  2. Who is our target customer?

  3. What makes us different from other businesses?

Don’t be tempted to only include managers in this meeting, because there’s a wealth of skills and insights you’ll miss out on otherwise.

Many employees will speak to customers or clients on a daily basis, whether it’s a direct conversation or indirectly through marketing campaigns. As a result, they should be used to explain what your company excels at in a way that resonates with customers.

Make the decision to let go

Letting go is one of the hardest things a business leader needs to do. Whether you founded the business or been working there for a number of years, it’s natural to feel like you know it better than anyone.

However, it’s important to go into the process with an open mind and be prepared to trust the opinions of other people, whether that’s customers or staff. You may have a clear idea of what you do in your head, but you need to be willing to listen to other people if you want to achieve the best results.

The cold hard facts

How important is it for employees to get involved in developing your USP?

Despite 75 per cent of employers rating teamwork and collaboration as “very important”, 39 per cent of employees believe that their company doesn’t collaborate enough. Make a point of getting employees involved from an early stage to give you a broader perspective on what makes your business unique.

Now you’ve learnt about the underlying factors that affect how you develop a USP, use an action plan to direct your improvement efforts.