Common USPs

Features: If your product is faster, bigger, smaller or comes in more colors, sizes and configurations than others on the market, you have a powerful selling strength. In fact, if you can’t offer some combination of features that sets you apart, you’ll have difficulty.

Price: Everybody wants to pay less for a product. If you can position yourself as the low-cost provider (and make money at those rock-bottom prices), you have a powerful selling advantage. Conversely, high-priced products may appeal to many markets for their sheer snob value. Several years ago, an Amsterdam designer came out with a perfume that came in a sealed bottle that could not be opened. This “virtual perfume” was priced the same as Chanel No. 5 and found ready buyers.

Availability: If you can get your product into a major retailer such as Target or Wal-Mart, you’ll create a powerful selling point by piggybacking on their redoubtable distribution powers.

Service: Excellent service is perhaps the most important trait you can add to a plain-vanilla product to make it compelling. Many people look not for the best value or even the best product, but simply the one they can buy with the least hassle.

Financing: Whether you “tote the note” and guarantee credit to anyone, offer innovative leasing, do buybacks or have other financing alternatives, you’ll find that giving people different, more convenient ways to pay can be a convincing strength for your product.

Delivery: Nobody wants to wait for anything anymore. If you can offer overnight shipping, on-site service or 24-hour availability, it can turn an otherwise unremarkable product or service into a very attractive one.

Reputation: Why do people pay $10,000 for a Rolex watch that keeps the same time as a $20 Timex? The Rolex reputation is the reason. At its most extreme, reputation can literally keep you in business.

Training: Training is a component of service that is becoming increasingly important in an era of high-technology products and services. For many sophisticated software products and electronic devices, a seller who can’t provide training to buyers has little chance of landing any orders.

Knowledge: Today, your expertise and how you impart it to customers is an important part of your total offering. Retailers of auto parts, home improvement supplies and all sorts of other goods have found that simply having knowledgeable salespeople who know how to replace the water pump in an ’85 Chevy can lure customers and encourage them to buy.

Experience: We’ve been there. We’ve done thousands of installations like yours, and there’s no doubt we can make this one work as well. Nothing could be more soothing to a skeptical sales prospect than to learn that the seller has vast experience at what he’s doing. If you have ample experience, make it part of your selling proposition.

Customers: There’s a reason Michael Jordan got millions from Nike for endorsing Air basketball shoes and it’s not because buyers thought they could really dunk like Mike. They bought because they wanted to be like Mike, even if it was just from the ankles down. If you have prestigious customers, mention it in your marketing materials and in your business plan.

Other factors: There may be many wild card factors that are either unique to a particular product or are not often used in a particular industry. These can make your product stand out. For instance, consider offering a guarantee. When consumers know they can return a faulty product for a refund or repair, they’re often more likely to buy it over otherwise superior products from competitors offering less powerful warranties.

Even while you can creatively imitate others, remember that it’s also important to be different. Distinguish your business or product from all the rest. Make your enterprise special in the eyes of your customer or client and set yourself favorably apart from every other generic competitor.

(SOURCE: Your Road Map to Success: How to Write a Winning Business Plan, Entrepreneur Press, Microsoft Business Resource Center)