Building a strong USP is key to sustainable growth.
As part of our work supporting business growth, we’ve recently helped a number of companies identify and establish their USPs. What’s become clear to us is that lots of companies are advertising their selling points, but few are truly unique. To unlock rapid growth, what you should be looking for is something that’s rare and valuable. A unique selling point.
The main aspects of USPs
We’ve seen three main types of USP. When we’re talking to clients about building their own USPs, we use these as a starting point:
Positioning your business as the price-leader is a good example of a unique strength. If a business has operations suited to deliver consistently low prices to customers, this can be a source of sustained competitive advantage.
For example, Aldi’s narrow product range, flexible staffing, international supply chain allow them to deliver low cost without undermining quality. They major on this by comparing how much cheaper they are than competitors.
However, it should be borne in mind that, without the internal capabilities, price-based is one of the least defensible USPs. In 2019, 8 UK energy companies have gone bust, many of which focussed on having the lowest price (like Economy Energy, who had a book of 235k customers). A raft of price-led airlines have also suffered the same fate, including WOW Air, Thomas Cook, XL Airways and Flybmi, all in 2019 alone.
Reducing user time and effort is a way we’ve seen a number of companies seek uniqueness. This is applicable in both B2C and B2B spaces. Cemex, the aggregates manufacturer, rolled out Cemex Go earlier this year. The platform allows users to place and track orders from remote devices – a capability which was unique at the time to the industry.
The key with ease is delivery. Many marketplaces are crowded with competitors claiming their user experience is “seamless” or “simple”. Knowing how your customers interact with you and why is crucial to building a process that is uniquely hassle-free.
Having features available for your customers that your competitors can’t offer is a simple but effective USP. Increasingly, these are being delivered via apps. Monzo’s capability to freeze your card at the touch of a button was highly successful. Even though it has now been copied, this allowed Monzo to differentiate. Another example we’ve seen (and enjoy) is BT Sport’s action flags, allowing you to rewind during the live game directly to highlights; you can even use your phone to view them in 360⁰.
What we especially like about both of these is the focus on how these apps are used. Both companies have taken care to understand their customers’ needs, and have optimised the functionality of the phone to create valuable, unique experiences.
A fourth aspect we have seen much more of recently is social value-based USPs. These reflect societal values (e.g. Change Please – coffee which supports homeless people), environmental values (e.g. Adidas’ ocean plastic-only trainers), animal welfare values (e.g. Greggs’ vegan sausage roll) and more.
Doubling up to win
Some of the most unique and most defensible USPs we’ve seen combine more than one of these aspects.
Sky’s recent mobile marketing displays their unique app features and describes ease of use. Bulb, the energy company, have combined low prices with environmental values (renewable energy). Combining a number of these aspects makes selling points even harder for your competitors to replicate.
Selecting and building the right USP
To choose what USP you pursue, you need to know the following:
- What your customers truly value now
- What your competitors are doing and will do: is your selling point really unique?
- Whether your internal capabilities generate the competence to sustainably deliver and defend your USP
A step back can allow you to answer these questions. We at White Space have been working a lot recently supporting growth by jointly selecting and developing USPs with our clients. We comprehensively assess customer needs, competitor strengths and internal capabilities to ensure the products and services offered are set up to deliver rapid growth, both now and in the future.
John Bee, Managing Director
Tom Crump, Project Team Leader