Differentiate Or Die

To Standout, You Need To Be Outstanding!

In the highly competitive world of sales, the two primary ways anything is sold is on relationships and price. To have long-term success in the marketplace you have to be unique and fill a special niche. What makes you more unique, more valuable, and more visible in the market?

To be as compelling or persuasive as possible requires that you know your business’s USP – Unique Selling Proposition (or Position).   This requires some hard soul-searching combined with a spark of creativity and insight. Charles Revlon, founder of Revlon, would say he sold hope, not makeup. Neiman Marcus sells luxury, while Wal-Mart sells bargains.

Step 1  – What are customers buying?

Too often, entrepreneurs fall in love with their product or service and forget that it is the customer’s needs, not their own, that they must satisfy.  Make sure what you are offering is something that really matters to potential customers.

Take a good look at your book of business and compare it to what your clients are buying.  If you don’t have what your customers need, your competitors will.

Step 2  – Why are Customers Buying it?

Know what motivates your customers’ behavior and buying decisions. Effective marketing requires you to be an amateur psychologist.  Remember, price is never the only reason people buy. The answer might be high quality service, convenience of doing business, a firm’s rock solid reputation, etc.

Look at the criteria customers use to decide which product they will buy and from whom. Determine what is the “value” they are looking for when buying from you. Brainstorm with everyone possible.  Most importantly, talk to customers and prospects. Sometimes, the “real” reason a customer buys is not obvious, even to them.

Step 3  – Rank Yourself and Your Competitors By These Criteria

Next, identify your top competitors and rank them and your business against the list generated in the previous step.  Be honest in the assessment. Score yourself and each of your competitors on each of the values or needs. If possible, base your scores on objective data. Where you can’t, do your best to see things from a customer’s perspective and make your best guess.

Plot these points on a graph to see a differentiation of the strengths and weaknesses between you and your competitors.  This helps uncover the real reasons why customers buy from your business instead of a competitor’s.

Step 4  – Solve An Industry “Pain” Or “Performance Gap”:

Think outside the box. Move beyond the basics that are common to what all other agencies provide. Identify which needs or “gaps” are going unfulfilled right now. This is sometimes termed a “performance gap.”  Businesses can be very successful if they base their USP on a performance gap.

For example, Dominos Pizza USP of “Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free” helped them become wildly successful. When the kids are hungry and can’t wait an hour, the parents call Domino’s who delivered on their USP (and a pizza).

Step 5 – Define your USP

Once you’ve gone through this process, you need to take the next step.  Start with a clean sheet and clear your mind of any preconceived ideas about your business. This is time to be brutally honest. What is your USP and how can you position your business to highlight your USP?

Successful business ownership is not about having a unique product or service; it’s about making your product stand out – even in a market filled with the same thing. What is your competitive edge?

Step 6 – Condense Into One Clear and Concise Sentence: 

When crafting your USP, it must be simple, believable and easy to communicate.  Take all the details from the steps above and sculpt them into one clear and concise sentence with compelling salesmanship fused into every single word.

Federal Express (FedEx) dominated the package shipping industry with their famous USP: “Federal Express: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

Step 7 – Be Specific and Offer Proof:

Consumers are skeptical of advertising claims companies make. Stop the objective before it starts.  Answer their skepticism by being specific and offering proof when possible. Get testimonials about how great you are and why your customers are not just satisfied, but advocates.

Step 8 – Bullet Proof Your USP

Make sure you can defend your USP. You can be sure that, your competitors will do what ever they can to neutralize it. Your USP will also need to be updated on a regular basis. The core element does not need to change, but how it is presented should be revised from time-to-time.  This way, your competitors will struggle to keep up.

Step 9 – Integrate Your USP Into Your Business: 

Variations of your USP should be included in all your marketing materials such as your advertising, business cards, brochures, letterhead, website, etc. Make sure to work with salespeople so it is also part of their presentations, “elevator pitch”, phone calls, and sales scripts and proposals.

Step 10 Deliver On Your USP’s Promise 

You need to “walk the talk.”  Be bold when developing your USP, but be careful to ensure that you can deliver.

In the beginning, it was a challenge for Federal Express to absolutely, positively deliver overnight, but they developed the system that allowed them to deliver the promise consistently.


In today’s competitive market, your business cannot thrive if you are using the same old “me too” marketing that everyone else is using.  Your USP is the force that drives your business and success. The ultimate goal of your USP and marketing is to have people say to you “Oh, yes I’ve heard of you. You’re the company who…”


Akela Partners has developed a Business Essentials program that will assist you in growing your business. The E-Learning Marketing System component of the program will guide you though the steps required to understand, create and develop your own USP. Get started for free, sign up for our “Insider Secrets To Generating All The Leads Your Business Can Handle” video series.