Why should a customer pick your business over the competition? When selling a product or service, there has to be a reason why your company is more appealing. In other words, what is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), Competitive Advantage, or Area of Superiority?
Hoping your product or service will attract customers without having any unique benefits is a sure recipe for failure. You have to remember that most people are reluctant to change; therefore, you'd better have a great reason why someone should switch and buy from you.
Let's look at TOMS shoes as an example. TOMS slogan is, "With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for one".
This slogan is TOMS unique selling proposition (USP); every time you buy TOMS shoes, they will give a new pair to a child in need. This mission (and slogan) keeps TOMS clear of price, quality, and comfort comparisons.
Over time, TOMS original slogan may have changed, but the message remains consistent. Every time you make a purchase, a person in need will benefit.
If you give a customer a unique reason to buy, you will stay clear of "price" and "feature" comparisons.
If you do not offer any unique benefits, you have to revisit your product or service - understanding what is truly unique about your business and then communicating it to your customers is of the utmost importance. In fact, a great USP (unique selling proposition) has the power to transform your business.
Is Your Product Or Service Valuable?
The customer has to see the value, and the value has to be greater than the cost. Otherwise, your product/service will not be perceived as having value.
For example, most people are happy to pay between $700-$1,000 for an iPhone because they believe they are getting something more valuable in return. And considering most people use their phone between 2 to 4 hours a day, it's easy to see why Apple can charge a premium for quality, style, and usability.
Does Your Product Or Service Feel Like A Commodity?
No product or service is immune from feeling like a commodity - when it's difficult for a consumer to see valuable differences.
For example, most customers see air travel as a commodity. In other words, they don't see significant differences from one airline to another; hence, the price is the driving factor for most customers. This endless obsession by airlines over ticket prices has turned an incredible experience (flying) into a commodity.
Related: How to avoid Price Wars
On the other hand, the clothing industry has done the complete opposite. They have turned a commodity (clothing) into something that feels a lot more valuable - for many people, clothing is an extension of their personality.
All successful clothing companies know that focusing on "branding", "feelings", and "experience" is a lot more important than focusing on price and features. The result being? The brand is more important than the price; hence, well-known clothing brands will never be seen as a commodity.
How can you tell if your product or service is starting to feel like a commodity? If your potential customers frequently choose your competition solely because of lower-price, then your product/service is just a commodity to them. In other words, they didn't see anything unique about your business to justify the premium you are demanding.
To avoid commoditizing your product/service, you have to offer something unique and valuable - something that your competition cannot easily copy or claim.
Your Unique Selling Proposition Has To Be "Unique"
"Excellent customer service," "Attention to detail," "Personal touch," or "We go the extra mile" are all great values, but they are not unique.
Also, you don't necessarily have to be the best, cheapest, quickest, safest, or the highest quality offering - this is not what unique selling proposition is about. It is all about offering something truly unique and valuable.
What unique benefits do you offer that no-one else does? For most companies, this is a difficult question to answer, so take your time. Also, don't fall into the trap of listing vague benefits like "Our service is better than X." Customers don't switch from one company to another just because someone came up with a "better" product/service - this is especially true with products/services that have a high transaction value.
Amazon doesn't offer "better" shipping; they offer "overnight shipping." Also, they didn't offer "quicker/easier" purchasing; they offer "1-click ordering".
The point is that your unique selling proposition cannot be vague; it has to be unique, tangible, and genuinely beneficial to your customers.
A unique selling proposition (USP) is absolutely fundamental to your business success. In many ways, a clear USP is your north star - helping you navigate around your competition via clear and unique customer benefits.
Related: Growth Strategy (PDF Document)