David Amerland

The Importance of Grasping the Unique Selling Point (USP) of your Business

German Banks ad campaign promoting USP
This week a series of posters promoting German banks to Eastern European countries, caught my attention. The full set of posters can be seen at the Top Design Mag website and it is definitely worth taking a look at.

The reason the campaign is noteworthy is that right now, given the global credit crisis, advertising a banking service is extremely difficult. The traditional concepts of trust, reliability and ‘we are there for you’ have gone out the window. Banks are demonized, bankers are vilified and ad men have more than their work cut out for them.

Yet, the job of advertising and promoting anything is always the same: find out what the unique selling point (USP) of your business is, what is that drives the arterial blood of what you do, and promote it. This is how you end up being exceptional. It is the only way you have of showing up above the competition and it is the only logical way a business can thrive.

In the case of German banks, which have fared well above many of their global counterparts, the choice became obvious. Steely nerves, self-control, no unexpected behaviour and transparency in their operations, became the focal point. It is this modus operandi, lying at the core of their business which has enabled them to rise above the crisis and it is this which the advertising campaign posters so creatively project.

German banks do not have the exclusive on having to advertise or project their USP during tough times. It should be part and parcel of every business’s activity, irrespective of size or area of expertise. Your USP should be evident in the content you place on your website, the way you communicate with your clients and those who approach you, both online and offline, and it should inform the way you present your products or services.

Yet, the simplicity and power of the German banks ad campaign also shows that achieving that projection of your business’ unique selling point is not an easy thing to do.

If you know what makes your business unique, great. You are home high and dry. If you don’t then this will help you:

01. Identify why you are in business in the first place. Yes, you want to make some money and yes, again, the area your business is active in is (hopefully) something you understand well and are good at, but none of this is enough. If you cannot yet identify the passion, drive and that extra little something which makes you get out of bed in the morning and face the day, then I suggest you have some real soul-searching to do.

02. Understand the challenge to your business. This is a skill as well as an art. Being able to see yourself the way others see you is something which helps you understand just what to say and how. In the German Banks’ case, for example, they understood that banks right now are the least trustworthy institutions anyone wants to deal with, and they also looked at their own banking system and the way it operates to see if it confirmed or denied that perception.

03. Condense the essence of your core. I know this sounds a little like Yoda-guru-speak, but essentially this step requires that you are able to explain with clarity and a real economy of expression what it is that makes you different. Think of the German Banks example again (since we are using their ad campaign as the catalyst for this discussion). They could have written reams and reams about the way their banking process works, or how they are fiscally responsible, or about the stability of their banks and the chances are that no one would have read it, let alone really understood it. Instead, a contrasting picture and a single line is all it took to drive the message home. You may not need to be that creative in your business but you should, at least, be able to be as clear in the way you express it, even if you have to boil it down to a single paragraph of plain English.

04. Apply it consistently. This is probably the hardest thing to do correctly. Consistency right across the board requires a strong business will and processes put in place so that even when the pressure on those working in the business is high, consistency in how they work and how the business works does not suffer.

Having a unique selling point (USP) in your business is not rocket science. Like most things you have to do it requires a little thinking time and some hard logic, but once you have it not only will it make your marketing better but it will also make easier your website's SEO and your social media marketing.

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