Anthony Haynes writes: It’s a mantra in marketing. You need to identify your unique selling proposition (USP) — and then you need to communicate it to your stakeholders.
Following that mantra can produce results. For example: I don’t like spending money on cars; I saw an advertisement that promoted a certain model of car on the basis that it was more economical than other makes; I bought the car — a Kia Picanto — for that reason.
But from the fact that the mantra is warranted in some circumstances, it doesn’t follow that it’s warranted for all.
Three reasons — two minor and one major.
The first minor reason: often, when faced with a range of offers, there’s nothing unique about the option we select. I think about the various garages I’ve used to get my car serviced. I can’t think of anything unique about any of them.
Which leads to the second minor reason: often when faced with a range of offers, we have to balance an array of advantages and disadvantages. That’s how we decided which accountant to appoint,
And the major reason? The selection decision can vary between stakeholders. Even where USPs are involved, what constitutes a decisive USP for one stakeholder might not for another. Not everyone buying a car prioritises economy.
It follows that, wherever possible, it makes sense to first — rather than rushing into banging on about what you have decided is your USP — to explore a stakeholder’s requirements and preferences and seek to infer what, if anything, they might perceive to be a USP.
In other words, USPs are not fixed in your offer: they’re relative to the stakeholder concerned.
So when you’re on your company’s stand at a trade fair, or attending a networking event at a conference, it can be counter-productive to rush into talking about your supposed USP.
Better, usually, just to show a little curiosity.