You’ve done the research and know how you stack up to the competition. You’re now ready to write a unique selling proposition (USP) — what makes your business unique and valuable to your target market.

To find out more about creating and using USPs, we turned to Mel Sauvé, CEO of Burlington’s Global Growth, who helps companies identify international opportunities and add value to their business.

“Global competition is tough,” Sauvé says, “and you’re up against companies that are highly experienced and very sophisticated. So you have to arm your representatives with as much strategic knowledge and detail as you possibly can. Don’t think that if you familiarize your agents and distributors with a product’s features, that’s all the training you need to do. It isn’t — you also have to provide a well-crafted USP, and teach your international representatives how to use it.”

How to create your USP

The following process is based on the approach that Sauvé uses with his exporter clients.

1. Tell the customer what you’re offering

This is a summary of your positioning in the market.

For example: We specialize in providing intelligent wells, non-destructive testing, instrumentation and control pipelines, and communications equipment, which are proprietary to us. Our services have specific features that provide this specific value, and they are well accepted by these other customers of ours.

2. Differentiate yourself from your competitors

Identify three to five significant things about your company and/or products that set you apart from your competition.

Use differentiators that show why you’re different in kind (nobody else does this/provides this) rather than in degree (our prices are lower/our service is better). This is because it’s too easy for a competitor to negate “degree” differentiators by dropping their own prices or improving their own service warranties. Truly unique differences, like a proprietary technology, are much harder to neutralize.

3. Identify the value you provide

Many companies train their agents thoroughly on the features of their product, but don’t teach them to promote the value of the product.

Will it reduce costs? Improve productivity? Enhance safety?

Since value is what customers are looking for in the long term, they’ll want to know what they’ll get out of your product before they buy it. Be sure your agent or distributor knows the value you offer, and train them to articulate it.

4. Prove your claim

Proving your claim is an extremely powerful sales strategy that can transform a possible sale into a confirmed one. Use these tools whenever you can:

  • Testimonials — If you obtain a testimonial from a satisfied customer, also try to get the contact information of the person providing it. This will make it very easy for your sales prospects to talk to the person who gave the testimonial.
  • Case studies — Briefly describe a problem that one of your customers had and show how your product solved it. While a case study doesn’t have all the punch of a testimonial, it’s still an effective way of proving your point.
  • Performance comparison data — Many companies track the performance of their equipment. If you have a product that performs better than what the company is using, let the company know and provide them with real-world performance data.
  • Trials and demonstrations — Provide your product on a trial or demonstration basis, so the customer can try it in a real-world situation. If it doesn’t satisfy them, they can return it.

Example of a well-crafted USP

The target of this USP is a technical audience that understands the problems of assembling large steel buildings. It’s clearly written, addresses a specific type of potential customer and covers the four crucial points of a USP:

We produce a full range of direct tension indicator (DTI) washers, using a proprietary manufacturing process that you’ll find nowhere else in the steel-frame construction industry. With our DTI technology, you can cut the time needed for accurate inspection of bolted joints by up to 50%, leading to lower labour costs and faster project completion. More than 110 companies worldwide specify our DTI products for fastening their steel-frame structures, including… [company names].

How not to create a USP

This USP gets almost everything wrong. It tries to sell a product that is indistinguishable from its competitors’ offerings, while the value it promotes is merely what any of its competitors would provide. It’s repetitive, riddled with clichés and business jargon, and doesn’t offer the slightest proof of its claims:

Our all-new accounting solution will make your business’s accounting functions easy and dependable. It’s amazingly easy to use for organizing expenses, tracking billable hours, creating user-friendly reports on your bottom-line profitability, and generating great-looking invoices that will impress your customers and incentivize on-time payment. It’s simply the most effective, leading-edge accounting software solution out there.

Teach your reps how to use your USP

It’s important to provide your reps with as much support as you can. Here is where your USP can help you and your global representatives come to grips with your competition.

For example, you can use it to:

1. Create marketing materials

Just having a USP isn’t enough. You also should use it to create selling tools, such as brochures, PowerPoint presentations, and videos. All of your materials should include a USP’s key points: positioning, differentiation, value and proof.

2. Answer the four customer questions

Your USP-based marketing materials can also help your representatives answer the four key questions that potential customers almost always ask. These questions are:

  • What can you offer me? The immediate answer to this is your positioning summary.
  • How are you different from your competition? Here, your agent rolls out your key differentiators.
  • What value will you bring to my business? Depending on your product and the customer, your agent may want to emphasize pricing, productivity, or some other key value.
  • Can you prove it? Testimonials and case studies are the most convincing proof. If these are available, the agent should emphasize them.

3. Shape your online presence

You can also use your USP to shape your online presence.

For example, the opening paragraph of your web site should set out your positioning statement in a couple of sentences. Also, social media channels can be used to communicate your USP.

Your USP can help you be consistent in your marketing and sales messaging.

How to create a buyer profile

You may be asked to create a profile if there is a possibility of introducing your company to a potential customer at an event, for example. The profile is used by a prospective buyer to determine if it is worth taking the time to meet with you.

Hit your four selling points and emphasize your competitive advantage. Always remember that the big question in your prospect’s mind is: What can this Canadian company do for me?

Here are more tips for creating a top-notch profile:

  • Before you start, look for already-published profiles that you might use as models for your own, both for style and level of detail.
  • Write the profile in English. Use short sentences and stick to one concept per sentence.
  • Spell out or explain business acronyms. Profiles are often read by people who aren’t experts in your industry.
  • Write in the third person, as though you were writing about another company, not your own. Avoid pronouns such as “we,” “our,” “you” or “your.”
  • Write your profile in the context of what your potential customers or partners might be seeking. For example, does your product include an innovation that cuts costs or improves productivity?
  • Don’t make claims you can’t substantiate. If you say your product is unique, be ready to prove it.
  • Have someone else read your draft profile to make sure it’s accurate, clear, concise and consistent.