If you are considering selling to new markets, you’ve probably had success selling in Canada. While there is plenty of opportunity abroad, the reality is that international markets can be a harder nut to crack.

To sell in the global market, you need a unique selling proposition (USP) to stand out and send a strong clear message.

1. What is a USP?

Essentially, a USP is a summary of what makes your business unique and valuable to your target market. It answers a basic question that all customers ask — how can your company provide more value than your competitors?

Why do you need one?

To make inroads outside of Canada, you’ll have to overcome some combination of:

  • Stronger competition
  • Selling through an agent or distributor
  • Differing business practices
  • Uncertain political climate
  • Logistics issues
  • Language or cultural barriers

Experts agree that creating an effective USP is vital for any Canadian exporter. Identifying and ultimately marketing your company’s unique value proposition is essential to winning over potential customers in the U.S. and internationally.

A well-crafted USP can:

  • Help you communicate your advantage clearly and persuasively
  • Differentiate your company from experienced, sophisticated competitors
  • Ensure your promotional materials, sales pitch, advertising and online presence all work together
  • Make your sales team more effective

The last point is important, and even more so if you are selling through an intermediate such as an agent or distributor. You want them to be grounded in detail and armed with as much strategic insight as possible.

2. Where do you start?

Expressing a USP starts with understanding your business, and those of your key competitors in any markets you are entering.

Ask yourself:

  • How does your product or service solve a problem or fill a need?
  • What is unique about your offering?
  • How does it provide extra value above and beyond competitive products?
  • How does it differentiate you from your competition?

You may need to conduct or review research to refine your answers.

You can learn a lot from what your competitors are doing. Conducting a market scan can be a valuable exercise. It can help you identify the right tone to use in your marketing efforts, and you may find that your value proposition or promotional material needs to be restated for the U.S. or international markets.

3. How do you craft an effective message?

With this understanding, you can sit down to craft your USP. Here’s one high-level template you can follow:

  • Clearly communicate what you are offering (summary)
  • Differentiate yourself from competitors (features)
  • Identify the value you provide to your customers (benefits)
  • Prove your claims (testimonials and case studies)

Once you have identified your value proposition, you can use it to clearly and consistently communicate on a number of fronts. You can catch the attention of your target customers, create effective marketing materials, train staff and intermediaries, and answer customer inquiries — all important elements in carving out success in new markets.

4. If we were to look at a sector, like oil and gas, for example, how would you position its unique proposition in the world market?

There are a number of important factors that make Canada’s oil and gas sector unique:

  • We have created technology that will work in any environment, in part because of our own four seasons, some of which create challenges that this sector has worked around or overcome. After all, we have everything from Arctic to desert landscapes and we’ve developed technologies to work in each one.
  • We’re also known around the world for our innovative green technology. Canadians have been innovating in this field for decades and oil and gas is no exception.
  • Canada’s oil and gas sector has developed and nurtured its global reputation for caring about the environment and also caring about the social impact that our exploration projects might have as we work on projects and prospective projects around the world.

Canadians often have access to services such as those of EDC or the Trade Commissioners Service that can connect them with in-market representatives who will help them position themselves in that particular market. Take advantage of those opportunities to connect.

When it comes to pricing, Canadian companies may not be as competitive as some others so it’s a good idea to position the product to offset the price. This is particularly important in the Middle East and India.

Positioning your company to emphasize all of the above pluses will put you in a good position to garner interest overseas.