Below you’ll find an unedited chapter from my upcoming book 40 Rules for Internet Business Success. To receive updates about the book and get a free digital copy of my book in its current form, enter your email address in the sidebar to the right.
After you have identified your target market and the type of product or service that you want to sell, your next step is to determine what will make you different from your competitors. You need to develop your unique selling proposition (USP), which simply answers the question “Why would your customers buy from you instead of your competitors?” You have to determine what unique features or benefits that your company can offer to your customers that your competitors can’t. Your unique selling proposition should make a promise to your customers about what they should expect from your business and its products and services. Your USP should be inseparable from your brand in the mind of your customer. Your USP will create a framework for every business decision that you make moving forward.
Here are some successful examples of unique selling propositions in corporate history:
- Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”
- FedEx: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”
- Kiva: “Loans that Change Lives”
- Southwest Airlines: “We are the low-fare airline.”
- TOMS Shoes: “With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need.”
Your unique selling proposition doesn’t have to fit into a one-sentence catch phrase, but it should define who you are as a business. Amazon’s unique selling proposition is its commitment to creating the best on-line shopping experience that exists. Zappos’ USP is that they offer over-the-top customer service. Your USP can be just about anything that your customers care about that differentiates you from your competitors. The best way to develop your USP is by talking to your potential customers and listening to what they don’t like about the space that you’re in. For example, if you were opening up a lawn care service, you might hear from your potential customers that it’s almost impossible to get lawn care service companies to show up when they say they’re going to show up. You could turn that frustration into your unique selling proposition by guaranteeing that you’ll show up within an hour of the specified time that you stated.
Don’t compete on price
There is one thing that shouldn’t be your unique selling proposition: price. Your USP should never be that you’re cheaper than your competitors. Having a war with other companies in your space to determine who can charge the lowest price is a great way to ensure that nobody in your market has a profitable business. Instead of trying to be the cheapest company in your space, provide your customers more value or unique benefits that your competitors can’t offer. Price is not the key determining factor that consumers use to make purchasing decisions. If it were, everyone would be shopping at Dollar General and Dollar Tree. People are willing to pay more for your product than your competitors if they see the value in it. Apple’s smart-phones and MP3 players are some of the highest priced in the market, but consumers buy them every day because they see the value in the products that Apple offers.
Internet businesses have USPs too
You might think that unique selling propositions are something that publicly traded companies do that doesn’t apply to small Internet businesses, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Pat Flynn (www.patflynn.me) created a name for himself by being absolutely transparent with his readers and sharing how much income he made every month. Steve Kamb created a wildly successful on-line fitness community by catering specifically for nerds (www.nerdfitness.com). Chris Ducker was able to set himself apart from other Internet business gurus by focusing exclusively on teaching how to leverage virtual assistances (www.chrisducker.com). Jaime Tardy was able to set her show apart from other interview podcasts by exclusively interviewing millionaires (www.eventualmillionaire.com). There is a unique selling proposition behind every great on-line entrepreneur.
When I started Analyst Ratings Network in 2011, I had heard from a lot of frustrated individual investors that were tired of not being able to get access to fast and reliable financial data. My readers told me they were tired of seeing biased analysis from financial authors that own the stocks that they write about. They also told me that they were tired of not being able to get access to market data on a timely basis. There are expensive services from Bloomberg and Reuters that provide professional investors up-to-the-minute financial information, but these services are out of reach for retail investors. Based on this feedback, the unique selling proposition for Analyst Ratings Network has become providing real-time financial data in a convenient format. I’m committed to just providing financial data to my readers so that they can do their own analysis. I don’t recommend or even comment on any stocks. I’m also committed to getting financial data to my readers as quickly as possible, which is why our morning newsletter comes out 30 minutes before the market opens. We also provide real-time feeds of financial data and real-time database searches to our customers as well.
After you’ve developed your unique selling proposition, it should become an important consideration in every future business decision that you make. By making business decisions through the lens of your unique selling proposition, you’re making sure that you remain committed to the key differentiating factor that makes you different from your competitors.