How to define what makes your business different

Hannah Brice Written by
Hannah Brice

Whether you’re standing in front of investors, a panel of judges, a journalist or a prospect, you need to be able to talk about what makes your business different to the competition. A USP (or unique selling point) – provided it’s desirable to your target audience –  is what makes your product or service appeal to others because it presents a new feature to what is out there already. Without one, you’re just joining the crowds and business success will be a struggle. Why should anyone care, let alone buy from you?

So, if you don’t have an obvious USP, or you can’t quite put your finger on what makes your business different, this guide will help you out.

Work out what you stand against

What drove you to start your business? It’s often the case that individuals set up their own companies in frustration with how things are done elsewhere. They don’t like the policies, processes and values that their employers run their business by, and want to do something different.

Write down what it was (and is) about the industry that you dislike. And be sure to consider it from customers’ POV too. What you’ll get is a list of issues with the market that are most likely pet peeves of your target audience so they’re good to use!

For example, these are the common traits of the marketing industry that Upmarketry stands against:

  • Blagging and bullsh*t
  • The belief that only big brands can make an impact
  • Time wasting and box-ticking
  • Doing the same as everyone else (because it feels safe)
  • Doing work that doesn’t support a company’s goals

Find their opposites

The next step in defining what makes your business different is to take the list of things you stand against and reverse them. Why? The opposite of what you stand against is what you stand for.

Give people the opposite of what they hate and you’ll become very appealing.

So, for Upmarketry, this means:

  • Honesty and straight-talking consultancy
  • Affordable support for the underdog…the new business…the startup
  • Efficient ways of working, minimal meetings, and little to no admin
  • Trying new methods or approaching things in a different way to get better results
  • Being outcome driven. If our plan won’t work to help achieve the company’s goals, then we need to find one that will.

Check if your competition stands for the same things

Now that you have some compelling values and missions for your business, you do need to make sure that they are indeed different to anyone else’s.

It’s likely that there will be a few players that claim to support the same values as you but how do these companies show them within their proposition? How does their service to customers represent those values?

This exercise will show you how much weighting to give each of the things you stand for. Those that no competitors are using, could be the values you make your most important. And those that everyone claims to use, you either drop or you beat your competition in how you incorporate them into what your business does.

Build those values into your service or proposition

Now that you’ve worked out the values that are core to what you believe in and different to those of (the majority of) your competition, it’s time to look at how you can make them a core part of what your business proposition.

This means making them:

  • Part of the way you deal with customers
  • Abundantly clear in all of your marketing, sales and web copy
  • Something that you will not compromise on. Ever.

That last point is important because it means people will trust you and you’ll build a reputation for whatever it is that makes your business different.

Again using Upmarketry as an example:

  • We have turned down new business because the companies wanted too many meetings prior to agreeing to a contract. To meet them would have been costly and would have limited the time that we can dedicate to paying clients. Instead, we use skype, slack, even WhatsApp (and many others) to communicate with prospects  and clients. We’re affordable because we’re efficient.
  • All our blog copy, marketing tools and social media platforms are written specifically for our target audience – the entrepreneur. We’re here to help them and we’re committed to finding clever new ways of marketing to help grow their businesses.
  • We chase, we push, we disagree (politely). It pains us to see our clients wasting money on the wrong things, and we’ll tell them when they are.

And that is how you define and establish what makes your business different. And for a little more help, we’re here.