How To Stand Out in a Sea of Similar Competitors

marketing sales strategy May 12, 2020

6 min read

Here’s a bit of a reality check: almost no business is one-of-a-kind. Yours included. 

Think about it objectively. How many grocery stores, clothing retailers, dentists, makeup artists, etc. are truly unique in their field?

Whatever industry niche you are in, at the end of the day, you are essentially selling the same products or services as others in that field.

What does that mean?

You have competitors, a lot of them. And your customers have options, a lot of them. 

By not adopting a unique flair, customers will view you as interchangeable with the competition. When blending in with everyone else, you lose out on developing a brand identity, winning customer loyalty, and formulating a cohesive marketing strategy.

In order to attract customers and ultimately survive, your business must stand out in that ever-growing crowd.

So, the question remains: how can you be unique if what you’re selling isn’t unique?

The Fix: Unique Selling Proposition

A unique selling proposition (USP) is that one thing that makes you better than the competition. It’s a benefit or solution to a problem that only you offer and helps you stand out from the other businesses in your market.

The simplest way to define a USP is that it should immediately answer the inevitable question every customer will have, “What makes you different from all the other businesses selling the same thing?” 

It’s not as simple as just pointing out differences between you and your competitors. It’s more about striking the right balance between what you offer and what your customers need, sometimes what they didn’t even know they need. It shows why you are the only right choice when it comes to meeting their needs and solving their problems.

A USP should be:

  • Strong but realistic - A specific position that makes a distinction between you and competitors but isn’t overly generic (i.e. we have top-notch customer service) or overinflated.
  • Focused on value - It should highlight your strengths and focus on an aspect of your business that customers care about and will find valuable.
  • More than just a phrase - Shouting your USP from rooftops and making it well-known is great, but you need to make certain your “walk” backs up your “talk.”

What a USP isn’t: a slogan, tagline, or specific marketing offer (i.e. 10% off, free shipping, liberal return policy, etc.). Although your USP can be communicated via slogan and tagline, it has to be deeper than just a phrase, as mentioned above. These are important parts of your brand but aren’t the deciding factors that will make a customer choose you time and time again.

Should we focus on the Unique SELLING Proposition or the Unique ...

Case Study

Maya is a medical esthetician who has years of experience in the industry and is finally taking the leap and opening her own business. She knows there is hefty competition in her area and wants to make sure her beauty studio stands out from the competition.

  • Maya first brainstorms all the ways she could possibly differentiate her business - products used, services offered, techniques applied, and any other operational aspects. 
  • She then starts looking at her competitors, analyzing their websites and social media to identify their USPs. Comparing with her list of possible differentiators, Maya looks for gaps in what is currently being offered that she could then capitalize on. 
  • From her experience in the industry, Maya knows that many clients have trouble fitting in appointments around their work schedules. Most studios in the area are open only until 6pm and have limited hours on Saturdays, and these slots fill up quickly. None of the competitors offer more flexible hours to meet the needs of corporate women who often don’t leave work until 6pm. This is a pain-point that has not been solved yet and that customers would highly value.
  • Maya decides that her USP is “beauty on your time.” She will conform her business hours to meet the needs of her clients, opening earlier and closing later and practicing extended weekend hours. She weaves this proposition throughout her marketing copy and makes sure that clients know they can’t receive that type of service anywhere else. 

4 Steps to Creating a USP

  • Identify your differentiators. Think about what makes your product or service different. Is it the customer service you offer, personalization of products, product features, etc. Try to be as specific as possible. But here’s the caveat. When formulating your USP and messaging around it, don’t focus on just features, instead highlight how your business will help customers solve issues. Put yourself in their shoes and ask what would make you want to do business with you.
  • Identify what the competitors are doing. Use the “who, how, what, when, where” method. Analyze your competitors and try to find a new way of doing things. Who are they selling to? How are they selling it? What are they selling? When and where? Slight variations in these areas can reveal a USP for your business to be based around.
  • Connect your differentiator to what your customers value. Once you find the crossover of what you can do differently and a gap in the market, make sure it connects to something customers value and will solve a problem for them. From our earlier example, Maya utilizing unique business hours wouldn’t matter if that wasn’t something clients were looking for. 

Once you have a killer USP, don’t just leave it at that! Live and breathe it into everything your business does. Make sure it’s incorporated into your marketing and that your customers can easily pinpoint exactly what makes you unique.


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