A topic I typically cover with client companies when I’m working with them for the first time is what they are communicating currently to their external target audiences. Too many businesses are so focused on communicating who they are and what they do, they give little thought to what messages will truly resonate with the customer and capture their attention. In getting the word out to your target customers, your business (especially if you are a small and early-stage company) needs to answer the number one question all prospective customers will have about what you’re trying to sell them: What’s in it for me?
To answer that question, it’s critical to identify what makes you unique and what distinguishes you from every other company out there that does what you do or offers what you offer. Then, you need to create a clear statement of value pertaining to your uniqueness and what you bring to the table: your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP.
Your USP statement should basically be your whole argument for what you offer and why customers need it now to solve a problem or address a situation they have. It should answer the following questions for the customer:
- Why should I listen or pay attention to you?
- Why should I believe what you state?
- Why should I act on what you’re offering?
- Why should I act now?
By answering these questions, you can form a clear, focused and compelling USP that will motivate prospective customers to beat a path to your door and make your small business stand out in your market. By not declaring this sense of purpose and identity, you will likely confuse your target customers.
You can find a plethora of examples in the marketplace of how honing your message down to a brief, unequivocal statement can reap success. Please note that the key adjective here is “brief.” USPs are supposed to be quick-and-dirty statements that will easily stick in the target customer’s mind. The most well-known, memorable and winning USPs include:
- Federal Express – “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”
- M&Ms – “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand”
- Domino’s Pizza – “We deliver hot, fresh pizza in 30 minutes or less or it’s free”
- BMW – “The ultimate driving machine”
Another exercise which I try with new clients is to ask them to brainstorm a list of their organization’s core values and then identify which values would most resonate with each of the groups (or “publics”) that make up their target audience. I get them to come up with a dozen or more values, although having as many as two dozen values would not be unusual. Then I ask them to determine every group they’re trying to reach with their message.
Most companies are targeting numerous, different groups, not just prospective customers in general. They may be trying to reach and connect with customers in different vertical markets, or people in different roles within the target customer’s organization. They may be trying to connect with current and past customers as well as prospective ones. A company may also be looking to attract investors and partners. The point is that companies should identify and understand their entire target audience — everyone they want to communicate and do business with — as they seek to define “what’s in it for the customer” and develop a communications or marketing plan.
This second exercise helps with discovering a company’s Unique Value Proposition, or UVP, a set of statements that convey what the prospective customers and each of the other groups in the target audience get by doing business with that company. The UVP statements ultimately become what I call the company’s “core messages,” which should be woven into all external communications and marketing content — the website, sales materials, press releases, social media, etc.
Does all of this sound too simple? Well yes, it is simple, because marketing isn’t supposed to be difficult, especially once you understand that it’s all about the customer, and what’s in it for them.