East Anglia in Business 05

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BU S I N ES S S UPPO RT

YOUR POSITION IN THE MARKETPLACE: WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT? Everyone who has ever read a book or blog about sales and marketing, tried to break into a new industry, or really heard anything about the best way to run a business will have heard about the importance of USPs.

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SP stands for Unique Selling Point and essentially means that every business needs SOMETHING to make them stand out against the crowd. If I asked you, right now, “What makes your business different?”, what would be your answer? It can be a difficult question and something that is often hard to put into words. But most people will be able to list a few USPs and also the areas where they’ve had the most success.

But are these actual differences – are you really THAT different from your competitors? The most illuminating way to find out, to me anyway, is to ask your customers why they decided to go with you rather than your nearest competitor. Find out what they think makes you different. Trust me, it can be eye opening. For example, if Burger King asked you what made them different to McDonalds, what would you say? You might prefer one to the other, but at the end of the day, both serve fast food…specialising in burgers. Speaking of McDonalds, one of the things that

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really stayed with me from the Ray Kroc’s account of his involvement with McDonald's growth is when he was asked what his business did. As you might expect, he said that they server burgers. But his investment coach corrected him and said that he was actually a property developer! At the time McDonald’s were (and remain) one of the largest real estate owners in the US.

And this just introduces another element in the USP question. What do you think makes you different? What do your customers think are your differences? And now we can add: what differences matter in business? These are questions that the big brands ask themselves all the time. Going back to Burger King, they might say that their main USP revolves around the way they make and prepare their burgers. Their customers will say that it comes down to the ability to customise their order. But in business terms, their main USP could be a lower threshold for franchise investment. (I just made that up for this article…please don’t sue me.)