In his 1960 book, Reality in Advertising, Rosser Reeves, a respected US advertising executive, introduced the world to the concept of the Unique Selling Proposition, USP for short.
Reeves defined USP in an advertising context:
- Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer: buy this product and you will get this benefit.
- The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot or does not
- The proposition must be so strong that it changes consumer behaviour.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the concept of a unique selling proposition evolved from being essential to advertising to being essential in business. Finding your business USP was considered mission critical to businesses, retailers especially. Businesses drifted however and forgot about the importance of a USP.
Jack Trout told us just a few years ago that it was as relevant today. In 2000, he said that a Unique Selling Proposition was mission critical in business in his aptly titled book Differentiate or Die.
Differentiate of Die. There is no doubt about the call to action in the title, no doubt about the consequences of inaction.
Yet many retailers, for the most part, have remained still in the face of an onslaught of competition.
Retail is complex, challenging and changing rapidly today. The differences between competitors fewer. Retailers are surrounded by competition and it grows by the day. Yet many have remained still and done nothing.
Smart retailers are re-acquainting themselves with the writings of Reeves and Trout and leaning about the mission critical imperative of having a Unique Selling Proposition.
Differentiation could be service, products or location or a combination of these. Differentiation will most likely not be price as anyone can match this easily. Price is, after all, the last line of defense in any business battle. That said, there are some major price-focused success stories – Wal-Mart for example. It is rare in an independent retail situation.
To develop your USP, engage with your employees and other stakeholders. Take your time. Determine what you and your business stand for. Following open and honest discussion and debate, the USP around which everyone in the business can willingly congregate will emerge.
A good USP will not require an advertising campaign to communicate. It will become obvious through actions and decisions. By living the USP in every facet of the business you soon become seen as unique by shoppers and this can drive excellent word of mouth and success for the business.
While differentiation in retail is more important today than ever thanks to today’s economic conditions, the approach to the challenge is the same as in the 1960s.
if you are not sure where to start when considering your USB, look at your POS software and the data it curates about your business for in that data will be insights into your points of differences things you can cultivate to have a stronger USP.
Your POS software is a good place to start as your shoppers show you through their behaviour what they like and don’t like about your business.
Tower Systems offers this small business retail management advice because we are retailers too. we use our POS software every day and have done so for many years.
We serve local specialty retailers with locally made and supported POS software created in service of a defined range of retail channels.