Picture this scenario. You walk into your local hardware store to see advertised in the shop window “The brand new iRodentia – Digitally enhanced mousetrap with USB connection”, the mousetrap has the latest sleek chrome design and the product packaging is impressively decorated with the latest branding and big names. The mousetrap is endorsed by a celebrity superstar and the price of the product is £89.95 (Or around $179 US). Is this product going to be a success?
Sales and marketing departments have been known to spend excessive amounts of time examining, exploring, dissecting and cogitating for ways to find a ‘unique selling point’ for a product. The obsession with many is that there has to be, at all costs, something that differentiates their product from the multitude of other similar products on the market. This is important, but what really is a unique selling point? Some of the biggest marketing disaster’s have been in not understanding this very question.
The answer to this is quite simple. The unique selling point is anything that triggers the customer’s buying cycle, i. e. that his problem can be solved by your product. Our digital mousetrap fills a need in a customer, it catches mice. Is this product going to be successful on this premise? Of course not, normal mousetraps also fill this need, and at a fraction of the cost. If the digital mousetrap perhaps added the extra benefit of electronically disposing of the mouse after catching it then this is different. The unique selling point of this item changes to solving the need of people who don’t like touching mice.
The biggest problem encountered in selling a product is when sales people and marketers concentrate on the features of a product without identifying the need of the client. In a car salesman’s repertoire, he will usually talk about the engine performance, miles to the gallon, fuel economy etc. but he will never sell a purple car to someone who doesn’t like the colour purple. In this case the focus is on the engine performance and not on the colour purple.
Getting back to our mousetrap, is this the end of the story? Is the electronic mousetrap idea a non-starter? Probably not. The insanity of this product together with a global brand name and celebrity endorsement could mean that this product sells in its millions. Why? Because, there is a target audience that loves the latest gadgets and toys. Were this product to become a fashion item or status symbol then people would buy it. However, what is important to remember is, that the unique selling point of this item is no longer in catching mice but is in being a cool accessory. You will still not sell to someone who just wants to get rid of mice.
So, what is unique to one customer is not unique to another.
George Petri is Managing Director of Nomis Limited which created SalesVision, one of the UK's leading IT systems providers in effective Sales Performance Management.