First, a quick reminder on AWP's five ingredients to online success.
In the previous newsletter we discussed Niche Markets, a key factor in the success of an online business. In this ezimail we talk about your unique selling proposition (USP) or lack of it. If you do not have a good niche product then you absolutely must have a great unique selling proposition. Having both is better!
What is a USP or Unique Selling Proposition?
The USP is your single, most marketable and competitive edge and why people should buy from you instead of someone else. Most businesses don't have a USP, only a “me too, " vague, unexciting presence that just feeds off the sheer momentum of the marketplace. There's nothing unique or distinct. They promise no great value, benefit, or service - just “buy from us" for no justifiable, rational reason.
Would you bother buying from a business that's just “there, " with no unique benefit, no great prices, selection, service or guarantee? Or would you prefer a business that offers you the greatest selection in the country or one with every product discounted to less than the competitors’ price or one that sells just top of the shelf products with the same quality guarantee of service.
The reality is your visitors don't give a hoot about you, your product, or how hard you have worked to make it available. The simple fact is, they don't think about you at all. They have only one question when they hit your site: What's in this for me? You have only seconds in which to provide an appropriate answer.
Talk of you, your company, or your product, regardless of uniqueness, will only bring a click on the Back button. Soul-searched words about the benefits your company or product offers will also bring immediate exit. Without carefully creating a clear, strong and appealing USP you will lose potential customers.
Coming Up With a Killer USP
Can't think of a good USP for your business. Don't worry, the possibilities for USP's are endless. It's best, however, to adopt a USP that addresses an obvious void in the marketplace that you can fill. The objective is to focus on the one niche, need or gap that is most sorely lacking, provided you can keep the promise you make. After defining your USP, make sure it is included in every written communication to clients, on every advertisement, newsletter, invoice, brochure and business card. Naturally, clearly spelled out on your website.
The USP is something you can build your business around and can lead you to success, and wealth, so you better be able to state it. If you can't, your prospects won't see it or understand it. Whenever a potential customer of yours needs the type of product or service you sell, your USP should bring your business immediately to mind.
Creating Your USP
Write down a one-paragraph statement of your new USP. Remember this is your single most competitive edge that differentiates you from the rest and gives you a market edge. When I say single, I mean single statement. It is one or more reasons why prospects should buy from you instead of your competitors. The USP might incorporate one or more core elements similar to ‘the widest range of gadgets on the planet with the fastest delivery’ or ‘Superior functionality, easier to use, less expensive with free support and a money back guarantee? Why would you use anything else?'
You also need to know what your competitors offer. You can't compete if you don't know what you're up against. Take the time to check out what they are doing. Do some research, you might be surprised what you might or might not find. Great offers, free shipping, contests, free customer support?
At first, you might struggle expressing the USP tightly and specifically. It may take a few tries. That's okay. Ruthlessly edit away the generalities and aggressively hone the shortest, crispest and most specific promise you could possibly hold out. Then, rework it and cull any excess wording or hazy statements until you have a clearly defined and easily apparent Unique Selling Proposition that a customer can immediately grasp. Then integrate your USP into every marketing aspect of your business, such as display advertising, direct mail and field selling.
USPs work a lot like logos. “It's finger-lickin’ good" says Kentucky Fried Chicken's USP. “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands" promises M&M's. A USP shapes and reinforces your company's brand and identity. It says what's different about you from all the rest. As an example, lets assume your USP is that you have better selection and follow-up service than any other competitor. There are several ways to integrate these qualities into your mail, communications and website. For example you can state the selection USP on the main page:
"We Always Have 2000 or more different products available with no Less than 56 different models and 13 attractive formats, in prices ranging from $21 to $2100. "
Or, if good service at an affordable price is your USP, use this as a model:
" ‘Try Hard’ Car Detailers will wash and detail your vehicles twelve times a year, once a month, and all it costs you is $21 a month, billed quarterly. "
Also remember, like a niche market, you will not appeal to everybody. Indeed, some USPs are designed to appeal to only one segment of a larger market. There is a big difference between the upmarket ‘premium’ client and the bargain hunters. Its unlikely you can reach both.
How can you ensure that you are in the hearts and minds of your customers after the sale? Here are a few good approaches. Go back to the five ingredients of success. One of these is the employment of excellent customer relationship management skills immediately following a sale. Call or email your customer. Make the customer feel important and special. Repeat your USP and remind the customers why they purchased from you and reassure them about their wise decision.
This post-purchase follow-up is essential, regardless of how frequently you resell to that customer. You enhance the customer's loyalty and value to your business by following up after the sale. At the very least, a follow-up call or email drastically reduces or eliminates cancellations, returns, refunds, complaints, adjustments and disputes.
As a web surfer yourself, you will know that other Internet surfers, like you, have the attention span of Homer Simpson after a few Duffs. You have just seconds to capture their interest before they hit that dreaded ‘back’ button and have a beer instead.
Believing you can capture attention or sales through elaborate use of graphics and animation is a mistake. A large number of ezimerchant sites use some pretty plain templates but are enormously successful. So, don't slow your business down by using excessive graphics.
Another popular Internet faux pas, is to make your visitor dig into your site to figure out what your USP is. I love the saying ‘give the monkey the banana. ’ Why make your customer go hunting for the product or your USP. Make it as easy as possible for them with good navigation to easily find the product and the USP right the front.
Visitors to your site want benefits and solutions. The goal of your home page should be to define that as quickly as possible. That would include a headline that stimulates a response followed by one or more short paragraphs that define your benefits.
To find your USP, answer these three questions:
1. What benefit is unique to your offering, and what is the basis of this claim?
2. Who is the target market for whom this benefit is of compelling interest?
3. What USP has been claimed by significant competitors for this target market?
Some common attributes around which the USP can be created are:
Consider these examples to help you in your strategy for uncovering a unique benefit:
Years back, Avis strongly challenged Hertz in car rentals with, “We're second, so we try harder. " This captures attention. While many cheer the underdog, most go for the favourite when they reach for their wallet. But this worked for Avis. That they tried harder implied to many that Avis would thus make life easier for them.
When soft-drink leaders Coke and Seven-Up butted heads, Seven-Up promoted its “Un-cola" status to set itself apart from the whole category of cola beverages.
When Tylenol took on aspirin, it did so with “Aspirin can irritate the stomach lining. . . . Fortunately, there is Tylenol. "
"Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed"? Dominos virtually took over the delivered pizza market with that USP. They didn't even promise the pizza tasted good.
Okay, that's about it for this newsletter. However I will be coming back to you very shortly with some quick tips on optimising your site for search engines. As well as some great case studies.
Kerry Plowright founded ezimerchant in 1996 and was the first to offer an affordable, packaged ecommerce solution to small and medium business. Since then Kerry has helped thousands of business make hundreds of millions of dollars on the internet and is arguably Australia’s leading authority on small business and the internet. Kerry recently sold the ezimerchant business which is now the most widely used solution in Australia in addition to being sold in Japan, the USA and UK. Kerry now offers his expertise to selected businesses desiring to establish or improve their online presence. This advice is free to hosted customers.