Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mad about USP

How many of you are hooked on “Mad Men?”

The soap operatic escapades of men and women working at a New York ad agency, circa 1964 (this season, anyway) hold a nostalgic place in my cobwebbed psyche, as my Dad was in the industry as an art director during that era.

But when I watch the show, I particularly enjoy watching Creative Director Don Draper challenge his team of copywriters and graphic designers – and even the account people – to focus on what it is that distinguishes the client’s product from that of their competitors.

What it was called then…is pretty much what it’s called today.

Welcome to the August edition of “Not Your Usual Marketing Tips” from JDK Marketing Communications Management.

Since we’re waxing nostalgic with reference to “Mad Men,” I think I’ll turn the clock all the way back to, ahem, 2008, when this subject was first broached.

What's your USP?

And, no, it has nothing to do with the US Postal Service. It’s your “Unique Selling Proposition.” Or substitute the word Proposition with Proposal or Point. Any way you say it, it’s what those three words say about your business that, theoretically, no one else can say.

Simply stated, your USP should – in your marketing materials, position papers, sales letters, perhaps even your slogan – reflect the contention that what you sell is unique, something your competition cannot or chooses not to promote…culminating in the decision by your customer to act by exploring and/or purchasing your product or service.

Wikepedia further explains USP as a “marketing concept that was first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern among successful advertising campaigns (of the 1940s and 1950s). It states that such campaigns made unique propositions to the customer and that this convinced them to switch brands.

The term was invented by Rosser Reeves (an account executive with former independent ad agency giant) Ted Bates & Company. Today the term is used in other fields or just casually to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects…A number of businesses and corporations currently use USPs as a basis for their marketing campaigns.”

Jay Abraham, with a string of successful books on the “guerilla” ways of marketing, opines that, “Even while you creatively imitate others, remember that it's also important to be different.

Distinguish your business or practice from all the rest. Make your enterprise special in the eyes of your customer or client. A USP is that distinct and appealing idea that sets you and your business, or practice, favorably apart from every other generic competitor.”

BusinessTown.com has a little more “tough love” message for you: “There may be very little difference between your product and your competitors’.

But if you can't find a way to communicate uniqueness and connect it to a need of your target, you might as well quit fighting your competition and sell out to them.

“There are many different ways to stake out a position. Just remember, your position reflects your unique selling proposition, and it is what makes your offering more valuable to your customers than what's being offered by your competition.”

No doubt by now you may have taken a cold, hard look at what you do for a living and thought, “but my business is really no different than others in this field.”

That’s the challenge. But it’s not unmeet-able. There are things about your business you may not be able to see – the old “forest for the trees” situation.

And that’s where it may take a professional marketing firm (Hello!) to help adjust your glasses for you…And help truly, and memorably, distinguish you vis-à-vis your competition. If you haven't done so by now, maybe it’s time you worked on your USP...ASAP.

Join us again the first Tuesday of next month as we adjust our fedoras and bouffant hairdos for another look at Not Your Usual Marketing Tips.