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Understanding Your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’

Before you can begin to sell your product or service to anyone else, you have to sell yourself on it.

Entrepreneur

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Just look around you: How many clothing retailers, hardware stores, air conditioning installers and electricians are truly unique?

The key to effective selling in this situation is what advertising and marketing professionals call a “unique selling proposition” (USP). Unless you can pinpoint what makes your business unique in a world of homogeneous competitors, you cannot target your sales efforts successfully.

Pinpointing your USP requires some hard soul-searching and creativity. One way to start is to analyse how other companies use their USPs to their advantage. This requires careful analysis of other companies’ ads and marketing messages. If you analyse what they say they sell, not just their product or service characteristics, you can learn a great deal about how companies distinguish themselves from competitors.

For example, the late Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, always used to say he sold hope, not makeup. Some airlines sell friendly service, while others sell on-time service. Neiman Marcus sells luxury, while Wal-Mart sells bargains.

Related: If You Are Building Relationships, Sales Will Follow

Each of these is an example of a company that has found a USP “peg” on which to hang its marketing strategy. A business can peg its USP on product characteristics, price structure, placement strategy (location and distribution) or promotional strategy. These are what marketers call the “four Ps” of marketing. They are manipulated to give a business a market position that sets it apart from the competition.

Sometimes a company focuses on one particular “peg,” which also drives the strategy in other areas. A classic example is Hanes L’Eggs hosiery. Back in an era when hosiery was sold primarily in department stores, Hanes opened a new distribution channel for hosiery sales. The idea: Since hosiery was a consumer staple, why not sell it where other staples were sold – in grocery stores?

That placement strategy then drove the company’s selection of product packaging (a plastic egg) so the pantyhose did not seem incongruent in the supermarket. And because the product did not have to be pressed and wrapped in tissue and boxes, it could be priced lower than other brands.

Here’s how to uncover your USP and use it to power up your sales:

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Too often, entrepreneurs fall in love with their product or service and forget that it is the customer’s needs, not their own, that they must satisfy. Step back from your daily operations and carefully scrutinize what your customers really want.

Suppose you own a pizza parlour. Sure, customers come into your pizza place for food. But is food all they want? What could make them come back again and again and ignore your competition? The answer might be quality, convenience, reliability, friendliness, cleanliness, courtesy or customer service.

Remember, price is never the only reason people buy. If your competition is beating you on pricing because they are larger, you have to find another sales feature that addresses the customer’s needs and then build your sales and promotional efforts around that feature.

Related: Need-to-Know Selling Essentials

Know what motivates your customers’ behaviour and buying decisions.

Effective marketing requires you to be an amateur psychologist. You need to know what drives and motivates customers. Go beyond the traditional customer demographics, such as age, gender, race, income and geographic location, that most businesses collect to analyse their sales trends.

For our pizza shop example, it is not enough to know that 75 percent of your customers are in the 18-to-25 age range. You need to look at their motives for buying pizza – taste, peer pressure, convenience and so on.

Cosmetics and liquor companies are great examples of industries that know the value of psychologically oriented promotion. People buy these products based on their desires (for pretty women, luxury, glamour and so on), not on their needs.

Uncover the real reasons customers buy your product instead of a competitor’s.

As your business grows, you’ll be able to ask your best source of information: your customers. For example, the pizza entrepreneur could ask them why they like his pizza over others, plus ask them to rate the importance of the features he offers, such as taste, size, ingredients, atmosphere and service.

You will be surprised how honest people are when you ask how you can improve your service.

Since your business is just starting out, you won’t have a lot of customers to ask yet, so “shop” your competition instead. Many retailers routinely drop into their competitors’ stores to see what and how they are selling. If you are really brave, try asking a few of the customers after they leave the premises what they like and dislike about the competitors’ products and services.

Once you have gone through this three-step market intelligence process, you need to take the next – and hardest – step: clearing your mind of any preconceived ideas about your product or service and being brutally honest. What features of your business jump out at you as something that sets you apart? What can you promote that will make customers want to patronize your business? How can you position your business to highlight your USP?

Do not get discouraged. Successful business ownership is not about having a unique product or service; it’s about making your product stand out – even in a market filled with similar items.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Techniques

Why Does Good Client Service Matter For E-commerce?

Remember, bad service is remembered for much longer than any products that have been purchased. And if you provide a positive experience, you will have a loyal customer base and can use the insights gathered from interactions.

Clarissa Fleischer

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e-commerce

You might be scratching your head a little at the notion of an e-commerce store (yes, an online store) worrying too much about client service. After all, customers are using your website to purchase goods and avoid interacting with salespeople, right? But client service, or customer support as it is also known, is vital to running a successful e-commerce business. This is because consumers still expect the same level of care as they would from a brick-and-mortar store.

You will need to devise an e-commerce digital marketing strategy that can enhance your client service offerings. For example, you’ll need to put together an e-commerce email marketing customer base so that you can easily send out promotional emails, newsletters and reply to complaints. Your e-commerce website design should focus on the needs of the customer, so be sure to invest in a design that caters for them. Read on to find out why good client service is vital for e-commerce.

You can sell hundreds of products…

but bad service will always be remembered. For e-commerce in South Africa and around the world, client service is one of the major touchpoints that you have with your clients, meaning that you need to provide the best experience possible.

Online shoppers will likely have no physical contact with your brand, making client service the best chance to show customers that you truly care about them. Remember that customers want more than just a place to shop. They want an e-commerce business that is going to provide them with information that is relevant and help that truly solves a problem. You need a dedicated email address, Twitter handle, Facebook page or a live chat option where clients can contact you easily and efficiently.

Trust builds client relationships

By providing good customer support, you will be building trust between your customers and your brand. For example, if you provide personalised emails with product recommendations to loyal customers, they will see that you are taking note of their preferences and value their input.

As an e-commerce brand, you need to do more than brick-and-mortar stores to generate trust, which is where client service comes into play. You should look into building a customer support strategy that allows you to meet consumers at every touchpoint of their journey. This will show customers that you are a brand that is taking note of what they need. The reason for building trust is that, in the online shopping world, customers do not have to go very far (just a few clicks, in reality) to find another store with another shopping cart to fill. Focusing on what your client needs is a sure-fire way to improve consumer trust in your brand.

You will gain valuable insight

Client service is not only good for the customer, but can be good for your business too. You can gain valuable insight into the wants and needs of your customers as well as issues that you might not have known existed in your business.

Feedback that is constructive can help you to make changes in your business to improve client service and will allow you to introduce new systems for dealing with complaints and queries. If customers are repeatedly asking you if you will be offering new or different products or if they are asking about specific products that your competitors offer, you can use this information to meet their needs and keep your site up-to-date with trends and products. Even transactional emails can be helpful, as these will allow you to improve or enhance your checkout process.

It can make (or break) your brand reputation

Reputation is important, whether you are a physical store or an online one. And in the age of social media, can you really afford to offer bad client service? Today, people take to Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram to share their experiences with brands, whether their experience was positive or negative.

If your customer support is bad or inconsistent, customers will likely head to your Facebook business page or write something on their own profile for the world to see. And how you deal with this is also a part of your customer support. Be sure to always strive to provide customers with a positive interaction no matter the situation. Even if the customer is not always right, they should never have negative connotations with your brand.

Clients come first

Client service is one of the most important aspects of any e-commerce business. While you might think that all your consumers want is a place to shop without having to deal with crowds (an introvert’s dream), they expect the same level of client service they would receive in an actual store.

Remember, bad service is remembered for much longer than any products that have been purchased. And if you provide a positive experience, you will have a loyal customer base and can use the insights gathered from interactions.

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Techniques

3 Ecommerce Trends You Must Prepare For In 2019

The ecommerce explosion continues, but there’s also an element of evolution. To take your ecommerce presence to the next level, take advantage of these emerging trends.

Tiffany Delmore

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Retail ecommerce sales continue trending upward, and consumer confidence has reached an 18-year high. Conditions are ripe for brands with an established ecommerce presence, but that doesn’t mean business as usual will always suffice. Instead, the organisations that excel will be those with a forward-thinking approach to ecommerce.

Ecommerce is thriving because enough companies have kept up with changing technology and consumer expectations. For example, as mobile purchases increased in popularity, ecommerce retailers began specifically catering to this shopping avenue. Mobile purchases constituted the majority of ecommerce sales in 2016, and eMarketer estimates that 72.9 percent of online purchases will be made on a mobile device by 2021.

Device preferences aren’t the only thing in transition – search methods are also quickly evolving as technology becomes more sophisticated. According to predictions from ComScore, 50 percent of all search queries will be made via voice by 2020. And it’s likely that more people will be audio searching for buyable goods soon: Devices such as Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show are integrating voice and image search so that shoppers can see what they’re asking to buy. Ecommerce retailers that can’t cater to a voice-activated future (Read: optimise for natural language search) will quickly lose ground to their rivals.

Ecommerce companies are also partnering with payment processors to make online purchases as frictionless as possible. By offering payment options such as PayPal, Venmo and Amazon Pay at checkout, customers can leave their credit cards in their wallets, so buying becomes even easier.

No matter how mature your ecommerce presence might be now, you need to keep looking ahead to ensure future success. To elevate your ecommerce efforts in 2019, take advantage of these three emerging trends.

1. Sell your wares on social

Effective marketing is about optimising your messaging to appeal to your target audience, but messaging won’t matter if the audience never sees it. Meeting your audience members where they spend their time is crucial, and here’s a tip: If your customer base is online, it’s on social media one-third of that time.

If you’re not selling on social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Most social media platforms now support integrated buy buttons that transfer users to your website to complete a sale, and apps such as Instagram and Snapchat offer shoppable stories, too.

Retail brands like Jordan have also capitalised on event-related social commerce opportunities. For the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, Jordan partnered with Snapchat to offer access codes to an exclusive sale of the special edition Air Jordan III Tinker shoe. Users could only receive a code if they were near the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and the sneakers sold out in 23 minutes.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

2. Remix the buyer’s reality

Mixed reality technologies have yet to see mainstream adoption, but they have made huge strides in that direction. Vertebrae’s launch of its AR/VR ecommerce platform Axis aims to prove that the tech is much more than a novelty, and IKEA’s Place app provides shoppers with an AR-powered glimpse into what IKEA products would look like in their own homes.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster,” says Michael Valdsgaard, leader of digital transformation at Inter IKEA Systems.

AR might not be everywhere yet, but ecommerce retailers that successfully incorporate AR capabilities into the shopping experience stand to gain a significant advantage over their competitors.

3. Strengthen your Amazon strategy

Amazon has established a pre-eminent place in the ecommerce ecosystem, and Salmon’s “Future Shopper Report” indicates that 68 percent of American shoppers head straight to the site when browsing for products. What’s more, even when customers plan to buy from another site or store, 80 percent read Amazon reviews and check prices there.

Clearly, mastering Amazon is critical. Trevor George, founder and CEO of Amazon marketing agency Blue Wheel Media, says that the only way for sellers to win on the platform is through ads: “The future of Amazon is advertising, and if a brand wants to make money now and into the future, it needs to be able to navigate Amazon’s advertising platforms.”

According to George, that means investing in auto-bidding tools such as Prestozon or Ignite, isolating the right search terms, and incorporating negative keywords so your appliance company isn’t spending money to appear in searches for Easy-Bake Ovens.

The ecommerce boom isn’t waning anytime soon, and capitalising on it requires a thoughtful strategy that keeps your brand ahead of the competition. Keep social commerce, mixed reality shopping and Amazon advertising on your mind through 2019.

Read next: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Techniques

How To Get Ready To Sell Your Business – Advice From Marnus Broodryk

If you’re thinking about selling your business, there are some critical steps you need to make first.

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MAKING THE SALE

A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information.


Some entrepreneurs are ‘starters’, they like to start a business, get it off the ground and then flog it. Others are ‘growers’, they look for existing businesses and have the ability to grow them beyond their original value. Both will probably get to the same end point: Selling the business.

But entrepreneurs are often misled when it comes to the sale. They have put everything into the business and it is worth a huge amount to them because of it. But buyers are seldom willing to match the price, because what is being sold, and what is being bought, are not the same thing. Sellers see the emotional and financial investments they’ve put in; the buyer mostly looks at one thing: Profit.

Effort does not equal profit. The balance is out.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

Prepare for the challenges of selling

Once you get to market you will soon realise that there are, unfortunately, fewer buyers than you’d like. Unlike listed companies, you can’t sell shares easily and quickly on a public platform. Instead, you need to find an interested individual or business, many of whom just aren’t buying what you’re selling.

Some of them are, but that doesn’t guarantee a sale. Most SMEs must put their faith in a cash deal, since banks will never finance anyone wanting to buy them. In reality, this means that you may have a genuinely interested buyer for your business, who won’t be able to get finance for it from the bank. So, after a few months, you’re back to square one. After a few rounds of this cycle many entrepreneurs will just sell out of desperation, forgetting what the business could actually be worth.

Selling a business can be very emotionally draining and this will be compounded by many people who will waste your time and mess you around. You spent a large portion of your life building this, but others will not see it the same way you do. Ensure that you prepare and mitigate against all of those issues, and have the stomach for the fight.

Always keep the end in mind

If you are looking at exiting your business, it is crucial to allow enough time to prepare yourself for it. Maybe you’re simply tired of your business and you just want to get out, but, because the business is not in a great state at the moment, you’re too fed up to care, and you simply don’t have the energy to fix the issues.

You’re at risk of letting your business go for next to nothing. All the hard work for hardly any reward.

Related: Selling Your Business To Your Business Partner

If you have the end in mind, and prepare for it, it can be a very different, more lucrative story. A successful transaction will mostly boil down to having a solid business with great systems in place that is making decent money and the starting point for these transactions will be financial information. You need to have proper financial records for your business and you need to be able to show the potential buyer how much the business is making and how it is making it. It sounds so elementary, yet most entrepreneurs don’t have financial information when they want to sell their businesses. If you think you may want to sell in the future, make sure you’re keeping solid records now.

If your business’s financials are messy, start cleaning them up at least twelve months before trying to sell your business. Remove all your personal expenses from the business and ensure that all transactions are properly recorded, and that your taxes are up to date and accurate. Work with your accountant to prepare a sales pack with all your financial information, including details of your clients, employees, suppliers, what your strong and weak points are and how the business could grow in the future. It’s at this stage that you can pick up on issues and resolve them before taking your business to the market, making it a much more attractive product.

With some (more) hard work, you will be in a great position to sell your business, you will have serious buyers and the valuation that you deserve for all your hard work. If you don’t, why bother?

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