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.
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.
On Top Of Their Game
Innovative and focused on always providing superior solutions to the energy sector, Karebo Group works with top-quality providers to ensure 100% service delivery to its clients.
As a provider of dynamic professional services and products to the energy sector, Karebo Group’s core focus is delivering high-quality services and products to its clients.
“Our team has a long-standing and proven track record within the energy market,” says Ravi Govender, owner of Karebo Group. “Our in-depth knowledge and experience enables us to offer innovative and superior solutions to our clients. As a team, we thrive on the intellectual challenges that energy markets present.”
Karebo Group’s value proposition is to always deliver within time and budget, 100% customer commitment according to contract; operations must deliver consistently; and the entire team must be committed and 100% professional in delivery.
Because Karebo Group provides a turnkey solution to its clients, managing its own fleet enables the team to provide the best and most efficient service possible. “We’ve learnt the benefits of controlling the entire value chain,” says Ravi.
“In the past we have outsourced our logistics, and it impacted both our costs and our service delivery. By managing our own fleet, we can reduce costs and have happier clients.”
Karebo’s customers face significant challenges related to energy costs, which means it’s essential for the business to offer its solutions as cost-effectively as possible. Controlling transport and logistics costs is one way to do this, but it’s just one factor that the business considers. “We have solutions for all of the cost challenges that our customers face,” says Ravi.
“The problem is that while these solutions have a great return on investment, the ability to raise or channel capital to them is a challenge. General market conditions are also contributing to the indecision on allocating limited capital to these projects.”
In response, Karebo has overcome many of these challenges by assisting its customers to raise their own capital for projects. “We have moved the conversation from a CAPEX conversation to an OPEX conversation,” he explains.
The TomTom Telematics Difference
In order to keep its own operating expenses as lean as possible, it’s essential for Karebo to work with suppliers who understand their business and its needs. “We’ve been working with TomTom Telematics for three years and in that time we’ve reaped the full benefits of using the system to its full potential.
“WEBFLEET’s features include loading orders, geofencing, tracking and reporting, all of which have assisted us in optimising routes and working efficiently to see more customers, thereby increasing productivity.
“The order dispatch features via navigation device enable our teams to keep to their schedules, while address-visit reports help our teams to be more efficient by eliminating unnecessary visits to the same locations. The onboard navigation system also assists in communicating with our teams via a messaging service — teams can message our head office via the system if they need immediate assistance with correcting addresses or if any vehicle maintenance required. In addition, head office has a full view of the location of all of its teams across Africa, at any given point in time.”
According to Ravi, TomTom Telematics has played a significant role in the overall business, not just in terms of monitoring vehicles, but on bottom line costs as well.
“We chose TomTom Telematics based on its services, which met our specific requirements. Thanks to WEBFLEET, our company has seen a reduction in fuel costs, increased productivity and vehicle maintenance costs have been reduced as we place all driver behaviour reports on our company chat to correct driver behaviour.”
The leading edge
Ravi Govender was part of the national steering committee that put together the M&V framework that the original Eskom DSM programme was measured against. He also led the UKZN M&V team from January 2002 to December 2003 before joining Karebo in 2004.
Since joining Karebo, Ravi has ensured that his passion in developing solutions that transform and promote DSM has helped to place Karebo at the forefront of energy efficiency in South Africa.
Under Ravi’s leadership, Karebo has been focused on increasing the penetration of DSM in the South African environment and beyond. As a result, Karebo has been involved in several notable projects in this arena, including developing the framework and methodology to develop and implement large-scale mass rollout programmes.
Karebo pioneered the mass rollout of CFLs for Eskom and through this foundation several other programmes that been implemented, from the mass rollout of solar water heaters and residential mass rollouts, to developing the first large-scale LED programmes that were funded by Eskom. At that point it was the first and largest LED rollout approved anywhere in the world.
Karebo was also involved in both of Eskom’s Residential Mass Rollout phases; was contracted by the World Bank to assist Malawi on an advisory basis for the first CFL programme rolled out in that country; and was recently appointed by the EU through the European Commission to implement Solar Power Lighting to Communities and Schools in Lesotho.
How To Win Trust And Wax Sales
Small changes to your ecommerce platform could transform your turnover.
Any ecommerce business venture is risky. Your products are not going to walk off the site by themselves from day one. You have done your market research. You have identified and targeted consumer needs. You believe in your product.
What you need now is for consumers to believe in it too. But that is not enough. Your consumers also need to believe in you and your brand. Your ecommerce platform is the vehicle which allows the consumer to experience an insight into the quintessence of you, your product, and your brand.
Take your ecommerce experience from ‘what?’ to ‘wow!’.
Your ecommerce platform is a place that gives you, your brand and your products a voice. Your voice needs to speak out and tell your story. How you came to this point with your product. How and why you know it is the best on offer. Who you are.
What your brand stands for. Drive engagement with your voice through blogging. Show your investment in remaining relevant and meeting consumer needs. Invite feedback to build diversity and growth. Your products need a voice too, but they cannot speak for themselves. Let customers know your products’ worth by offering clear, detailed, jargon-free descriptions.
Give your customers pictures. Lots of them. From every angle. Show what you and your products are made of. Bring your products right into the customer’s home. If your products have got it, flaunt it. Convey an effective message that unites you as creator, your creations, and the lifestyle your brand is offering.
Authenticity, honesty, and clarity of purpose will connect the consumer to your brand in a real and relevant way.
Tell all, on call
Respond to consumer enquiries with as little delay as possible. These are personal interactions with the consumer that build relationships. Excellent customer service boosts positive feedback. Aim to provide as much detailed information about your business as possible. Be transparent, and proud of it.
An FAQ section is professional and helps address recurring questions regarding your products, services and business practices. Use the opportunity to provide further info about your brand’s integrity and professionalism. Refer to certifications and licenses. FAQs indicate honest, reliability and well-established business procedures, which further builds consumer trust.
The allure of secure
A steadfast returns policy cuts the risk for consumers when making a purchase. It is far easier to commit if you are assured you can return the product with a full money back guarantee. Make this policy evident from the outset. Include a link to your returns policy on your landing page. Address all returns related queries in your FAQs. Consumers will also trust your ecommerce platform if you guarantee safety and security of information.
Less is more!
Shipping costs are a turnoff. Many consumers abandon their carts just at the finish line because of this final hurdle. So, offer free shipping and seal the deal. Discounts and sales items must be in your face. Feature deals and reductions on your landing page with hard-to-miss, easily understandable images of slashed prices. Build some buzz around sales items with a sense of urgency.
Small trial samples in exchange for email details or a quick survey are another sweet deal. Everybody loves a sample. And you score business leads to follow up. The info you gather can help you to personalise user experience, and fine tune focused target marketing.
That big red button
We have all encountered an enticing call-to-action button. One that offers the promise of a new start, that opens doors, that kicks in the rush of actualisation. A CTA that makes the customer feel like that button has their name on it is what it’s all about. ‘Buy Now’, ‘Add to Cart’, ‘Get Started’. The brand and lifestyle you are selling needs its own effective CTAs. They are the final frontier between deliberation and diving in.
The quick or the dead
First things last: Your ecommerce site had better load, and fast. This is vital. Already, 5 years back, failure to load with sufficient speed meant 1.73 billion GBP in lost sales. Consumer impatience is a fact. There are loads of options out there. Don’t be left dead in the water.
How You Can Guarantee Customer Satisfaction
Customer service is no longer a differentiator. Every business makes the same promises, and everyone says that they put their customers first. But do you? Here are three ways to up your customer-centric game.
“We implemented a money-back guarantee at the Brazen Head at the Leaping Frog Centre, Fourways, offering a money-back guarantee on all our meals. Staff were reluctant at first, but the guarantee forced us to maintain standards at our front and back of house. In the end, we only had to honour the guarantee once in eight months.”
It’s a stock standard differentiator that every company uses: Customer service. And yet so many businesses are anything but customer-centric. Whether you’re in a B2C or B2B environment, here are three areas you could improve today.
1. Guarantee Your Service
If you don’t believe in your service, you can’t expect anyone else to. So, guarantee your service. This should not just be an empty phrase — back up your guarantee with a money-back promise.
Advertise that promise in your business, on your website and in your communications. That tells your customers, “We have such confidence in our service, and we’re so determined to be great that we put our money where our mouth is.”
The benefits of a money-back guarantee:
- It encourages first-time customers to try your services.
- It forces your team to keep standards high and focus on results, as slip-ups will hurt your business immediately.
- It fosters pride in your business. “Our service is 100% guaranteed to be great!”
- It is a selling point. “At Venus Video Games, satisfaction is guaranteed, or your money back!”
- It sets you apart from your competitors. Would you rather try a new store that offers a money-back guarantee, or one that doesn’t?
We implemented this at the Brazen Head at the Leaping Frog Centre, Fourways, offering a money-back guarantee on all our meals. Staff were reluctant at first, but the guarantee forced us to maintain standards at our front and back of house. In the end, we only had to honour the guarantee once in eight months.
2. Complaints: Relate and Recover
Often, what a customer wants most from a company is to be treated like a person. They want real, authentic, human interaction.
Mostly, this human kindness will come while you cater perfectly to their every need, deliver the goods and services efficiently and then send them on their way with a massive smile on their face.
But every now and then things will go wrong. The customer won’t get exactly what they were looking for, the service won’t be 100%, or there will be some kind of misunderstanding.
This is unfortunate and of course nobody wants it to happen, but occasionally it does. If handled properly, these hiccups can be an opportunity to improve customer relations, build real human interaction and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.
When a customer calls into your bank branch to complain that an unauthorised debit order was taken off her account, treat the person like you would like to be treated. Here is a good procedure to follow that fixes the problem while building a real human interaction.
- Understand the problem. Listen carefully and make sure you know exactly what the client’s complaint is.
- It doesn’t matter if they actually signed an authorisation and it’s technically their fault. This isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about building a relationship of good customer service.
- Take immediate action to fix the problem. In this case, reverse the debit order.
- Ensure it doesn’t happen again. That means working out who authorised the debit, and why and adjusting your systems.
If you go through this process as efficiently and as pleasantly as you can, you might find the customer comes out the other side in a pretty good mood. Their complaint has been acknowledged, they’ve got an apology and it’s been sorted out.
Service Tip: Don’t take customer complaints personally. They are part of your job, and your role is to handle them professionally. When a passenger of your airline says, “You’ve lost my bag!” they don’t mean it was you personally who lost it. But in this case, you represent your airline, so you should take responsibility, apologise and sort it out.
3. Use Your Own Services
There’s no better way to check what your company’s service is like than by being your own customer. Of course, if people recognise you as one of their colleagues, they’ll be on their best behaviour, so use one of your digital channels, phone up or use a branch where they don’t know you.
Now pretend you’re a customer looking to make a purchase, but without too much knowledge of your systems. You’re a person off the street, as it were. What is your service experience like?
Here are some ways you can use your own services:
- Try to get hold of your company. How easy is it to find your details? Is your website clear and logical, is your phone number prominently displayed? How is the phone answered?
- Try to make a purchase. Is it easy? Is your query handled efficiently and quickly?
- Most importantly, what’s the service like? Are the staff friendly, positive and dynamic? Do they go the extra mile to deliver exceptional service? Do they build relationships, do they provide help beyond just making the sale?
- Phone to complain. Use the customer-care line, or website. You’ve been advertising this channel for years — what actually happens when someone uses it? Are complaints handled efficiently and in a positive spirit?
- Leave a message. You can do this by voicemail, text or email. Does anyone get back to you?
- Be inconvenient. Call over the weekend, after-hours, during lunch, or even during a busy period. Are the staff just as keen to help you? Can you even get hold of anyone?
Try to get hold of yourself. When last did you listen to your own voice message? What does the signature say at the bottom of your email? What does your switchboard operator say when answering the phone?
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