By Robin Robins, President, Technology Marketing Toolkit, Inc.
Although I’ve harped on this before, I continually get marketing campaigns submitted to me from computer consulting firms for critique that contain zero benefits or reasons why a customer should pay attention, let alone respond or buy something.
In most cases, I can clearly tell that they spent hours, possibly even days, trying to come up with some cute slogan or picture to capture the readers attention and get a response. Big, HUGE waste of time. Cute slogans with “hidden” meanings or inside jokes do NOT sell, and slogans should NOT be confused with a USP (unique selling proposition) or benefits. Some slogans can represent or be congruent with a USP and convey benefits (like Wal-Mart’s Always Low Prices. Always), but the vast majority simply do not.
So what exactly is a unique selling proposition and how do you get one?
Great question. First, your USP needs to answer the question, what is so special, advantageous, or beneficial about your products and services that makes you the obvious choice above all of your competitors? If you were face to face with a prospective customer and they asked you why they should give you their business over all of the other consultants and vendors offering the same products and services, what would you say?
If you have half a brain you are not going to try to be cute or clever in your answer. So why do that in a marketing campaign? If you HAVE a better service, then communicate specifically how or why and prove it with testimonials, case studies, and guarantees.
For most technology companies, clearly defining what they do better than their competitors is a hard thing to do. In most cases, they simply say “better service”. Ok, but who else can (and does) promote that to their customers? If anybody and everybody can use your USP, it ain’t a USP because one of the obvious factors is uniqueness. In order for it to have any power, your USP has to favorably separate you from the competition.
There are only 5 ways you can do this:
Having a truly unique product is incredibly rare. Even if you happen to have a unique product, chances are it won’t be long before someone invents a faster/cheaper/newer/bigger/low carb version of it.
Differentiating yourself by lowest price is, in my opinion, the worst USP to have especially when you are in a small service business. Aside from the obvious fact that it prevents you from making healthy margins on your services, it attracts a lower-end client that is far more likely to complain, pay slow, shop you on price, and not appreciate your services. However, many small business owners are too lazy to go to work on finding, developing, and communicating a USP and are forced to compete on price without strategically choosing that as their USP.
Process and service offer far more opportunity for you to differentiate. Being able to deliver a better customer experience not only creates an environment for customer loyalty and referrals, but it also allows you to command higher rates.
Many of you know that I’ve conducted an extensive amount of research with small business owners and IT managers to find out what the “opportunity gap” is in selling technology services. To date, I’ve conducted hundreds of live telephone interviews to find out what annoys business owners and IT managers when buying technology products and services. Over and over again, the top 3 biggest complaints were:
- Slow response time or lack of responsiveness.
- They don’t fix their problems right or in a timely manner.
- Lack of follow-through or service after the sale.
If I were building a unique selling proposition for a technology services business, you can bet that I would base it entirely on guaranteeing to solve these three problems or complaints. I would also make sure that I was engineering my business in such a way to make sure I could deliver.
This would explain why so many “technically” better consultants lose sales to their lesser qualified competition. So many business owners focus so much on the technical aspect of the services they are providing and overlook these other factors that determine the level of satisfaction their clients’ experience. For example, billing on time, accurately reporting in detail what you are billing your clients for, the friendliness of the technician, returning calls promptly, being able to be reached, following up, and even the manner in which you communicate with your clients all add up to an overall experience.
Finally, you can always use marketing – the type I teach – as a way of differentiating yourself from the competition. When everyone else’s advertising looks the same, you’ll stand out from the crowd simply by communicating differently to your prospects. Chances are your competition is not using testimonials, guarantees, proof, or other benefit-laden promises in their marketing.