USPs: Free purple Hippos for all new customers

USPs: Free purple Hippos for all new customers

Now that would be unique… different… and would make a company stand out against their competitors! If you review the definition of unique you will find explanations such as:

  • Being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else
  • Unequalled
  • Unparalleled
  • Unmatched
  • Incomparable

Based on the definitions above — where companies find themselves with high competition, with similar solutions, similar pricing policies targeting similar customers and clients — is there really such thing as a Unique Selling Point?

Recently during a prospective client meeting I was asked the question “What are your unique selling points?” To which I answered “None”. The prospect looked taken aback and baffled for a few seconds and so did my brain to be honest as the words poured out before I had really thought the answer through.

When the prospect client (let’s call him Bob) was explaining his business, I was collating a mental checklist of the key points:

  • He is targeted to grow his business
  • His customers have a choice of suppliers
  • His competitors can offer similar if not the same service
  • For new customers 9 times out of 10 it comes down to price
  • His customers are looking for more added value offerings for their money

Then Bob went on to tell me how unique his company is and rattled off his USP’s. My brain exploded into action screaming “these are not unique to him as his competitors also do the same thing”. The brain cells then also realised that I was in the same position. I have competitors who can offer similar solutions, online solutions are also available… therefore I don’t offer a unique service, but I do have points of difference to how I operate that makes me different.

The true question is — When an industry is in a maturity with competitors is there really such thing as a USP or are they points of difference?

If I decided to give away a free purple hippo for every customer — apart from some legal issues — I would be totally unique. No other Learning and Development consultancy in the UK would be doing this. However, when other companies catch on and start to offer red, pink, blue or orange hippos I am no longer unique but as mine is purple I have a point of difference.

Other definitions for the term unique are:

  • Special
  • Noteworthy
  • Superior
  • Outstanding

I strive to deliver a superior and an outstanding service which is part of my ethos and values. This goal will shape my decisions and thinking… but does it make me truly unique or is that purely an individual work ethic? What the customer/client is actually buying they can still buy elsewhere for a similar price that will solve their issues. The solution may look and feel different to mine but they can still receive it.

This revelation has created some lengthy and exhausting conversations internally as we seek our points of difference that customers will want to hear about that will add value to their business problems. The world has changed and moved on since ‘USP’ became a popular buzzword. There have been many influences such as technological advancements, social fashion, legal issues that have changed how people buy, why people buy, the choices they have, the pricing policy, the added value people expect.

Apart from smuggling large endangered species into your work place, are you clear on:

  • What are your points of difference from competitors?
  • How to explain these differences clearly to your customers/clients that add value to their problems?
  • A true and recent review and understanding of the customer’s/client’s changing industry and the changing demands that their customers are placing on them?
  • How these changes will impact what the customers/clients will need from you?
  • Time to regularly take a non-emotional bird’s eye view of the industry, competitors, changes in the workplace and what that means for your company?
  • Time to explore future changes to the industry and what it means for internal operational processes and thinking?

I don’t seek to challenge your organisational DNA but to simply place a question mark in your head over whether you are clear on how to demonstrate your differences from your competitors that encourage customers/clients to buy from you. Every person that works in the organisation should be able to clearly verbalise these differences in order to make decisions and choices that support their delivery.

Free purple hippos


Other animals are also available. Please seek the legal implications of smuggling endangered species and the prison term it carries. No hippos were hurt during the creation of this blog.

Sarah Church

Sarah Church is a Managing Director at Fifth Element Solutions and manages the Learning and Development service line. Her highly motivational down-to-earth training approach means participants are easily able to apply the learning to their unique environment. Using real life practical methodology it maximises the participants and their organisations time and money investment. Sarah has been in the recruitment world for over 17 years’. She started her career developing highly successful Contract/Temporary and Permanent desks and was quickly promoted to Sales and Development Manager where key responsibilities included developing long-term business relationships with new key clients. During her experience Sarah was tasked with turning around underperforming recruitment business making a financial loss into profit making centres. Reviewing, coaching, mentoring, and advising managers and their staff on how to adapt best practice and processes to ensure the avoided closure. Her philosophy in business is “If things don’t go right, turn left”.

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