Very few companies have the luxury of selling a unique or one-of-a-kind product or service, most companies operate in a competitive landscape and a well defined USP is essential to helping them to stand out in their market place….this becomes the basis of their elevator pitch.
Whilst it is easy to simply assume that to stand out in today’s crowded market place you must be either BETTER or CHEAPER than your competitors, this is not always achievable as companies often find themselves in a situation where they are not the most expensive or cheapest, and their product or service is comparable, so how do they stand out?
"To be honest, our insurance product is very similar as our competitors copy our policy documents…price wise it is very competitive. The difference is our experience and service, but it is hard to communicate this" - (Client name masked for sensitivity reasons)
Whilst a company’s product or service may not be a one-of-a-kind and it may be similar to many other offerings from competitors, the purpose of defining a USP is to have a focus which customers relate to….then you can turn this into an elevator pitch that lets you (as the term suggests) tell someone about what you do and why it is so great, in the time it takes to travel a few floors in a lift.
If the term ‘unique selling point’ is sullied by the word selling, then feel free to reposition it as a ‘unique market proposition’, or 'points of differentiation' and remember this is not actually about being unique….this is simply about finding an angle which you can focus on!
Now that we have clarified that this is not about being the best, or being the cheapest, or being unique, we can focus on the job at hand, using four simple steps
Step 1 - Identify the needs of client/customer
What do they want? What are they looking for…what is their need?
Basically you are connecting with them, establishing there is a need….ideally something that will be of use to them.
Step 2 - Communicate what you are offering and how it fulfils this need
Tell them what it is that you do that fulfils this need, establishing that you have a solution.
Step 3 - Highlight the benefits of this / why is it good
Communicate the benefits of this solution and why this is so useful, helping link the product/service/solution with the original need.
Step 4 - Tell them how this differs from competitors offerings
Finally highlight a difference between your offering and the competitors, remembering that your product does not need to be unique…you simply need an angle to focus on….something that will make this stand out in a memorable and identifiable manner.
So putting this into practice - let’s try a few simple examples
- A PI insurance company
- An executive search firm
The insurance company that sells Professional Indemnity insurance -
The problem faced by insurance company X is that whilst they were first to offer this marine insurance service, new companies have mimicking the offering, also offering this type of professional indemnity insurance. It is very hard to differentiate as the policy is so similar and the prices are very competitive…if anything, this company is a little more expensive, and many competitors offer their service as a bolt-on added to other policies. Strictly speaking the point of differentiation is that they are the most experienced, however turning this into a benefit that resonates with the end customer/broker is tricky, as ultimately all policies have to pay out.
So what might their elevator pitch look like?
1 - General ship insurance does not cover you when entering dangerous areas such as war zones and areas with piracy risks.
2 - We provide a dedicated insurance policy that enhances your cover, so that you can travel through these dangerous areas.
3 - The great thing with this policy is that you simply need to let us know the dates you will be entering these areas, and you will be covered.
4 - Whilst most policies look the same, the difference is what happens when something does go wrong….most insurers will pay out when the dust has settled and it is clear what the final cost has been, but as a specialist provider we will step in and manage the entire situation as soon as something happens whether it is a hostage situation or some other crisis.
So as you can see we are clearly working through the 4 steps, however there is room to improve this, as this is not the most compelling elevator pitch, but it is a good starting point.
Let’s run another example, to help see the process in action again...but this time let’s tighten this up a little and make it a bit more usable.
The executive search firm
Executive search, or headhunting is a very competitive market place, with large international players, mid-tier agencies and small boutiques, who range from being all-rounders to niche players. As a network of local providers under a single name, there has been a struggle to differentiate against both the large international players or the small local players, as this firm has the benefits and weaknesses of both….this has handicapped their ability to differentiate and market themselves.
So what might their elevator pitch look like?
1 - The key to every company success is having the best team
2 - We specialise helping companies recruit the best people around.
3 - Using an executive search firm ensures you are not just looking at people who desperately sending CV’s, as we find the best people who are focused on delivering.
4 - Whilst many firms are full of professional recruiters…salespeople, we only employ people from the industries we service, ensuring they are fully connected with who is who in their sector.
In this example we are allowing our USP to not only help to establish a more meaningful elevator pitch, but also to define a real world policy/service to differentiate from competitors.
As you can see this simple 4 step process can be a great way to define your elevator pitch and then to hone this into a tighter USP.
Ultimately when defining your USP and elevator pitch, remember the secret is not to compete - make your own space where your competitors do not exist.
With this in mind, we can learn from FMCG companies that it is not only worth using this process to help focus your offering (developing your USP and elevator pitch), but that it can actually be used inform your product/service development, ensuring that you really do have a clear differentiator and a compelling story to tell.
Finn is a founding director of Liquid Light, and he still (after 22 years of web design) likes to get involved in projects. When he is not worrying about the clients, he is studying Chinese medicine, working with young criminals and doing spartan challenges.