How unique is your USP?
Jul 27 2012, 11:37 | By Entrepreneur
Successful entrepreneurs and mentors always advise you to identify a gap in the market and then design a product that fills that gap and addresses that felt need best in order to be successful. If you identify a need which is genuine with few products in the market which address it effectively, chances are you will succeed if the rest of your plan - a good team, execution and sales and marketing - are in place.
There's another important aspect, though: the need to have a unique selling proposition, or what we call a USP for your product. The greater your product's USP, the better its chances of succeeding in a cluttered and competitive marketplace. Some of the biggest successes in recent times have come up with compelling USPs and products which effectively convey that to the customer, be it Google, Apple or Facebook. Every day, these companies ensure that their strategies and the way they communicate with their customers drill home that USP so that in the minds of the consumers those propositions become inseparable from the brand itself.
Closer home, I like to give the example of a recent success - IndiGo Airlines. In whatever IndiGo does, it seeks to convey the USP of being one airline obsessed with getting you from your origin to your destination on time, every time. So whether it is the ticketing, the baggage handling or even the announcement inside the aircraft urging you to hand over your trash to the crew, the aim is to ensure that its USP of being the most punctual airline is maintained.
But the market, like life itself, is dynamic, never static. So, chances are what's unique today may cease to be so tomorrow, as the USP becomes something competitors cotton on to and replicate. Generating a USP and maintaining it is fine, but is it enough? Entrepreneurs must ponder on that, if they have to remain ahead in a competitive marketplace.
Consider what happened to Kodak, once a pioneer in the photography market. Despite its USP and a huge and powerful brand, Kodak failed to read the writing on the wall and stay ahead despite attempting to keep pace with changing preferences and creating digital camera technology. The one big reason Kodak failed was because it did not read emerging consumer preferences and failed to keep innovating, despite an initial USP.
Sometimes, as experts argue, companies must be ready to even dent their own products in a bid to come out with that one big innovation which can change the game forever. The iPod and the iPad are good examples of such products. However, a fast-changing market will demand constant innovation and successful organisations can never bank solely on their products' USP to do the job.
The truly innovative and ambitious entrepreneur will never shy away from realising this fact: that he has to constantly be on the job coming up with better products and do that quicker than competition. Facebook, for example, is not the only social networking site around, but its constant innovations and its engagement with its audience ensures that customers are, largely, satisfied. I am, of course, not going into the larger issue of whether Facebook's valuations are justified or whether it can continue its robust run. That's the topic of another entire blog!
But even someone like the iconic and aggressive Mark Zuckerberg admits his biggest challenge now lies ahead of him: he has to now make Facebook the preferred social networking option on mobile devices since the experience of the site on personal computers and on mobiles will be drastically different. Zuckerberg knows that will be his biggest test, since consumer preferences are fast moving to mobile devices, away from just PCs.
Coming back to my original point, your USP, to put it bluntly, will always come with a sell-by date. Truly successful and sharp entrepreneurs will ensure their ventures come up with constant innovations and improvements so that their products are dynamic. They should even be ready to hit their own existing products hard if the alternative is that one cutting-edge product which can deliver much greater value to the consumer. IndiGo's on-time every time USP works well now, but as an innovative airline, it knows it will have to deliver continuous value - other than just punctuality - to remain at the top of the pecking order. Nothing prevents another airline from coming up with the punctuality proposition, just as nothing prevents another social networking site from coming up with a great user experience. Smart companies therefore need to remain smart, always, and be ahead of the curve. It's a bit like running on a treadmill: just running will still keep you in the same place. To move ahead, you need to innovate, be disruptive.
Your USP is unique only for now.
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Jun 19 2013, 22:20
Jun 19 2013, 14:38