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Last updated on 2/6/20

Identify your USP

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What exactly are you going to make, do or offer now you're a freelancer? In the product/services part of your business plan, you'll need to outline exactly what products and/or services you plan to provide. This will involve:

  1. Identifying your unique selling point (USP)

  2. Saying what your product/service is

Let’s look at these in a little more detail.

1. Identify your USP

‘There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.’ Author, Mark Twain

Realistically, a never-been-done-before business idea is a rare find. It’s more sensible to acknowledge that you’ll be competing with hundreds of other self-employed designers, nail technicians, taxi services or writers selling similar products or services. This is why identifying your USP is such an important part of your business plan.

Your USP is not just the thing that makes you unique, but how your product or service will add value to your market.

This is a good example of the first suggestion to help you pin down your USP.

Tips to help you find your USP

a) Solve a problem
Tom's logo
TOMS is an appealing company because it helps solve a problem.

For every pair of shoes you buy, Tom’s Shoes will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. This is a great example of a company with a USP that demonstrates how they ensure children from poor backgrounds have access to shoes. But Tom’s Shoes USP works on two levels because it’s also a good example of the next way to find your USP.

b) Demonstrate what you stand for
Innocent logo
Innocent is appealing because of what the company stands for.

Innocent’s is simple: 'Tastes good, Does good' sums up its belief in producing natural, healthy products. The repetition of the word ‘good’ also makes it memorable.

c) Offer a guarantee
Domino's pizza logo
Domino's is appealing because the company offers a guarantee.

Domino’s Pizza recognized the importance of time when it launched its home-delivery pizza service. Its 30 minute-or-free guarantee became a difficult USP to compete with.

d) Turn a business ‘threat’ into a USP
Avis logo
Avis turned a threat into a selling point.

I’m guessing one of the things under ‘threats’ in Avis’ SWOT analysis, would have been Hertz, which was at the time the number one car rental company in the market. Avis cleverly used this threat to their advantage in identifying its USP. How can anyone argue that the number two in the market would try harder to win customers?

e) Be memorable
Ted logo
TED's USP is memorable.

Recognised the world over for sharing cutting-edge lectures from the most intelligent thinkers of our time, TED’s simple, three-word USP both perfectly sums up what they do and in a memorable way.

'Virgin focused on what we knew best—entertainment. We positioned Virgin Atlantic as a well-priced product that would make flying fun again via perks like onboard bars, massages, power plugs at every seat.' Richard Branson

For more prompts to help you identify your USP, read Marketing Consultant Denise Strohasi’s article on 8 other ways to find your USP.

2. Say what your product/service is

In the last chapter, we identified the three questions that can help you write your mission statement: What do you do? How do you do it? Who benefits?

As we’ve already seen, questions are great for helping you find the solutions to things. We’ll add another one to help you summarise what your product/service is:

Who are you?

Copywriter Joanne Wiebe offers a great answer to this that can sum up your product or service in one line. That answer begins with one of these three phrases:

My product is the one that…

My service is the one that…

My solution is the one that…

Choose the sentence that best suits your business, fill in the gap, and you’ll have a clear and succinct explanation of your product or service as a starting point.

Now you’ve established what you’re offering, you’ll need to expand on it. To do this you’ll need to give more detail on the following areas:

  • Say how you intend to sell. Is your product/service already available? What’s your timeline in terms of bringing it to market? Will you sell through an online or a physical shop? How will a customer book your services?

  • Say how much you’ll charge. Explain your pricing structure and justify it. How much do customers typically pay for the same product/service?

  • Information on your industry or sector. What are its key features or success stories?

  • Anticipate any problems. What obstacles might you come up against (this might be to do with price, competition or access to the market for example) How do would you solve them?  

  • How you plan to develop your product/service. What plans do you have for the future?

In the next chapter, we’ll look at ways to market your product or service to help you complete the Marketing Strategy section of your business plan.

Let's recap!

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