The Quality and Service Trap

How to ensure your USP is unique and relevant

In the minds of consumers, quality and service and even integrity are not differentiators — they’re basic expectations. Consumers feel they have a right to assume your products are of good quality and your service is accommodating and that you'll treat them fairly and honestly. Additionally, most consumers simply aren’t able to judge levels of quality. And the majority of advancements in quality are so minor as to be indiscernible to the average consumer — which makes them irrelevant. Besides, how often do you hear businesses claim they have better quality and superior service? (All the time.) How often do you believe them? (Almost never.) Falling for the obvious "quality and service" differentiator is a TRAP!

Don’t have a strong USP for your product or service to hang its hat on? All is not lost. You may be able to use a preemptive claim. That’s when you make a claim that isn’t actually unique … it’s just not being promoted by the competition. Folger’s used this tactic when they successfully advertised their coffee as being “mountain grown.” All coffee is grown in the mountains, but Folger’s was the first to capitalize on that little-known fact. Similarly, Schlitz became the #2 beer in America during the 1920s by claiming it used pure artesian well water, a “mother yeast,” and steam-purified bottles — things all brewers used. But Schlitz claimed them first. And because these claims were relevant to consumers at the time and unique in the mind of the public, this USP carried the company for decades. Once you’ve identified the most powerful USP for your product or service, it should become the primary message used to sell it. In the words of business guru Tom Peters, “Your product or service is not differentiated until the customer understands the difference.” This requires the most discipline because you must subordinate all the product’s other features to the USP. That can be difficult for marketers who, in their desire to meet sales goals, try to be all things to all people in hopes of attracting everyone. Unfortunately, they only succeed in making their offer weak everywhere instead of strong somewhere. The final step in the process is to continually find fresh ways to express your product’s USP — its “oversimplified message” — by giving consumers new reasons to find this unique position relevant, beneficial, and valuable to them. The result will be increased consumer preference and product profitability.

“If you want to win, you must know what you're selling, find a way to prove that what you're selling is different, and distill this difference into a focused and compelling idea that can drive and unite everything associated with your product." —Allen P. Adamson, BrandSimple

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