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With a few exceptions, all businesses have competition. Whereas twenty years ago companies relied on unique, catchy slogans and visuals to stand out from the crowd, these promotional messages are now so overwhelming to consumers that they have become desensitized to them.

In today’s environment it is critical for consumers and B2B companies to identify their Unique Selling Point, or USP. This is a unique benefit not available from competitors that fulfills a target audience’s need, creating a competitive advantage that will motivate consumers to choose you over alternatives.

In addition to identifying your USP, a competitive audit will allow you to compare pricing strategies, improve your marketing process and identify unaddressed market gaps.

Identifying & Researching Competitors

Competitors may be local or global, direct, or indirect, virtual or brick-and-mortar, depending on your products and services. It is important to research and identify your target audience’s alternatives to ensure your competitive audit produces an authentic USP.

Research necessary to identify competitors will vary based on your products and services but may include:

  • Internet keyword searches
  • Conversations with members of your target audience,
  • Store or facility visits

Example:

Julia Fernandez has realized her dream of opening a shop, Casa de Luna, that showcases fine crafts from her native Mexico. She is an expert in this area, with an Art History degree from the University de las Americas Puebla and close ties with some of the most respected crafts people in culture-rich regions of the country.

Her target audience is affluent collectors looking for well-made, one-of-a-kind works. As a first step in developing her USP she has identified the following competitors:

  • Mexico by Hand – online Mexican crafts store
  • Clasico Folk Art – brick-and-mortar Mexican craft shop located 10 miles from Casa de Luna

Julia takes the following steps to conduct a competitive audit to help her determine her USP vs. these competitors:

  • In-depth assessment of each website.
  • Online background research on proprietors and featured artists.
  • Study of online reviews including Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Bing and the website itself.
  • Conversations with friends and associates regarding their knowledge and perceptions of these stores.
  • In-person visit to Clasico Folk Art.

How Do You Compare

Because decision-making factors can vary significantly across businesses it is important to make sure that you have established a clear goal for the competitive audit and identify comparative attributes that matter to your target audience. Criteria examples are location(s), business size, hours of operation, price range, special services, and companies’ claims.

Example:

Julia Fernandez is using a competitive audit to help create a USP for her new shop. Her target audience – educated, affluent and status-conscious people living in and around her city – will pay a premium for lovely, one-of-a-kind statement pieces with an interesting backstory. They expect a personalized shopping experience in an upscale environment.

Based on this information, Julia identifies the following attributes as the basis of her audit:

  • Store location(s)
  • Hour of operation
  • Price range
  • Store claims
  • Store presentation
  • Description of products
  • Owner & staff background
  • Artisan/artwork overview

Here is a summary of her findings:

Casa de Luna Competitive Audit

Ivory and Green Modern Neutral Problem and Solution Table Graph (22 × 8 in) (8 × 16 in)

In reviewing the audit Julia determined that Casa de Luna offers three unique services, or USPs:

  • Exquisite works by noted artists with deep roots in traditional techniques.
  • A serene and curated shopping experience.
  • Expert advisors to be sure there is a fit between the buyer and selected works.

Next Steps

A Unique Selling Point defines the services that will engage your target audience and motivate them to choose you over competitors. It is the foundation of your selling messages, branding and promotional activities.

A competitive audit is a useful tool to identify your business’s USP. If you are having difficulty identifying your USP take an honest look at your business plan to determine if adjustments are needed to create differentiation.

In Brand Building 103 we will discuss how to create a compelling value proposition and selling messages that will engage your target audience.

Stay tuned!