“You can either fit in or stand out. Not both.”
– Seth Godin
As your business growth consultant, I need to have (perhaps) the most important discussion about positioning your company for long-term success. We’re talking about your Unique Advantage Point – and why it’s essential for surviving in today’s economy (in addition to positioning you as your ideal client’s obvious choice in your market).
The Unique Advantage Point is what defines who you are AND highlights the most compelling reasons your existing customers rave about you.
For example, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I bring up Nordstrom?
If you’re like most people, it may be the extraordinary service that sets them apart – things like free alterations with purchases, and instead of dealing with a salesperson, you deal with a personal stylist who takes the time to learn about your style, budget, and goals.
In fact, you can book an appointment ahead of time and your stylist will have your dressing room already prepared with options customized specifically for you before you arrive – and just because you’re working with a stylist, there’s no pressure to buy… They are there to serve you and build a long term relationship with you.
Nordstrom takes their customer relationship seriously with another Unique Advantage Point that really sets them apart – their return policy. In addition to free shipping and free returns for online purchases… If you go into the store, their return policy is that they have no return policy.
In other words, their core mission is to build trust with their customers and create a relationship with them for the long-term by standing behind everything they sell. If you go to them with an issue, they’ll find a way to make it right.
Now, I could go on and on and on about all the Unique Advantage Points offered by Nordstrom that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s the reason they can charge premium pricing (even on commodity items like jeans) and the reason their customers (like me) will drive over an hour – driving past many of their competitors – just to do business with them.
Write this down: Not having a strong UAP is the single biggest factor that’s makes businesses stuck.
It’s no secret that competition has gotten fiercer – in addition to more businesses competing for your customers and your customers being faced with more alternatives than ever before.
But more competition isn’t your biggest problem…
It’s what happened around 2010 that forever changed the way we do business…
A consumer paradigm shift that caught most business owners by surprise (and in fact, years later, most of them still haven’t caught on).
It’s a cataclysmic shift that changed everything about the way we do business.
In fact, in August of 2010, an entrepreneur called me in a panic and begged me to help him because everything he’d been doing for the last 20 years stopped working in a matter of months.
He didn’t know if his competitors were sabotaging him, if there was a change in the economy that he wasn’t aware of, if people were talking negatively about him on the Internet, if people just didn’t need his product anymore… He didn’t know what was going on.
The only thing he was sure of was that something changed, but couldn’t figure it out.
The truth is that there was a change – and it wasn’t an economic, political, or anything to do with your competitors.
It had everything to do with the change in the way people do business.
You see, back before 2010, if you were in the market for buying a new television. Chances are, you’d walk into a store, find a salesperson, and discuss all the features, benefits, and options available for your budget. If it made sense, you’d come home with a brand-new TV.
That’s not the case anymore…
Now if you want a TV, you might ask your friends on Facebook for a recommendation, then you’d jump online – perhaps at Amazon.com – and read a bunch of reviews. Then, once you selected the TV you think you might want, you jump all across the Internet looking at different stores to see which one offers you the TV you want for the best value.
And – let’s say you’re one of the few people that do your pre-shopping inside the actual store – your conversation with the salesperson is different.
You see, you already know how much you should pay for the TV and which TVs have already made the short list for you. You’re there to see the TV in person and determine whether or not you’re making a smart decision. The salesperson has very little power to tell you something you don’t already know.
Once you’ve narrowed down the TV of your choice, you might jump on your smartphone and check to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
Seriously, people don’t go into car dealerships looking to be educated on a car anymore – now people know more about the car than the salesperson does, including how much is a fair price.
The selling process and the role of the salesperson have both changed drastically…
And this applies whether you’re selling services (like financial services) or a widget that costs $20.00.
Bob Thacker, former CMO of OfficeMax and Gravitytank Strategic Advisor says:
“Pre-shopping before buying has become a huge, huge part of customer behavior. In the past, it was pretty much confined to big-ticket items like cars, expensive electronics, or homes. Now people engage in discovery before shopping on very small things.
It’s across all categories of shopping behavior. It’s just the way people buy today.”
Write this down: the balance of power has shifted from the companies to the consumer.
Your customers have information, and more often than not, they know more about your business, product/service, and the options available to them than most business owners today.
Look at these stats from Google’s ZMOT report:
- 70% of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase
- 79% of customers now say they use a smartphone to help with shopping
- 83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them
Why are so many consumers actively looking for information before making a purchase?
They’re looking to have 3 questions answered:
- Why should I trust you?
- What makes you better?
- How do I know I’m making a smart decision?
Throughout this program, you’ll discover strategies for answering all these questions. Today we’re focusing on answering the most important question of them all: what makes you better?
The answer to this question comes in the form of your Unique Advantage Point. It’s the unique, differentiating factor that offers an advantage to your consumer and positions you as the obvious choice among your competitors.
Here’s a key point: the more Unique Advantages you have in your business, the stronger your positioning.
Remember the Nordstrom example I gave you earlier? They have many UAPs.
I had a consulting call with a wonderfully talented videographer who wanted to continue growing his business. This guy has an extraordinary product and service, but when I went to his website, this is the message he was giving his prospects:
There’s nothing unique about his messaging. Wouldn’t you agree with me that, if you were looking for a videographer, there are certain things you would expect – such as a beautiful video? What’s compelling about this message?
Yet, this is the type of thing you’ll find most businesses (and most of your competitors) do – and they wonder why they’re stuck.
Take this local printing company who works so hard at trying to be the most obvious choice:
What does that tell me about their printing and why are they better than everyone else? They’re not standing out as different.
Sure, Domino’s Pizza had a great UAP with “Fresh Hot Pizza Delivered to Your Door in 30 Minutes or Less or It’s Free,” but the moment every other pizza store started offering delivery service, Domino’s no longer had a unique advantage.
It wasn’t unique and it was no longer an advantage.
And over the last few years, it’s been a long road for Domino’s – trying to reinvent themselves because they’ve become lost in the sea of Me Too Competitors.
But developing a UAP is not something you just create overnight. It takes time…
It’s something we’re continuously revising and improving upon ourselves.
If you can’t tell me why you’re better than your competition – with everyone saying the same thing (best prices, top quality, superior service, etc.) – you’re giving me only one option to separate you from your competition…
It comes down to one thing: price.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you consistently lose business to competitors who have a lower price, it’s because you don’t have a strong UAP and you’ve commoditized yourself.
A commodity is an undifferentiated good or service with very little loyalty. In fact, without a compelling UAP, your customer will drop you like a ton of bricks if they find someone else who’s a nickel cheaper.
Let’s take a look at what I mean.
The cheapest coffee is the plain coffee beans, virtually undifferentiated beans – a total commodity traded based on price alone. Then, as we take the beans and start to make it more unique in the form of a blend, we start to increase the price – starting with Folgers Brand Coffee.
And as you get more unique by offering different levels of service, price continues to go up. Starbucks has the unique advantage of a premium atmosphere, culture, and service – it’s a comfortable place that attracts many of my colleagues to their local Starbucks simply to work on their businesses.
Again, as the unique advantage becomes stronger, so does price – so you have Kopi Luwak (which includes partially digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian Palm Civet) with retail prices reaching over $700 per kilogram.
Now, the key here is that Kopi Luwak supposedly doesn’t taste any better than any of the coffees mentioned – however, it’s because of the unique way in which the beans are collected (PLUS the advantage of having a story tell your friends about consuming this rare coffee) it’s afforded the ability to charge a premium price.
You can use the same chart to compare the unique advantages of Walmart (which, let’s face it, the only reason anyone does business with Walmart is price) versus Nordstrom (which, as we discussed, has many UAPs, and as a result, gets premium pricing).
Compare it to B2B players like your neighborhood accountant (who may be a general practitioner), versus a company like Ernst & Young – who is more expensive and has divisions that specialize in a whole host of areas (in addition to offering services the general practitioner is unable to offer).
Compare it to airlines – from Southwest, who has a few UAPs, to that of a private jet sharing service, like NetJet who has a completely different set of unique traits. However, the advantage of private jet travel is far superior to the cattle calls offered by Southwest.
We can go on and on and on… And by the end of this article, you’ll know what makes you unique, why it’s an advantage, and how you can better position yourself as an obvious choice – one that distinguishes you enough that your customers would willingly pay a premium price.
I really want to stress the “advantage” part of this discussion because a lot of people have this confused with the popular marketing term USP (Unique Selling Proposition). This isn’t just about being unique – it’s about offering a unique advantage to your prospect.
A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is a unique characteristic that makes your business different from all other competitors. Very powerful.
The Unique Advantage Point™ (UAP) is the distinguishing advantage that makes your company unique, special, and more compelling to your clients.
I couldn’t care less if you’re a printer and your unique advantage is that you use ink produced by squid – UNLESS somehow using squid ink can be perceived as offering me an advantage.
Remember, one of the key tenets of building a solid platform for generating predictable profits is The Growth Factor™, which is the steadfast belief that:
The purpose of your business is to create the greatest advantage or benefit possible to get your customers closer to the ultimate result they are after.
The unique advantage is a subset of The Growth Factor™, and answers the big “reason why” they should be doing business with you instead of doing business with anyone else.
Marketing wizard Jay Abraham says that, until you can establish your unique advantage to your prospects, “You have nothing special to offer anyone.”
^ It’s worth reading that sentence again. ^
By nailing down your Unique Advantage Point, you can create the perception of being “better,” and by being better and different, you stand out… And as I’ll continue to prove to you, a solid UAP is arguably the most important competitive advantage in today’s economy.
For example, here’s what a good UAP can do for you:
Take a look at L.L. Bean’s UAP.
It’s a Unique Advantage that’s propelled the company to success – lasting over 100 years with over a billion dollars in sales.
When you buy from L.L. Bean, it’s “Shipped for Free. Guaranteed to Last™” – so why wouldn’t you buy from them?
You can return any product, at any time… even if it’s 50 years from now… if you’re not 100% satisfied with your purchase.
Talk about bold.
But UAPs have to be bold. They have to be different. They have to stop people in their busy lives and make them take notice.
That’s the exact same response we want your customers to have when they look at your UAP.
Take Zappos… Here’s a company that sells one of the most commoditized items in the world: shoes.
Let’s face it, a Nike is a Nike no matter where you buy it from… If Tony Hsieh came to me in the year 2000 to tell me he was going to start an online shoe company and sell shoes that are often more expensive than local retailers – I would have told him he was crazy.
However, Tony understood what a good UAP can do for a company – and he believed that he could build a successful company offering his customers something that the other companies were lacking: an incredible customer experience.
And by incredible, I’m talking about a “Wow!” experience. You’ve got friendly and helpful salespeople on the phone… you have free 2-day shipping… you have a full year to return your shoes… and if you decided to return them, they’ll even pay for your shipping.
The result, they changed not only much of the way all Internet companies did business, but they also revolutionized the shoe industry – blazing their path to becoming a billion-dollar company.
So… Now that you see the importance – and the power – of a strong UAP, it’s time to solidify your own. In part 2, we’ll look at some of your best options for finding the advantage that aligns with the rest of your company…
And more importantly, go step-by-step through 7 steps to identifying your Unique Advantage Point, including some handy charts that help you narrow things down.
In your corner,