If you don’t know why your product is different, neither does your customer.
A great product can’t make up for poor marketing. With more choices than ever, why should a customer choose your product?
It’s Saturday morning, and we are at your farmers’ market.
We walk from booth to booth purchasing a head of lettuce from every vendor.
We walk over to the side of the market, remove all packaging and wrappings, and lay out all of the lettuce on the concrete.
What do we see?
A bunch of heads of lettuce. They all look the same.
The lettuce that you think is special isn’t.
I would be willing to bet that even you couldn’t identify your lettuce in this experiment.
When you sell a commodity (as vegetables are), you have to find a way to make your product stand out.
If all of the product looks the same, how do you differentiate your product?
One way to do that is one price. A slippery slope to go down. Price wars are a race to the bottom, and no one ever wins. Avoid this strategy at all costs.
Another way is to differentiate the product by category. There is organic and conventional lettuce. The customer can’t see the difference, but labeling the product can make a discerning shopper lean towards the product that resonates with their values. Now we have something to build on. We can differentiate based on category because we are organic!
But… what about the other three organic farms at our market? How do we stand apart from them? We are all organic.
If you can create a new category for your product, then you can differentiate your product. A different category from organic might be – no-spray organic. If enough people care about no-spray practice, then you can differentiate based on that.
No-spray might be unique to our farm. It is our USP (unique selling proposition).
Everything you buy has a USP, whether you know it or not. M&M’s “melt in your mouth, not in your hand.” Death Wish Coffee is the “World’s Strongest Coffee.” Genexa is the “First Clean Medicine Company.”
To be successful, you MUST find a USP for your business.
Modern advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves defined USP very precisely, requiring three parts.
- Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Each advertisement must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.”
- The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot or does not offer. It must be unique – either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.
- The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions – pull over new customers to your product.
You must offer a benefit to the customer that is truly unique to your product, and that difference must be significant to the customer.
For example, you might have certified organic lettuce that is grown hydroponically. You might think that the hydroponics angle is your USP, and it might be, but not in the way you might expect. Because the customer might not care at all how you grow your product – in a field or a greenhouse or on a raft system – it’s organic, and it’s lettuce – good enough.
But the customer might be concerned about the cleanliness of the product. Since your product is grown hydroponically, it never gets dirty. Hence your USP might be you have the cleanest organic lettuce at the market.
Maybe you emphasize freshly cut. All of our lettuce was cut yesterday. We have the freshest lettuce at the market.
While that same claim could be valid for your competitors, are they making that claim? If they aren’t, then you can and differentiate yourself based on that USP.
Your goal as a producer selling a product is to find a way to differentiate your product unique compared to your competitors.
The points of differentiation must be actual points of differentiation. Go back to the three parts of the USP. You need to offer a benefit to the customer that is truly unique, and that difference must be significant to the customer.
- Your customer doesn’t necessarily value what you do. Highlight what they care about.
- Avoid industry jargon. If your customer doesn’t understand the term (permaculture, regenerative, no-till), then it isn’t adding any value (except to your ego).
- Avoid generic terms. Healthy, fresh, tasty, sweet. They are opinion-based, and anyone can make those claims. Let’s be honest; your lettuce isn’t more nutritious than the organic farmer across the aisle. Stop trying to tell the customer that it is.
You have to find a difference that is important to the customer.
Look at some of the claims made by large-scale agriculture – freshly picked, vine-ripened, picked at peak ripeness, triple washed.
These aren’t puffery or hollow claims. These are actual factors that differentiate products. If your competitors aren’t using these, then you can. Yes, they can also claim these things, but if they aren’t, the customer doesn’t know any better. You become the owner of that claim in the mind of the customer.
Listerine’s USP is “Kills 99.9% of Germs.” Any mouthwash could make this claim, but they can’t because Listerine already has, and the consumer is tied to that claim.
Let’s go back to the farmers’ market.
A customer comes up to your booth to buy lettuce. “Would you like to try some of our cold shocked lettuce?” “Cold shocked, what’s that?” “Immediately after harvest, we dunk all of our lettuce heads in ice-cold water to preserve freshness and increase shelf life.” Compare that to just saying, “Our lettuce is fresh and lasts a long time in your refrigerator.” You can build around cold shocked for maximum freshness.
Your USP could be a product benefit, part of how the product is produced, or a service you provide.
What problem are you solving for your customers?
Beyond just selling vegetables, you are likely selling something else to your customers. Convenience, food security, a sense of supporting local, a healthier lifestyle, easy meal preparation, or a curated view of local food.
Each of these solves one or several problems for a customer and could be your USP separating you from your competitors in the eye of the customer.
Remember, if you don’t know why your product is different, neither does your customer, giving them no reason to choose you.