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How’s Your USP?

October 29, 2009

With the recent news that Amazon is getting out of the wine sales business (which they weren’t really in yet), just imagine the hurdles you might have to overcome to sell your wares: Amazon seemingly shut down their wine sales arm due to the nearly impossible hurdles of navigating the three-tier system of alcohol distribution nationwide. So now just imagine: You’ve got a product. You’d like to sell it to everyone – okay, let’s assume everyone of legal age to continue the parallel comparison. But as you dig in on your due diligence you discover that a myriad of state and local laws make it nearly impossible to sell your products to the folks who want it. What could be worse?

It’s like standing at the edge of a vast desert with truckloads of bottled water and not being allowed to pass by the water police – even though you can see thousands in the desert crawling towards you for a drink. Not pretty.

Amazon hadn’t even gotten to the nuances of putting across their message – their unique selling proposition. For Amazon, it would have been the ease at which consumers could have purchased product likely often unavailable to them through other channels (i.e. distributors, liquor stores, etc.). That’s a unique niche. (Their truckloads of water had a unique transportation system to quickly reach each of the thirsty desert dwellers nearly instantly.)

Let’s suppose Amazon wasn’t the only water supplier held back at the edge of the desert. Suppose their competition was also awaiting release by the water police to go out into the desert? Would the thirsty travelers have turned to them as well? Depends upon whether or not they recognized the others as having what they wanted. Maybe the competitions’ trucks moved too slowly or were too small. Or maybe it wasn’t remotely clear that they even offered water from way far away, so the thirsty throngs turned towards what they knew: the recognizable Amazon logo with the arrow swoosh below.

So even if the other water suppliers had the goods to offer the thirsty masses, their target market – thirsty desert travelers – didn’t even know they could buy the water from the other guys. This is the problem of marketing: getting the USP across. Even if you’ve got the only license to send the water across the desert, the thirsty masses may not turn towards you if they don’t realize you’ve got the product they want. So if your truck isn’t marked “water” or it’s painted desert brown instead of watery blue, you haven’t done a good job of conveying your USP. They think you want to sell them sand! Oops!

How’s your USP? Are you sure your unique selling proposition is getting across properly to your target market? Or has there been a misunderstanding? If you’re marketing isn’t working the way it used to, maybe your USP isn’t getting across.

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