What makes your product or service unique?

By Laura Dauphine
You’ve got a small business and in these competitive times, you’re wondering where you are in relation to your competitors? What is your unique selling proposition or USP? What makes your service or product unique?

Why not create a competitor grid that can show you how you how consumers perceive you and how you stack up against the competition? A grid will point out where your actual area of expertise is; what ingredients are important in the market and where you can grow.

The first step is to estimate your place in your market and figure out how you can increase your profit by:

1) Adding value to your existing products or new launches
2) Focusing further on a smaller audience or your niche market with bigger wallets

As an example, we’ll use a fictitious business called Organize It!

To begin, draw a simple “L” shaped grid.

Next, write in the two top qualities that you think your product or service is judged on, by consumers. Using the Organize It! example, people who have clutter (and who doesn’t?) may have anxiety about starting the whole process so the services they’d be more likely to purchase are readily available and clear about what they do. So we’ll write those two qualities in.

Because the grid measures qualities from low to high, estimate where your own business is on this scale. For example, you know Organize It! is perceived to be medium on the available scale and very clear on the bottom scale of clearly defined service.

Now examine your top performers in the marketplace. What makes them different? What image do they portray in their advertising? Packaging? Copy? Web presence? Signage? marketing?

Do they use comfortable, friendly language and images or do they use formal language and rich imagery? Despite their marketing, how do customers perceive them? Place their “X”s on the grid accordingly.

In this example, Organize It!’s two top competitors are Clutter Not and Life Clear. Clutter Not is available in all stores across their market area, but has a package that customers put together themselves—so their X is placed high on accessibility and very low on the clearly defined scope—because it’s not clear how their do-it-yourself kit helps customers organize.

Life Clear has been at several consumer shows with friendly worded flyers about their judgment free, simple approach to de-clutter your life and offers free, in-home estimates. Because of their transparency and customer goodwill, they score high on the clearly defined scope, but they’re new to market, so their distribution is still limited, and their accessibility X is low.

In this example, Organize It! has competitive distribution, but they can improve in perceived ease of use by consumers. They can add perceived customer value and boost their competitive ranking through two main ways—building awareness about what they’re already doing or adding something to their product or service.

Now you can see a competitor grid that shows where your product is in consumer’s minds as compared to your competition. If you’re realistic in your analysis, it’s a quick, easy way to consider the image of you and your competitors and where you can add value to reach more customers.

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