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How To Stand Out From The Crowd

Leo Aspden asks if USP is dead and differentiation buried?

HAVING browsed through advertisements in a number of respected trade magazines recently, I was intrigued as to how few actually carried a message to differentiate their products from the crowd.
Many would suggest that when it comes to B2B, business buyers are less influenced by messages on brand positioning, and when selecting products, the DMU (decision making unit) is driven by rational reasons rather than emotional factors.
A rational approach – Unique Selling Proposition (USP):
Given the above it is not surprising to find many advertisers choosing to focus marketing messages on a number of similar rational key purchasing drivers.
When a rational approach is taken the emphasis is on functional features of the product and the benefits this provides to the customer/user. Among these will typically be:
Product quality: Areas such as reliability, innovation, performance and compliance.
Customer service: Our people, knowledge and advice, technical support, maintenance, warranty and back up.
Delivery: Availability, stock levels, distribution and lead times.
Price: although a key factor for many – not the only and often not the main one.
The emotional approach – Emotional Selling Points (ESP):
When a company’s proposition is based on emotion then this type of approach leads to creation of brand values which helps to build brand awareness, desire and aspirations.
Here emotional buying triggers may be identified within your target audience and used to strengthen and differentiate the value of your brand or product in the mind of the buyer.
Emotion need not be only confined to consumer purchases but are a key part of business transactions too. Rather than simple factual product features and benefits these can be extended to include examples such as:
Time saving: May be installed faster, completion project sooner, leading to less cost;
Money saving: May require less tools, expertise, heavy equipment or manpower;
Status / Prestige offering: Suggesting that your product is used by the best, those in the know, inferring other products may be used by the uninformed or ‘cowboy operators’;
Power / Improved performance: More efficient, more productive, increased usage, achieve more with less;
Risk / Security: Easier and safer for users or installers, safer on site, H&S benefits, avoid failures;
Here are a few examples of key headline advertising messages suggesting some strong emotive brand propositions:
1. Boards everywhere? Or one board for everywhere?;
2. It’s your lead time, not ours;
3. Why accept anything less!; and
4. Don’t leave yourself open to liability.
Differentiation is king, long live differentiation: The whole concept of USP is exactly that of differentiation! What is your unique selling proposition? Emphasis here is on the word ‘unique’.
When your competitors would equally claim they have products which offer quality in the way of reliability, performance and fit for purpose then the message can easily become lost in a mire of ‘me too’ claims and in some cases provide nothing more than what customers expect ie, compliance with standards, or for example a floorcovering targeted at leisure wet areas to provide excellent slip resistance.
To be slightly better than alternatives is not really unique!
Creating your own competitive advantage or uniqueness is what makes you different from the rest.
Differentiation is a key foundation in your marketing strategy and is just as relevant in the contract flooring sector as it is for consumer goods.
Managed well it even allows you to charge a premium leading to increased profit margins, business growth and reducing the threat of product substitution.
Whether you choose to focus on rational or emotional factors it is essential that you think hard and long about what makes your product different, offering unique benefits and values that are aligned with the needs of your target market.
Leo Aspden is a chartered marketer, high growth business coach and former North West Ambassador for SMEs for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
T: 0161 969 4515 M: 07709 227497

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at