USP and Transcending the Competitive Landscape: 3 Fundamental Steps on How to Grow Your Business


Today’s Guest Blogger is Joseph Olewitz, Founder and CEO of 22nd Story Strategies, Inc. Joseph is well known for his mastery of Revenue Growth in Relationship Sales, Marketing & Business Development using best practices in pitches, messaging, and team building. Joseph shares his years of experience winning large professional services deals in the agency and consulting world on his Intentional Growth™ blog. His original post for The Whale Hunters on “Big Deals in Professional Services” can be read here.

Many managers (whether in small, mid-sized or large businesses) who survived the very difficult last few years are working hard to come back strong. You may currently be: restructuring, hiring new talent, revitalizing your marketing plan, becoming more creative with staff resources and how best to maximize them, all while making the best of technology from the Internet to mobile to social media and various data analytics tools.

My advice if you would like to transcend the competitive landscape is to think about Intentional Growth™ and create a plan to establish, highlight, and promote how you are unique as you grow into the future. The critical word here is “grow” and the focus of this post is how your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) will support and fuel that growth.

Here are the basics:

  1. Think about this truth: Every business doesn’t need to grow. The current marketplace presents an opportunity to improve profitability without growth. For example, you could get rid of troublesome or unprofitable customers and products, laser-focus your product or service for efficiency, re-define your ideal target customer, or increase prices.
  2. Understand where you are now and where you want to go. Complete a clear strategy statement that is based on a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and includes measurable short and long-term goals, establishing and promoting your added-value offering. Be clear about why you’re in business. For money? Fun? Your child’s education? To keep busy? What’s your reason? Anything is OK – just be clear and specific.
  1. Establish and promote your USP. Then if you are still convinced you need to grow, focus on re-defining your “remarkable benefit.” The best example I’ve ever found to explain the concept of USP is FedEx whose business was built on the shoulders of their USP: “If it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight.” Think about that statement:
  • As the customer you understand the value offered and can easily make a decision whether to buy
  • As an employee you know exactly what’s expected of you (there’s a frequently told story about a remote FedEx manager who made a unilateral decision to charter a helicopter to complete a promised delivery.)
  • As a manager you have a serious guideline by which to make decisions
  • And all the other services that came afterwards were consistent with their USP (including 2-day, 3-day, early morning, and even the decision to buy Kinko’s).

Keep it simple, and keep moving forward. The best USP won’t help if you don’t back it up with all the other actions that create a successful business. And all businesses should be doing this more regularly – it’s part of annual/quarterly strategic planning.

As an example of developing a successful USP and a plan to launch it, I recently worked with a client whose business was already hugely successful. The challenges they faced, included that adding new clients would present operational challenges so we first re-visited their desires. We discussed: did they want to sell the business and retire? How would they like to grow and why? We conducted a ruthless whiteboard SWOT exercise. We named and analyzed the competition. We reviewed carefully the present and past client successes and failures. We described the ideal target client. We built measurable KPI metrics. Then we spent significant time crafting a USP statement that clearly identified the USP as a value they would bring to anyone that hired them. And last, but by no means least, we created a sales and marketing plan that establishes them as the clear leader in delivering on that USP.

The NY agency Beeby Clark+Meyler has a brand integration case study describing how they articulated a USP for Gas South. As a customer, are you confused about how gas services are priced? Would you more easily buy from someone who cleared it up for you? Their campaign was called the “Clear Price Promise (just another way Gas South helps you get comfortable).” Simple, eh? Sometimes the USP defines clear, simple messaging about an otherwise complicated offer externally focused on the buyers’ needs.

So, what’s your USP? If you’re stuck saying “everyone in my business offers the same services – there’s nothing unique” then you are missing the opportunity to differentiate. Uniqueness is, by definition, rare and coming up with unique features described as benefits can be very difficult. Actually, you already know best what your USP should be – just work at defining it.

I’m not so single minded as to suggest that creating or re-defining your USP statement is a panacea. Of course there are many other things to do to improve your business…but don’t even think about any other steps to increase your sales until you complete steps 1-3 above.

Please share your growth and USP success stories for the benefit of others by commenting on this post.


Please leave a comment.

We'd love to know your thoughts and reactions.

*Your email is only used to notify you of your comment approval and responses. Your email will not be published or used for marketing.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Great post and timely as so many businesses are working overtime to stay relevant and competitive. I personally believe ‘people’ are a business’ USP. For their talent, expertise, ability to teach (interesting idea to help teach/train your client’s staff), and to introduce a fresh dynamic and energy into a client’s business and their teams.

  2. Gr8 post Joseph,

    Really like the concept of USP (Unique Selling Proposition) …sometimes its hard to understand how you take the value you give to dollars in the bank…

    Our passion is relationship building, and the conversion from relationship to USP is in our focus now… so its a gr8 article to learn from..

    Loved the concept of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) ..important.

    Thanks for sharing,

  3. My pleasure Sharel. I looked at your site and given that your product is special in many ways the concept of presenting it as unique in terms of the benefits to the user should be very powerful for you. And it will be well-focused if you start with a SWOT analysis – I’d love to hear how you do with these concepts