A guest post by Andrianes Pinantoan
USP is short for unique selling proposition.
A USP is what makes you unique in the marketplace. It’s a strategic consideration I think every artist needs to get right. Why?
Because the success of every tactic you’re going to implement to sell your art, be it SEO, TV advertising, social media or even good ol’ face to face pitch, will depend on how good your USP is.
Here’s an example: Walmart, as you may already know, is known for their low prices. Every piece of communication that comes out of their marketing department stresses that USP. So if you’re looking to buy something for cheap, guess who you’ll go to?
Of course, that’s not to say that being “the cheapest of them all” is a good USP – that kind of positioning is difficult to maintain and you need to move an enormous amount of products to hit your profit goal.
Most artists I know of, instead, try to serve everyone and anyone who will have them. What that does is dilute not only your brand, but also your focus. For example, when you could have been engineering a marketing campaign to reach your desired market, you’re busy doing customer service with current clients.
How important is that kind of focus? Check out this study.
What Makes Someone Successful?
In 2009, two researchers, Timothy Judge and Charlice Hurst, published a 2 decade long study looking at factors of what makes a person successful. They looked at pretty much everything: family income, neighbourhood, parent’s education, the kid’s school grades, etc.
What they found corresponds with other studies of its kind. Well-to-do families with educated parents produce children who are more likely to succeed when they graduate. And those who graduate near or at the top of their classes are more likely to be better compensated.
But there’s a small subset of people who seem to defy the odds. These people are the typical American entrepreneur story: they came from nowhere, had nothing, but went on to change the world.
What Judge and Hurst found is that these people have one thing in common: the belief that their decisions shape their future – that belief in turn, allows them to make decisive decisions.
The Importance of Decisive Decisions
Now you may wonder why I told you of that study. Well, here it is: when you decide on a USP, you’re going to have to cut out certain segments of the market that you may be perfectly capable of serving.
The people Judge and Hurst found are really good at this. Because they make decisive decisions, they are able to quit pursuing other tempting, viable opportunities – an ability arguably just as important as being able to choose the right segment to pursue.
For example, Bill Gates dropped out of college to build Microsoft and Steve Jobs to build Apple. So did Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. I’m sure you can think of a few more stories similar in nature.
It’s uncanny how all of them didn’t take the more “sensible” road of doing it part-time – an option most of us would have taken due to our inability to make decisive decisions.
It’s almost as if they subconsciously realize the amount of focus it would take to take a fledgling operation to the behemoth they are now.
Crafting a USP That Sells
The effectiveness of a USP, therefore, is only as good as the amount of focus you put into it.
Now the question is what should you focus on? If you have ever attended a marketing lecture in a university, they’d tell you there are only 3 ways: compete on price, quality and value. Not very useful, is it?
So I read half a dozen books on the subject and here are 5 ideas I derived:
Culture is a word I like to use to refer to a business’ story. If you’re an artist with a small business, make sure you use your story to your advantage. Why did you start this business? How did you go about it? What obstacles did you have to conquer?
Storytelling is one of the best ways to sell. Check out this great example from Dodocase.
As an artist, people don’t buy your products. They buy YOU. (For large corporations, people buy their brands.)
So don’t be shy. Record a video, do a podcast, and write with personality. And most definitely show a portrait of yourself on your website and any social media presence. If you try to hide behind a brand, you’ll end up competing with businesses that literally have 100x your marketing budget.
After all, what can be more unique than you are?
If the media is your main source of business tips, you’d think that the public only cares about price. But nothing can be more wrong. Not even in this economy. If anything, we demand better customer service – and most of us are willing to pay for it.
Take Zappos, for example. You can find the shoes they sell in a few clicks of the mouse, but people continue to buy from them, despite the higher price, due to their reputation for great customer service.
If you’re going down this route, I suggest you read Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness. Remember, customer service is an investment: it’s going to cost you when you get started.
4.Changing the game
Do you remember M&M’s old tagline that goes, “Melts in your mouth, not your hand?” Isn’t it strange that a chocolate company didn’t advertise how awesome the chocolates they are selling tastes?
Because they know it’s a losing game. So they changed the criteria in which people buy chocolates. Suddenly it’s no longer just about how awesome a chocolate tastes, it’s also about whether or not it melts in your hands. And M&M won.
As an artist, you can draw attention to the materials you use (does your handcrafted bag last longer?), or your process (do you mix violin with jazz?) or even your guarantee (do stand by your product for life?)
What can you think of that can change the game?
5.Pick up a cause
This will not only set you apart from the crowd, it also has the potential to boost your sales if done right. Leverage what your customers are passionate about.
For example, if your primary customers are new mothers, supporting a cause to end child abuse, reduce infant or maternal mortality rate, is almost a guaranteed way for you to rally them to your side.
Of course, there are multiple ways for you to “support” this cause. Some companies simply “donate” a portion of their proceeds, which is a bad idea because know that money is coming right out of their pockets. They will assume you’ve increased your price just for the donations – whether that’s true or not is irrelevant.
A better way to do it is to volunteer your and your employee’s time in a local charitable organization. Document the experience and create a marketing campaign out of it. The more you’re involved, the more you’ll get out of it.
Which is why it matters how passionate you are with the cause you want to pick up. Don’t do it simply for a marketing campaign. People can tell. It’s like a bank trying to convince you they care about home ownership.
One last tip: if you run a local business, ally yourself with a local charitable organization. You won’t believe how effective this is as a USP.
So there, 5 ways to stand out of the crowd. Do you have any other ideas I missed out?
Photocredit : Watercolour Girl image by Lorra Elena