When you go into business for yourself, you start with an idea. If you’re lucky, you hit on something totally missing in the marketplace — the kind of idea that other people ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Most of us aren’t so lucky. We have to work to define our unique selling proposition (USP), or the quality that makes your product or service different — and more desirable — than your competitors’.
It’s a tall order. As I’ve heard from one designer, “What if my products really aren’t all that different?”
Well, what if your products aren’t terribly unique? Maybe you sell moustache decals or prints that spin off the Keep Calm and Carry On posters.
How do you set yourself apart?
The answer could be lurking within your approach to doing business.
The easiest way I can explain this is by sharing how I define my USP.
After all, public relations has been around, in one form or another, as long as commerce has existed. How do you make communications new again?
For me, it’s all about purpose. There is one guiding principle to every decision I make:
YOU are the best publicity engine for your business. My job is to unleash your potential.
My products and services are direct manifestations of this purpose.
Outwardly, you might notice a difference in how I structure the Media Blueprint from other PR packages you’ve seen, and that’s great. It’s incredibly rare that a media person would actually give you contact information for reporters. But this alone isn’t my USP.
I also work on a more intensive basis with clients seeking to raise their profile before launches and other milestones. As you might guess, I structure these relationships a bit differently than the norm, too. For instance, I’ll research guest post targets and recommend topics, but I don’t write the content or send the e-mails on behalf of clients. Why? Because my business philosophy guides me to teach clients how to do these things for themselves, so they’re not forever dependent on my services.
If a client wants to keep me on, I’m happy to continue working. But this is typically a consideration based on their bandwidth. It’s a want — a strategic allocation of resources — not a model based upon dependency.
This directly relates back to my last post Deconstructing Business as Usual, where I argue that micro businesses have the flexibility to test new models.
PR agencies have been strategizing for decades how to overcome the industry’s biggest problem: It’s impossible to guarantee results, because you can’t control or buy the endorsements of the media or other influencers. How then do you create happy clients?
The typical solution consists of 1 of 2 strategies:
- Diversify offerings with an emphasis on providing high-level strategic support at the C-level.
- Become well-connected in a clearly defined niche and screen for clients with the best stories.
Where does this leave the bulk of clients, who need help crafting media pitches and pay by the hour in the hopes an agency will come through?
By the way, I’m not sharing something groundbreaking or scandalous here. Every industry has its challenges, and this is a big one for my industry.
I don’t blame the agencies for how they operate. Some create trial divisions to test other models, but it’s much more difficult to do so when you’re accountable to shareholders and look at the faces of anywhere from dozens to hundreds of employees in their offices.
I don’t have that problem. I can afford to put purpose before profit.
I’ve rejected business as usual.
That is my USP. In long form :)
This is my challenge to you: If you’re having difficulty carving out your unique position in the marketplace, turn your gaze inward.
What are the conventions of your industry?
How are you breaking them? If you aren’t, can you start in some small way?
How do your customers benefit from your unique model?