Be different: put brand & USPs at the centre of everything you do online

If you always start with the same foundations you’re never going to build something that’s much bigger than you have before. Something we should all be conscious of in marketing is that if we try to copy what our competitors have already done, we risk failing to realize the potential of our ambitions.

As marketers we often talk about USPs, we think about how to differentiate the businesses we work with and how those businesses play differently with the different target audiences. But this overlooks one fact of life, all of our lives we’ve been trained to try to conform to the norm. Look around you, even the most eccentric person you know will still live a life that’s relatively similar to your own, many of their aspirations will be just like yours – when it comes to businesses this can be even more pronounced.

Look back to your adolescence, if it was anything like mine it was a tortuous time where I did everything I could to fit in, perhaps not with the in crowd all the time, but certainly with my immediate peer group. My group of friends and I would wear similar clothes, listen to similar music (rebel music, listened to by a group of friends so they had something in common perhaps?).

As we grow up we begin to realize that we don’t really need to fit in, that we’re individuals and although we enjoy being individual in many ways we continue to conform in the main ways we interact with the world, we buy cars, houses, get jobs, settle down and have children etc If we didn’t society would quickly fall down.

If we want to be different we have to work at being different, we have to form ourselves into a different kind of person. Likewise for a business to be truly different it has to work at it, it ha to create those differentiating factors and perhaps the biggest challenge is to create differentiating factors that are relevant to your business’ audiences and which will create a better understanding and add value to the brand equity.

It sounds like the easiest thing in the world to create a USP that creates value to your customers but the thing is and this is where many businesses go wrong, they focus on a USP that isn’t really a USP. A USP has to be truly unique to that business it has to be something that another company can’t copy (they may imitate it), and it has to be something you believe will remain a USP for a long time stretching into the future.

Once you’ve come up with your magic USP, the first question you need to ask is “How long will it take before our competitors copy our USP?” Even if your USP is so much better than all of your competition put together you still have to recognize that there will always be room for a good second player in a market and they will continually and slowly erode the advantage of your USP, pivot and adapt.

The other thing to remember is if your competitors can’t create something that’s better than what you’ve got it’s likely they will be able to buy a company that can.

So we’ve come to terms with needing to be different and that different has to count for something tangible, it’s not just a set of core beliefs it’s something we need to live and breathe and it needs to be something another business can’t easily replicate, but can you really create that kind of change within the business? If at each level of the business every person understands and believes the USP it’s possible to position the business in a different place than all your competitors. This is often a cultural thing and every touch point the outside world has to the business needs to reaffirm the brand, from the humble 404 page to the customer service team, to your sales guy chatting to a friend in the pub, to a member of the marketing team writing content.

Of course search results these days are likely to be dominated by local results, however that doesn’t mean you can’t stand out – get your USP in the title tag and Meta description – this will make you stand out from the crowd in the SERPs. If you’ve got a good USP that your potential customers relate to you should start to see a decent CTR which will reinforce and positive impact your rankings?

Take a look at the pages that are delivering organic traffic and review their Meta titles and descriptions and start thinking about how they appear in the SERPs and how they are different from your competitors, then start to think about how you can add some of your USP magic in there.

It’s not just in search – it needs to be there in every channel, the voice and message needs to be strong and consistent.

Be sure to appeal to the emotions as well in your USP, this is what makes an ordinarily sensible person choose one brand over another despite what they get in the box – your USP is a firm part of the brand you’re creating but it’s not everything, what can you do to make your potential customers and customers want to love you?

For far too long the online marketing world has seen itself as being somehow different and apart from the world of everyday marketing activities however those who will win in the future are those that understand that there should be no differentiation that brand should be at the heart of all marketing activity, whether we’re talking about creating content for a content marketing campaign, firing out automated emails, blasting out PR and the emails that go with, even down to the limited word counts of Adwords Advariations and less customer focused text associated with link building.

Next time you do your keyword research, the next time you think about what your competitors are doing, ask how your USP enables you to do it differently – because focusing on and copying your competitors will only allow you to at best cling to their coat tails or more likely be frustrated about the hows and whys of their success over your own.

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