Found your USP? Now find your TLC

Time and again I read the same tired advice about USPs. “Find your Unique Selling Point and your troubles are over, your business will grow, you’re on your way to world domination.”

Easy, except it isn’t because in food you almost certainly won’t find a new USP. Chances are that at best what you’ll find is a common selling point, with a novel twist.

However, thankfully there are two reasons why you don’t need to concern yourself about your USP:

First and most obviously, because most people don’t want something unique most of the time, they just want that novel twist, and,

second and most importantly, because the world moved on from USPs way back.

How The World Moved On

USPs have been part of the mantra of sales training since the 1940’s and are lame business advice trotted out by sales trainers and business gurus who haven’t understood how during the same period branding, originally an ancient intuitive art, became scientific and omnipotent.  Branding came about mainly through the work of extremely far-sighted and talented graphic designers whose brilliance still remains widely misunderstood and unappreciated, perhaps because non-designers find it hard to perceive how much effort great design takes.

Branding seeks to differentiate by attaching a calculated set of emotional core values to a name, behavior manual, logo and visual style.  Branded organizations and products convey consistent messages and create value added desire even when there’s often no added value (although they work best where there is). Whole categories of goods with little or no intrinsic merit are built on nothing but branding: energy drinks and bottled mineral water are examples, so are expensive running shoes that aren’t used for running. These items have no USPs, they have common selling points with emotions attached. I’m not going to name names but I am sure you can think of many more.

Are Your Labels on The Outside?

Branding can be used for good or bad objectives but either way it is a highly manipulative tool. It’s mainly used to add shareholder value to common products.  We see that some brand names are worth squillions yet many branded products are unhealthy or consume unsustainable resources and exist only to appeal to our fragile personal vanities.

As a result, many people are starting to see through brands and there are early signs that branding is losing trust. A counter-branding, no-logo, culture has begun to emerge.

I predict that people from the future will look back at our times and wonder why we all wore the labels of our clothes on the outside instead of the inside. They won’t get taken in as easily as us, they’ll look for more than shallow branding.

What’s next?

So if people don’t want USPs and they can see through brands what do they want?

That’s easy: they want sincere, generous and personal products and services, made just for them.

Dale Carnegie pointed the way back at the beginning of the last century.  In 1936 Carnegie wrote a famous book called How To Win Friends and Influence People, it’s still in print today and now we’re becoming social it’s more relevant than ever.  It’s a long book full of many examples but two of its points are:

Never talk about yourself, talk about the other person, because people only like to talk about themselves, and,

everybody likes to feel important.

You can test this for yourself next time you meet someone new. Simply ask them a few questions, listen and see what happens.

The Speed of Light

The internet has given all of us a means to talk to one another person to person.  So businesses can now communicate with every individual customer socially one on one.  Much more importantly, according to Dale Carnegie, individual business people can listen to their customers and in doing so make them feel important. 

So you (not your PR consultant) can find out what interests to each of your customers and you can engage with them sincerely and personally.  Your customers can share their insights with you and their friends and you can get accurate, honest feedback all for next to no cost except a little time. In other words, you can build genuine sincere engagement with your customers. At the speed of light. How much is this worth to your business?

Not much success will come from special offers, display ads or other trite mass-appeal techniques from the past. These old-school advertising methods come from the days when big companies made average products for average people and pushed them by interrupting huge television audiences, who had far fewer channels to watch, with mass advertising. People are resistant to these old, crude and insincere sales methods. They do not sit well in modern social communications because they are accurately viewed with skepticism.

Such techniques have simply become obnoxious old-fashioned mass advertising clutter in your modern customer’s feeds and inboxes, just like all the obnoxious clutter in yours that you ignore too.

Be social

Social media is about being social so I recommend you don’t do or say anything on line that you wouldn’t during any other sort of social gathering. Jamming up other people’s minds with selfish demands for attention is always a turn off and what you post on line stays there, forever as far as we can predict.

Instead go ahead make people feel important by asking questions and listening to their answers. Give away tip and recipes and engage with them personally using any other sincere and generous methods you can think of. You can do this in your restaurant and cafe too, without the internet, in person, face to face.

Imagine how powerful it would be for the CEO of McDonald's to start communicating, naturally and generously with his customers. Maybe that can never happen, but managers can be empowered and it can most certainly happen in your business, today.

Showing your customers some TLC might not make you unique but it will make you loved.

And if you want my help to find some TLC with a novel twist I’d love to hear from you.