At my Investing in Africa Virtual Summit last month, one of my guest speakers talked about having a unique selling point for your business. Those people who follow my blog regularly may remember seeing a post or two from schools.co.uk as I am subscribed to their newsletter. Well, only the other day, they talked about unique selling points and I thought it would go hand in hand with what the speaker at my summit talked about.

If you didn’t have a chance to listen live to the summit, you can do so now by clicking here.

Here’s what schools.co.uk had to say on the subject…

Why some Unique Selling Points don’t work, and what you can do about it without it costing a penny.

A little while ago a customer of mine told me that his product’s USP was that it could be tried out for a month, free of charge, before the school needed to decide to buy.

I said that was really good, and we needed to make something of that in the advert, but that this wasn’t a USP.

He said, “What’s wrong with it.  It’s a terrific offer.”

I said, “Yes it is a terrific offer, but it’s not unique. Lots of companies make offers like this.”

He said, “Well I never said it was unique.”

And so we found out where we were misunderstanding each other.  He saw the USP as a lead point in an advert.  I saw it somewhat more literally as the unique selling point – the thing that your sales offer has which no one else has.

A USP in its full and proper meaning (i.e. including the proper use of the word “unique”) is a really good thing to have, if you have got one.  For example, I think Schools.co.uk has two USPs…

One is that in addition to having all the email and postal addresses of schools, and all the data about schools, we also have a small and highly experienced team of people who specialise in writing adverts aimed at teachers.

The other is that we have over the years produced a wide range of products and services that we sell to schools.  This allows us to experiment with our advertising to schools, at our own expense, and so refine the advice we give: when asked.

Put another way, if I come up with a wholly whacky idea of how to write an advert I have a chance of trying it out first on our own products and services.  If the advert fails (and I’ve never hidden the fact that some of my ideas don’t work) then I quietly put it in the “Failed” file and try again. If it works it goes in the “I’m a genius” file.

Then, every now and then I look through each of the two files and try to work out exactly why advert A worked and advert Z failed.  Then I boast a lot about advert A and never tell anyone about advert Z.

This approach of building up “laws” which help one understand what works and what does not in selling to teachers is very handy as a guideline onto which I can add such elements of novelty that I find, to make the advert stand out even more.

Then, if I have been given a USP I can add that in as well.

And this really is my point: for most of us most of the time, we either don’t have a USP which is truly unique, or we have a USP which is helpful, but is not enough on its own to pull in the sales at the level we want.

So, how does one write a perfect advert?

Start with the USP if you have one.  If you don’t have something that is unique, move your thinking to the big benefit that the product brings to the teacher.  That’s my message: “Forget features, and just focus on the benefit”.

Such a benefit might be that the product or service raises grades, or improves discipline and behaviour across the school, or helps a child learn to read quickly despite dyslexia or… well, anything that is a benefit not a feature.

As for the features, the general rule is put those on a page on your website that is just reserved for that product, and then put a link from your email to that “landing page”.

It is because a spot of experimentation can be needed in all this that when you advertise with Schools.co.uk we provide you with an analysis of how many people clicked through from the email to the website.

You can then compare that with the number of sales, and if these are not as high as you’d like, you know which bit to change.  If lots of people are clicking through to the website, but sales are low, it is the web page that is wrong.  If they are not clicking through in the first place then it is the email that needs changing.

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There you have it. What is your business’ unique selling point? Has it worked for you and your business? Please leave a comment below.