If you’ve recently (or perhaps not so recently) set up in business, you’ve probably been advised to define your USP or unique selling proposition. You may have even been asked outright what it is.

Defining the exact qualities that set you apart from your competitors may seem like a self-indulgent kind of affair, but it’s actually an important aspect of communicating who you help and how. When you know your USP, you can more easily discuss with your clients exactly how you can factor in to their big picture.

Knowing your USP can help you write copy and content, can help to break the ice in awkward networking conversations, and can give you ideas for paid advertising avenues, so let’s get started!

How do I find my small business’s USP?

1. Think objectively about what your business does and what you provide.

A great place to start is put yourself in your audience’s shoes and objectively imagine what you would want if you were on the other side of the fence. What would you like? What wouldn’t you like? Where do you personally excel in this context? Is there anything about your business that needs improvement or change? I give a little more insight into thinking objectively for marketing purposes, in one of my previous videos. What qualities do you hold dear in your business in terms of how you serve your clients? Things like speed, quality, efficiency, honesty and value for money are all great places to start.

2. Ask questions and perform market research to establish your business’s “fit”.

However, introspection is only part of the picture. Your USP also needs to be backed up by real data. The best place to start is simply to ask your previous clients – even if you’ve only had one or two! Hopefully your work with them was a positive experience, so simply email them asking what attracted them to you in the first place, what they liked about working with you and if there was anything they didn’t like so much; and most importantly why they would consider working with you again. If you’ve got a good following on social media or a nicely sized email subscriber list, you can also ask what would persuade that audience to buy from you. See what you can find out about people’s impressions of you and where you seem to fit within your market.

3. Hone in on your strengths.

Some companies use a particular service focus as their USP. As an example, one delivery company may promise timely deliveries; another may specialise in electronic tracking and customer self-service options; another company may provide a simple, friendly, accessible service with a smile. These are all excellent things to offer, and if you’re looking to send a parcel, which company you decide to use will ultimately depend on which unique part of their service means the most to you. Take a look at your competition and see what levels of service they’re providing in comparison to you. What are the strengths they’re advertising? How do your skills compare on a personal level with those they appear to have? What qualities appear to be the most desirable in your field? Which of these characteristics apply to you?

Remember that your USP can simply be you and who you are – authenticity is so important in business! What personal characteristics of yours shine through into how you do business? Remember that you also need to be able to communicate the benefits of that individuality effectively.

4. Take Your Time

Now, after all of this preaching, it may come as a surprise that my advice is “don’t stress out over it”. It’s an important aspect to drill down, but if you aren’t able to define anything exact, don’t force it for the sake of it. Maybe the time isn’t right – maybe there’s too much going on in your life at the moment and your mind is too busy. After all, you need a clear head to create a clear message!

It’s important to remember that your USP doesn’t have to be a word-perfect mantra that you stick on your wall and recite every day (unless that’s something that would work for you); it’s a simple case of knowing what individual characteristics you can offer to your clients, what makes you stand out as an individual business.