What is your USP?

When we talk about marketing and sales there are always lots of acronyms. SEO, ROI, CPC, PPC… and while you don’t need to know what they all mean, USP is definitely one you do. USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition and it is the backbone of all effective sales and marketing.

As I have traveled the country talking to operators probably my biggest surprise is the answers I get when I ask what any given company believes their USP to be. The answers are well… not all that unique.

Before you continue reading I am going to challenge you to do something. Take out a pen and right down 5 things that you believe to be your unique selling propositions. Once you have them done, keep reading… It’s alright… i’ll wait!

Now lets talk about your list. While I am no magician, I bet that I can guess at least a few on your list, because if you are like most operators you will have some combination of the following, newer fleet of coaches, good maintenance, great safety record, excellent drivers, friendly staff, different sized vehicles, and/or knowledgable customer service agents.

If you are wondering how I guessed so many of your list then perhaps it is time to look a little harder at what actually makes a good USP.

The first thing that makes a good USP is actually defined quite well in the acronym itself. Unique. Many companies that I work with confuse a USP with a list of the amenities, services or qualities that they want to spotlight. While these are all good things they are not really a USP. A USP is specifically focused on what it is that makes you different from the other choices in your market and is THE reason why someone should choose you over your competitors.

About a year ago I attended an event honoring the 75th anniversary of an operator. Strewn about the event were things from the good old days. Vintage advertising pieces were the highlight for me. One of the things that I noticed was lots of language focusing on what, at that time, was their USP. Air conditioning and restrooms were the top of the list. During this period of time those would have been big selling advantages over their competitors. What we look at as a baseline offering today, back then, was truly a USP.

I tell that story for a few reasons. First, it is easy to understand that in today’s market if we were to use those same points and call them our USP we would be laughed out of the market. The market has changed and as it has those items are no longer unique. The second reason I bring it up is to highlight the fact that a USP will, in all likelihood, not be the same for 10,20 or 30 years. As market conditions change so to will what we need to be, and do, to stand out.

So lets jump back to your USP list. If you are like most operators your list will include some of the above items. While these are admirable traits for a motorcoach company to have they are about as unique as air-conditioning and restrooms in todays market.

Now I now that there is a little voice in your head right about now that is saying, but our equipment is newer than those other guys, and our drivers are better trained, and we do have the best reservation staff… and on and on to justify why those items are actually differentiators. I also know that while things like restrooms and air conditioning are boxes that you either have or don’t have, the quality of your drivers, maintenance programs and the like are much more subjective. Just because you do maintenance does not mean that everyones maintenance programs are the same.

But what is important here is to realize that the second half of acronym, Selling Proposition, cant be overlooked. You see the point here is to have something that a consumer can use to differentiate you from your competitors. Imagine for a moment that you are planning a family reunion. You know you want to use a motorcoach because lets face it 50 ubers just isn’t going to work for anyone, and you start looking around for someone to help. What are you going to do?

Well first you are going to use google to help you narrow down the list. A quick search will inevitably give you a few options no matter where you are. Then you are going to take a quick look at the websites. You will probably spend less than 4 minutes on each site and will be looking just for things to ultimately disqualify companies from the mix. Next you will either fill out the quote forms on the sites you choose or you will call to get a quote. Once you get the quote you will try to make a decision on who you want to use.

While many sales people in this industry would say that it all comes down to price, the truth is a bit more complex. In this case, if you are like most consumers, the next step you would take is trying to determine what is driving the inevitable price difference. You will look at the quotes and will back track to the website to look for what it is that will help you make the right choice. Yes, price will be one of those things but it will not be the only one.

So, now lets imagine that you are shopping between 3 companies. Company one quotes $800 for the day, company 2 quotes $950 and company 3, $1100. You head to their sites and you check out what they are really offering and here is what you come up with.

All three are offering late model coaches that seat 56 passengers. All claim to provide clean, safe and reliable services. All claim that they offer good drivers and that they have a great safety rating from the FMCSA. All of them have photos of what appear to the untrained eye to be nice equipment and all claim that they have good maintenance departments. One had a slightly nicer person on the phone and one got the quote back much quicker than the other two.

How would you choose? In this case, and in countless scenarios like this every day, the answer would most likely be price. But why are they choosing based on price? Is it because of actual budget constraints or is it because the price was ultimately the only USP that anyone presented?

This all leads to one inevitable question, how do we actually create value through a USP? The short answer here is this, look beyond the preverbal air conditioning and restrooms and start to look at what it is that actually sets you apart from your competitors. Is it your history, your family, staff, or your drivers? Is it your level of service or perhaps it actually is your maintenance program. Once you know what it is the next part of the USP equation is to turn that thing into a selling proposition, that is to say, into something that the person shopping for their family reunion can look at and say “I choose this company because of that.” This is the harder part than simply identifying what it is. This requires you to craft not only the story of what it is, but also why a consumer should care.

Once you have identified your USP the next step is to make it truly part of your selling culture. Every piece of marketing, every conversation, every opportunity you have to sell, this should be the first and last thing you tell potential consumers. But it is not just about telling them “we have good drivers” it is about telling them how good, and more importantly, why it matters to them. Done well, at the end of a conversation or selling opportunity the consumer will understand no only what you are offering but will feel as if there is no way they could ever choose anyone else who does not have what you are offering. Pair this with a truly unique offering and you will see remarkable things happen in your sales department.

We, in the motorcoach world, speak a different language than that of the consuming public. We know the difference between a good coach and a great coach, we know that not all maintenance programs are created equally, and that while a CDL makes you a driver it does not make you a “driver”. The problem is that the buying public does not know what we know. Our job is to establish what it is that sets us apart and translate that into the language that buyers know and understand… “what’s in it for me.”

Giving buyers something, anything, to make a buying decision with besides price will not only help close more deals but will firm up pricing as well. Remember that just like air conditioning and restrooms what you offer as your USP today will in all likelihood change over time so keep focused on what makes you the best choice and stay ahead of the curve!