I see it every day. As I drive around town, I pass billboard after billboard with no call to action, no unique selling point, and no way of trying to capture a lead.
I hear it on the radio, see it on television, read it in magazines and newspapers, and even on buses whizzing through the city.
My favorite ads are from realtors, who like to display their best smiling picture and say, “Call me for any of your real estate needs”.
Some call this branding or image building; I call it a complete waste of money.
So, how do you distinguish your business from your local and national competitors? And how do you generate a measurable response to your advertising?
Most local businesses will claim their uniqueness lies in one or all of the following features:
- How long they’ve been in business
- Being a family owned business
- Being a locally owned and operated business
Realize – none of your national competitors can claim any of these features, and it doesn’t hurt their business one bit – because these are features not benefits.
And rarely are these features unique or compelling enough to attract customers on their own. Yet they are the most common proclamations in local advertising, no matter where you live.
How to Create A Unique Selling Point
Celebrated author and master direct-response marketer Dan S. Kennedy offers great advice in his book, The Ultimate Marketing Plan. He advises taking a stack of 3×5 index cards and writing down every fact, feature, benefit, promise, offer component, and idea on each card—until you have exhausted everything you know about your business and direct competitors. Then try to prioritize these items by what is going to be most compelling to your customers—and by what makes you stand out from your competition.
Let’s examine a how a national and local retailer, in the same exact business, in the same town, thrive with different unique selling points.
I’m sure you’ve heard of sporting goods retailer REI, the initials stand for recreational equipment Inc. They are the proverbial “big box” retailer of recreational products. From camping, biking, hiking climbing and more, with thousands of products cleverly merchandised in massive stores. They are usually located in high traffic retail districts near malls and interstates. However, what they sell, and how they sell, isn’t what makes them unique.
What makes REI unique is they are a co-op owned by their members, not shareholders, or some rich family. They were founded by a group of 23 climbing friends who wanted to source quality, affordable gear for their adventures. Any customer can become a member for a small fee, and benefit from a wide array of perks like earning dividends and discounts.
In Indianapolis there is a locally owned sporting goods store called Rusted Moon Outfitters, about 7 miles from REI, and they sell the exact same merchandise. They are also thriving, but not as a co-op, and they are located miles from any major roads or shopping districts.
In fact, they are situated in the small village of Broad Ripple, across the street from a popular walking trail and the White River. In fact, it’s hard to find parking, and most customers have to walk a few blocks. And their store is tiny in comparison to the REI store, but somehow, they cram about 5,000 products into a 1200 square foot converted bungalow. Their unique selling point is about the atmosphere and the people who work there.
Rusted Moon exudes the image of a locally owned business. Most days you’ll find a dog (or two) napping in the main aisle, delighting customers with their indifference. The employees are actual hikers, bikers, climbers and know the merchandise, and are consulted for advice, much like how people shop at a hardware store. The store has a rustic weathered look, out front there’s an old wooden swinging chair, canoes and kayaks are scattered about, and a smoldering campfire throws off a sweet smell of burning hickory.
REI and Rusted Moon have successfully carved out unique selling points in the exact same category by using two different approaches. And this can be applied to virtually any industry or trade. Here are other tips on how to create your own unique selling point:
- Start by never ever wasting valuable advertising space or time by uttering the words locally owned and/or operated, family owned, or say how many years you’ve been in business. Nobody cares, and even if they did, these features have become so cliché and overused that nobody pays attention to them.
- It’s risky, but you could align yourself with a political affiliation. Conservatives for example, the Fox News and Rush Limbaugh types. But you could alienate a lot of other people. You’ve probably seen commercials for My Pillow featuring their founder Mike Lindell, he has found success with appealing to the “right” and doesn’t hide it. But he offers many other unique selling points as well, and also advertises to the public at large.
- Becoming a sponsor of a pro or college team can be a unique selling point. If you operate in a college town, a sponsorship can stake your claim to that community and give you the rights to use the team’s intellectual property. Meaning you can use their logo and likeness in your own advertising. You can become an official or even an exclusive sponsor, appealing to their fans and loyal alumni. A good example is Quicken Loans, who cleverly uses collegiate mascots in their TV commercials.
- Create a mascot, like Geico’s gecko.
- Hiring a celebrity endorser, former athlete, sports announcer, or former local news anchor can be surprisingly affordable and effective. Before Peyton Manning ever threw a touchdown pass a Chevy dealer signed him to a long-term endorsement deal, at a fraction of what sponsors like DirecTV would later have to pay him.
- Become a celebrity, Godby Home Furnishings in Indianapolis features their owner Jeff Godby in all of their folksy TV commercials, and he is often recognized in public as a result.
- Your office or building can become a unique selling point. For example, Some dentists transform their offices into playful environments designed to reduce stress for kids and their parents.
- Affinity – Firehouse Subs was founded by firemen, and they make this known in every single advertisement; this appeals to first responders and distinguishes them from Subway.
- Charity – Firehouse Subs also donates a portion of their sales to a first responders’ charity; and they mention this in just about every ad too.
- Offer a guarantee, the most famous was Domino’s 30-minute delivery guarantee.
There are literally endless ways to stand out from your competitors, it just takes a little time and effort. It pays to be bold and memorable in a competitive marketplace.
How to Get More Response AND Make Your Advertising Measurable
Here’s the thing, 99% of local businesses should avoid any and all brand or image advertising. It’s expensive and impossible to track. Leave the fancy image advertising to giant corporations like Coca Cola and Apple, who can use Wall Street shareholder’s money and benefit from world-wide distribution.
A local business – even an independent real estate agent – should demand more from their advertising. Not only should you be unique and memorable, you should demand your advertising be profitable and track-able. So, how do you do this?
The secret to getting more response is to develop multiple offers that appeal to all customers in the buying process for your product or service. In addition to addressing the now buyers, be sure to engage the much larger pool of customers not ready to buy yet – who will in the future.
The illustration below is a typical buying funnel starting with Awareness, then Interest, then Desire, and finally Action. At any given moment there are people ready to buy your product or service — people ready to take Action.
Depending on your type of industry, just a small percentage of the population will be Action buyers, the vast majority are in the other stages. People who are not ready to buy won’t respond to a hard sell, but they will respond to a less aggressive or lower threshold type of offer.
And herein lies the secret to not only getting more response to your advertising, but also how to make it track-able.
Your advertising strategy should include offers with a range of thresholds; those who are ready to buy should be greeted with a presentation or specific price offer, for example, a car dealer advertising an aggressive monthly lease payment. This is a form of a high threshold offer. The customer is in a state where they’re willing to interact with a salesperson and engage in price negotiations.
For those not ready to buy yet, offer low to medium threshold offers, or ways of engaging with your business without having to buy something, or talk to a pesky salesperson. These types of lower threshold offers should be educational in nature, like research reports, white papers, or newsletters. Or promotional in nature like events, contests, sampling and more.
For example, the same car dealer should also advertise an enter-to-win sweepstakes for a brand-new car. This will attract prospective customers not yet ready to buy, but willing to provide their contact and other demographic information in exchange for a chance to win.
This approach gets results from a wider range of prospects; those who are ready to buy, and those who are not ready to buy. A sale is either made or contact information is captured allowing you to stay engaged with these prospects through cheaper direct marketing efforts like email, mail, even telemarketing.
“Any idiot can sell things to the ready-to-leap-now buyers, so it usually pays poorly and can even be a path to bankruptcy despite success at it. The wealth is in the (management, development, and ultimate monetization of the) not — yet ready buyers.”
Dan S. Kennedy, No B.S. Information Marketing Letter #86, December 2018
Anybody can sell to the tiny percentage of prospects ready to buy any given day, in fact, this is where you’ll encounter the fiercest competition. This is the battleground of huge multinational advertising budgets. But fortunes are made by the savvy entrepreneurs who find a way to address the larger market; those not ready to buy today, who can be inexpensively nurtured into future buyers.
Here’s a real-life example you can study today. Matt Nettleton operates a Sandler Sales Training franchise in Indianapolis, and he does a great job of appealing to buyers in every stage of the buying process for sales training.
Low Threshold Offers
Matt often advertises free books, white papers and other research as a free gift to anyone who wants to learn more about Sandler sales training. These non-buyers are willing to provide their email address in exchange for some valuable information, but they’re not ready to interact with him in person.
The more helpful and valuable this information is can determine how engaged the customer becomes with your business. Do them a favor, share some secrets about your industry and they’ll be more likely to reward you later with a purchase.
If you are a real estate agent, rather than wasting money featuring your big smiling picture, offer a free report, like “The 5 Things You Can Do To Maximize Your Selling Price”, and make this report available through a simple online landing page that will capture contact information.
These become qualified leads for follow up, and you have to admit it’s better than calling someone cold. It’s less threatening to prospects and it positions you in a different light. Rather than appearing as a pushy desperate salesperson, you become a trusted provider of helpful information.
The financial services business has used this tactic for decades, you’ve probably seen ads for Fisher Investments, they built their entire business on exchanging helpful information to generate leads.
The number one Re/Max real estate agent in the world is Craig Proctor, and he achieved this milestone in part with a guarantee, if he doesn’t sell your house, he’ll buy it himself – a clever unique selling point that distinguishes him from his competitors. And for those not ready to buy or sell their home, he advertises a wide range of informational resources, downloadable (or mailed) for free in exchange for contact information. He doesn’t waste time cold calling, or on image advertising, and the information resources he provides position him as an expert, while capturing contact information for future follow up.
Medium Threshold Offers
Back to Matt, our sales trainer in Indianapolis. He also conducts free seminars to encourage potential clients to experience his services at no charge. These events attract people further along in the buying process, beyond Interest and moving towards a Decision. They’re willing to experience a higher level of commitment, to physically interact with someone. This type of personal interaction gives Matt a great opportunity to convert people into buyers.
High Threshold Offers
Matt also conducts paid seminars, like this Sandler Sales Training Boot Camp. These folks are ready to take Action! These customers are ready to buy and the question your ad should answer is — why should they buy from you? The rationale provided shouldn’t be how long you’ve been in business, or that you are a family owned business, or that you are locally owned.
Developing a unique selling point, and a variety of methods to interact with your business should be a priority, and to help get you started I recommend you check out the book I mentioned earlier by Dan S. Kennedy, The Ultimate Marketing Plan.