How to Figure Out What Makes Your Business Different

original-1180410“What makes your business different from your competitors?”

I sit with my fingers poised above my keyboard, waiting for the answer. I’ve been hired to write a landscaping company’s web copy, and I’ve gotten the owner on the phone. It’s something I always try to do, because I feel if I can do it, I will generally build a much firmer foundation for writing much better content.

And I always start by trying to find my customer’s unique selling proposition (USP).

Today, however, it’s no dice…I might have to resort to writing about how Mr. Landscaper has been in business for 25 years, and he’s trustworthy, and his people are Boyscouts, and whatever. The same stuff I’ve written 98 times before, in other words.

Why no dice? Because after a long silence, Mr. Landscaper says:

“Uh. Our customer service.”


Customer service does not make your business different.

When you ask a customer why they hired this or that company they will never say, “uh, their customer service.”

They don’t know your customer service is any good yet. They only have your word on that one. You need to convey difference before your team gets there. Customer service has to be proven and demonstrated while you’re helping the customer. Promising customer service, however, doesn’t get people to pick up the phone. We’ve all experienced absolutely crappy customer service in the past, so those promises sound incredibly empty.

In fact, most people feel like “customer service” is a basic thing that they should be getting anyway. If you’re not providing great customer service they’re going to give you a 1-star review on Yelp and they’re going to walk away. Customer service is expected. It’s the baseline. You don’t get a cookie for offering great customer service. You get repeat customers.

Thus, you had better have a better way to determine your USP.

Lightning strikes—helping Mr. Landscaper discover his USP.

On this particular day on the phone I decide not to resign myself to rehashing “better, bigger, and in business longer.” I decide I’m going to have to help Mr. Landscaper figure out what makes him so gosh darn great.

So I start asking some questions.

“What do other landscapers do that really bugs you? What do they get absolutely wrong about landscaping that you get right?”

I hold my breath, wondering if I’m going to get a grunted, “Dunno,” but in this instance I hit pay dirt. The flood gates open. Mr. Landscaper has a long rant about landscaping fabrics. My fingers fly over the keyboard; I’m transcribing everything he says for later use. I’m picking up on everything which is important to him: attention to detail, and a certain regard for picking and using the best materials on the market.

I can use this.

If I’d asked that question of a different landscaper I might have gotten a long rant about landscapers who don’t sit down with the homeowner and offer different plans and sketches before they begin working. An answer like that would have told me this company places a high value on design and advance planning in order to achieve amazing results.

Feeling pretty good about where this line of questioning is going, I ask another question: “How do people really screw themselves when it comes to hiring a landscaper?”

The floodgates open again, and I’m starting to feel pretty damned good about the web copy I’m about to go and write.

Your USP may lie buried somewhere within your rants and pet peeves.

Because if you’ve been in any business for more than a year then you’ve seen some things which piss you off, and you’ve decided not to do those things. You’ve decided that you’re never going to create certain problems, you’re never going to cut certain corners, and you’re never going to be as sloppy as some of the other companies out there.

Somewhere along the way you started responding to these peeves. You hired a professional designer so you could offer that service to each and every one of your customers. Or you went ahead and resigned yourself to charging more so you could use those top-notch materials which give customers the lasting results they can be really proud of.

If you can explain why you made those choices when your competitors aren’t making those choices, then you’ve got the beginnings of a great USP. Other people make Choice A. Choice A disgusts you. You took Choice B. Choice B is better for the customer. Here’s why it’s better.

And trust me, the USP buried in your rant is so much more interesting than hearing how you’ve been in business for over 25 years, how you’re licensed, bonded, and insured, and how you treat your customers with the utmost respect and care. Yawn. Everybody says that stuff.

You get bonus points if you can tell me exactly why doing it your way solves a big pain point for your customers. Then I can link your solution to their pain points and demonstrate why you are a true professional who is worthy of respect.

Still don’t know? You’ve got an opportunity.

It’s possible you are actually just some me-too business who hasn’t really developed their process yet. That’s okay…everyone’s got to start somewhere. Maybe you got into landscaping simply because you love landscaping and you’re pretty good at it. You got a few of your Mom’s neighbors to hire you and this has kept your business limping along, so you’ve never given much thought to doing anything different. So far, you’ve done things as you were taught to do them.

This is when you need to start really researching your competitors. Notice how they do things. Look at what they offer and what they don’t offer. You’ll run into things you think are pretty cool and pretty special. You’ll also run into practices you think are pretty bad practices.

You’ll start to have ideas. You’ll think: huh, nobody’s doing xyz, but that would be a pretty nice thing to offer to customers. Maybe I’ll start offering that. Or you’ll think: “Huh. Nobody’s really focusing on native landscaping. Maybe I’ll focus exclusively on native plant landscaping and appeal to the eco/green/busy people crowds.”

By doing this, you will take your business to the next level. You’ll get a great “elevator speech” when people ask what you do. You’ll get better web copy. You’ll convert more customers.

If rants and research don’t help you then you can also check out this handy guide from Fizzle.

Don’t hire someone to write your web copy until you find your USP.

Take the time to do the research and to get creative. Your website won’t be able to deliver great results with “Our customer service is the best customer service.” Yes, this might mean it takes you longer to get your website up and going. Take the time anyway. Make sure you’re able to live up to the USP you choose, and make sure you can clearly communicate your USP to your copywriter when you hire one.

Already got a great USP? How did you develop it? Help other business owners by sharing your story in the comments below!

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