Every startup and every new business needs a unique selling proposition (USP) to get people's attention these days, and make it stand out in the information overload we all see. Your concept has to be understood by customers and investors in 30 seconds or less, and everyone needs to immediately see how awesome it would be, or that they would be nuts not to have it.
That may sound easy, but I rarely see it happening. As a startup advisor and investor, I've heard and seen hundreds of pitches from entrepreneurs, and the majority of founders are convinced that if you will just give them an hour or more time, you will love their business. I'm looking for the "hook" right up front, or I lose interest quickly, just like every customer and investor these days.
The more potentially disruptive your technology, the more important it is that this message be quick, simple, and quantified. This point was illustrated well in a new book, "The Power of Positive Destruction: How to Turn a Business Idea Into a Revolution," by Seth Merrin. He has had his share of failures, as well as successes, with some good evidence to explain the difference.
Merrin is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Liquidnet, who faced the challenge of major change to some of the most complex stock trading systems in the world. I like his approach to first making sure the idea has the potential for a unique selling proposition, by asking yourself a few key questions:
If your idea passes muster on the above tests, it's time to craft a unique selling proposition. Expect it to take some time and many iterations, but the results are well worth it. Here are some specific guidance points for a great USP:
Too many new businesses try to be everything to everyone. Creating your unique selling proposition forces you to focus on one thing, or the one element that sets your business apart from others. Startups that try to do many things end up confusing customers, and doing all things poorly, since they have highly constrained resources.
A great unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It's what sets your business apart from others because of what your business takes a stand on. Instead of attempting to be known for everything, businesses with a unique selling proposition stand for something specific, and it becomes what you are remembered for.
Pick your focus, make it sound simple, memorable, and valuable, and all the right people will wait in line to get a piece of the action.