Any ‘Boring’ B2B Product Can Find Its USP

Many businesses operate on the assumption that their product is “one of many” and that a USP is not a key part of their strategy. We recently conducted a survey amongst 226 B2B marketers in Europe and North America, which revealed a low belief in the uniqueness of their own products. On average, people rated their Unique Selling Point (USP) 6.2/10 on a scale where anything below 7/10 should be considered a “thumbs down”.

Operating in these markets is difficult if marketers build their strategy on the assumption that their product is boring and does not merit much attention. Their logic might go something like this:

“If my product accounts for only a small percentage of my target audience’s budget and has many substitutes, the decision making process is short, as buyers devote attention to larger purchases. Therefore, our focus should be on promoting reliability, customer support and being competitively priced, so that we win business despite the little attention customers give our product.”

Building a marketing strategy on the assumption that the product is boring limits your scope, and risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Products considered boring are marketed in a boring way, on the same channels by the same people in the same manner, and competition will eventually overtake the boring and complacent companies.

Therefore, differentiation is key – and any product has a sexy side to it. Consider how WD-40 has turned kerosene, tallow and lube oil into a must-have for every engineer’s tool box. By investing in technology and customer experience, leading logistics companies have become heavy-weight brands – DHL sponsor Manchester United.

Even in markets with seemingly no differentiation, any product can find its USP. Think of the iconic scene in the first episode of “Mad Men”, where Don Draper comes up with a slogan for Lucky Strike cigarettes. Lucky Strike is one of 6 identical companies making 6 identical products. Rather than following the logic of being one of many, Don Draper considers it the greatest opportunity “since the invention of cereal”. He asks how the cigarettes are produced and suggests the slogan “it’s toasted”, because the tobacco is toasted. To him, it does not matter that all other cigarettes are toasted, because no other brand uses it as their USP.

This holds true across B2B markets, too. We have helped companies in the most unlikely industries transform and grow. In less differentiated markets, the USP can be the smallest detail. Finding it requires rigorous attention to detail and a willingness to take on feedback from your clients.

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