I love it when I find companies whose philosophy of business resonates with my own. Recently I happened upon Hiut Denim, whose strap line “Do one thing well” completely gels with my own approach to business, and ever since I found them I can’t stop name checking them to everyone I meet.

You could say they have inspired this blog.

Why? One look at the Hiut web site and you can see that they are a textbook example of what a gorgeous brand looks like. They tick all the boxes; beautiful bespoke images, minimal but relevant copy, good functionality, simple logo, I could go on….

Hiut Denim Home Page

Hiut Denim Home Page

But the other thing that strikes me is that I immediately understand what they do and what they stand for (read, what their USP is). They make good quality, ethical jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No gimmicks, no extras, just simple great quality products.

This got me thinking what it means to small business owners to “Do one thing well.” So I decided to tackle this knotty issue in two parts; in this blog, we will be looking at identifying your unique selling point (USP); Part 2 will explore how to stay focused on the big picture and therefore strengthen your core business before moving on to new projects.

“I/We” Vs “You”

I recently gave a bite-sized presentation to local businesses about finding your USP. When I was talking to people afterwards, what struck me was their confusion about what their USP is, how to identify it and communicate it to their customers.

I noticed that businesses tend to get stuck right from the first word when you ask them what they identify their USP to be. They start by saying:

“I am passionate about…”,

“We are the leading service provider for…..”,

“I can help with…..”,

“I am a fully qualified/accredited….”

In other words, they start off by saying what they offer and why they are so great at what they do, an “I/We” statement. And I’m sure they are great at what they do, but in truth the client doesn’t care how passionate they are, or whether they have the greatest market share, or even whether they are fully accredited.

The customer/client has a problem, and they want to know how this business can solve it for them. That’s it.

If you think this sounds a little over simplistic, take a moment now to ask yourself what problem you really help your customers to solve.

“What’s in it for me?”

Let’s take some examples from businesses I know; in healthcare, practitioners and therapists are forever telling people about where they trained and what conditions they can help with, but in reality what they are selling is comfort, the ability to help someone change, to be free of pain, in the mind or body. Yes clients will want to know that their therapist is qualified and has some experience in the issue they are struggling with, but the first thing they want to know is how that particular intervention is going to help them.

How about a coffee shop? On the surface, you just want great tasting coffee, and good service without breaking the bank. But what a good coffee shop really does is to create community; community through a shared love of good coffee, but also somewhere to feel part of something; a meeting place where you can relax and feel taken care of, even for ten minutes.

Or we could use architecture as an example; if you look at most architect’s web sites, the first thing you will see is a photo gallery of their portfolio, which is perfectly reasonable, but when you go to the ‘about’ page instead of a mission statement, outlining their approach to design and how they can help their clients execute their vision for their home/business, there is often a long list of achievements and qualifications.

As with the therapists, this is important. You definitely want to know that your architect is qualified! But it doesn’t help you decide how to choose one architect over another, why one architect is different from another, and what their values are.

I could go on, as there are so many kinds of small businesses, but the principle is the same. When thinking about your USP think first about whom you are pitching to, what current problem they have and how your business is going to solve it.

By all means be clear about who you are and what you bring to your business, but this is secondary. First, it’s important to listen to your clients when they say “what’s in it for me?”

[Top tip: Keep it free of jargon. If a client doesn’t understand the words/phrases you are using because they are too technical, they will immediately switch off.]

Watch this video about leadership, and why we choose certain companies over others:


How about Hiut Denim? They are on a mission to make good quality ethical jeans for people that care about where their clothes come from and support UK businesses.  From their web site:

“Our town is going to make jeans again - Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people. 400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week. For three decades.
Then one day the factory closed. It left town. But all that skill and knowhow remained. Without any way of showing the world what they could do.
That’s why we have started The Hiut Denim Company. To bring manufacturing back home. To use all that skill on our doorstep. And to breathe new life into our town.
As one of the Grand Masters said to me when I was interviewing: “This is what I know how to do. This is what I do best.” I just sat there thinking I have to make this work.
So yes, our town is going to make jeans again.
Here goes. “


Three steps to identifying your USP

Identifying your USP is not that hard when you begin to focus on your client’s needs. The problem is when you attempt to be known for everything, you don’t become known for anything, so keep it simple and focus on doing one thing well in three easy steps:

1.     Put yourself in your client’s shoes – You will already have many assumptions about why your customers buy from you. In order to really understand your USP you need to challenge those assumptions. Keep asking yourself – “what problem does my business solve, and how?”

2.     Ask your customers why they buy from you – What do they identify with about your business? This is less about the traditional customer demographics and more about understanding the emotional connection people are making with your business – what values do you have in common with each other that they identify with? 

3.     Uncover the real reason customers buy your product as oppose to a competitors – again, focus on your values and how that sets you apart from other people in your field – what is your particular focus and why?

In order to have a unique selling proposition, you can’t attempt to be known for everything. You have to make a stand for something.

So what will your business will stand for? Part 2 to follow.....

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