A USP is a unique selling position and should be considered an important aspect of your handmade business. Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ Donuts, Pepsi vs. Coke, Lululemon vs. Nike; each company is selling something very similar to the other so they must have a product feature that stands out or market their products in a way that lets consumers know they’re offering something different.
Having a compelling USP is an important piece of the consistent-sales-puzzle.
Can you sell products without a USP? Sure. But will you sell more with a powerful USP? Absolutely!
It’s one more component that makes the difference between shoppers stumbling upon your products at a craft show, on Etsy, your website, etc. and making a sale here and there vs. driving shoppers to your products and having them purchase again and again.
Failing to communicate to consumers what you do differently is a mistake you don’t want to make.
I cover coming up with a USP fully in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY and get you started on finding yours in the free 5-day challenge BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES.
If you’re making any of the mistakes mentioned in the article, the free challenge and ebook will be good tools for you.
It’s been over 3 years since I posted this article, and it continues to get comments from business owners wondering if they’ve got their USP right.
Based on the comments and the thought I’ve put into answering questions and exploring what makes a great USP, I have a few more common mistakes I’d like to highlight.
This article started as 3 mistakes has now turned into 8. I hope you find the added content helpful!
USP MISTAKE #1 – THINKING “UNIQUE” MEANS NO ONE ELSE SELLS IT
I hear/read a lot of crafters saying:
“I know what I sell is unique, but I’m just not making sales”
Here’s the truth:
The number of truly unique products on the market is very low. Unless you’re inventing a product no one has ever heard of, your product probably isn’t that unique.
And if it really is unique and you can’t find a single business out there selling something similar, it may mean there isn’t enough demand.
You DO NOT have to come up with something that has never been done before in order to make sales. In fact, I’d encourage you NOT to.
“Never been done” or “can’t find it anywhere” means you’re blazing your own trail. That’s very challenging, time-consuming, and expensive.
Marketing a product that no one else is selling means you must build a new bandwagon, get it moving, and encourage enough people to jump on it that they keep the momentum going and tell others about it.
Piggybacking on the popularity of a product that has been done makes for a much easier ride.
Don’t go so far outside of the box, in an attempt to be unique, that consumers don’t understand your product.
You can take an ordinary product (e.g. a bar of soap) and put a unique spin on it by making it for a specific group of people.
For example, I could take a bar of soap and make it for gardeners. The scents, shapes, names, packaging, etc. would follow a garden theme.
Most bars of soap appeal to a very big target market (if any at all; many soaps aren’t made with anyone particular in mind). By simply appealing to a smaller target market (gardeners), it puts a unique spin on my product.
It also gives me unique places to market and sell my products that my competitors aren’t using.
For example, I can reach my target market in garden & flower shops, in gardening magazines and gardening blogs, at Home & Garden events, etc.
Finding a good target market is often the key to putting a unique spin on an “ordinary” product.
* How to Find a Goldmine of Customers will help you find a profitable target market.
Sometimes, your unique factor won’t actually be all that unique. Simply pointing out something your competitors aren’t, can give your business a unique angle.
Just look at Smartfood Popcorn. They market their bagged popcorn as a smart/healthy snack choice (presumably, when compared to the bags of chips they sit next to on the grocery shelf). But all air-popped popcorn is (typically) healthier than chips. Because Smartpop Popcorn pointed it out first, consumers saw their product as unique and were drawn to it.
USP MISTAKE #2 – THINKING “HANDMADE” MAKES THEIR PRODUCTS UNIQUE
“Handmade” or “one of a kind” is NOT a USP. Every handmade vendor’s product is “handmade” or has an element of being one of a kind because of the inconsistencies created when a product is made by hand.
“Handmade” is also not the main reason a consumer buys a product.
If you put an item in front of someone and they don’t need it, they’re not going to say: “Oh it’s handmade? Now I want it.”
Handmade products often require consumers to spend more money than they need to. So your unique factor should be something that makes them want to spend more money.
Being handmade may have perks, such as supporting a local community, being better quality than mass-produced products, or having less impact on the environment than products made in a factory, which can encourage a consumer to buy.
But “handmade” doesn’t clearly spell those perks out.
If you’re going to focus on one of the benefits of being handmade for your unique factor, be sure it’s something your target market cares about.
For example, someone buying a handmade necklace because it follows a trend Miley Cyrus was seen wearing, probably doesn’t care as much about that necklace being the best quality or how buying it helps support a local economy. They just want to look stylish and trendy.
USP MISTAKE #3 – NOT HAVING ONE
Not taking the time to craft a powerful USP is a mistake many small businesses make.
But a mistake that’s even more common is not taking the time to create products that have a unique angle.
When you simply offer something hundreds of other vendors offer, you’re more likely to hear:
“I could make that”
“I’ll just ask so-and-so to make one….she knits/sews/crafts/etc.”
“I can find it cheaper at the mall”
If you want to run a successful craft business that stands the test of time, you should be constantly brushing up on your skills to move beyond the basic crafter and offer something not every crafty person can make.
Or create something that’s specialized/niche enough that not every big box store carries it.
Handmade businesses are gaining popularity because they’re simple and cheap to start (as outlined in LAWS FOR SELLING HANDMADE), and don’t require a lot of startup capital or years and years of training.
That means more competition for you.
LOTS of people know how to sew, knit, put beads on a string, etc. so there’s no urgency for consumers to buy from you if they can easily find a similar item at any craft show, on Etsy, etc.
But if you really dedicate yourself to your business and invest in training to learn new skills, research new trends, become a branding expert, etc. it becomes easier to find that unique angle that’s not already covered by every knitter, sewer, jewelry maker, etc.
Once you find that angle, stick with it.
Offering one vegan bar of soap for animal lovers among 20 regular bars of soap doesn’t build a strong brand, mass followers, or a loyal audience.
When you determine your unique selling position, don’t forget to communicate it!
Your USP should strongly influence your branding and come through in almost every aspect of your business.
Not sure how to come up with a sale-provoking USP or how to apply it. It’s all covered in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY.
Not sure if HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY is for you? Join the free challenge BEAT LAST YEAR’S SALES for a sample and a few key lessons from it.
USP MISTAKE #4 – NOT BEING EXCLUSIVE ENOUGH
Your USP, and all the ways it’s communicated, should not only tell people who your business and products are for, but it should also indicate who it’s not for.
You could actually take your USP in that direction and use who your business is NOT for as a way to stand out.
Imagine an ice cream company deciding their products are NOT for the health nut.
That would be a unique marketing angle and help them highlight a feature of their products.
WARNING: Not for the Health Nut.
Rich and indulgent ice cream for when you really want to cheat on your diet.
That’s a product label or marketing text that would really stand out.
Who your products aren’t for doesn’t have to be a part of your USP. But it can help you narrow down who they are for and discover a unique angle.
Here are some more examples:
- Jewelry – a sophisticated line of bridal jewelry may not be for younger generations. Highlighting that it’s for women getting married later in life could create a unique angle.
- Bags – bags with lots of pockets for organization and a spot for everything may not be for the casual traveler, but rather for someone who’s on the road more than they are at home. Or maybe…not just for any student, but for the extremely organized student.
- Art prints – sets of art prints that are thoughtfully curated may not be for the fine art lover, but rather for someone who doesn’t have an eye for art and needs help making it look like they do.
- Bath & body products – a line of unscented skincare products may not be for people who just prefer light scents, but rather, for people who absolutely, positively can’t stand any scent.
- Pet products – a line of cat toys may not be for someone who simply has a cat as a pet, it’s for people who are obsessed with their cat and consider them a member of the family.
Businesses and products that are for everyone, or even everyone within a target market (e.g. everyone who’s a cat owner), will have a hard time being unique.
You must first narrow down your target market (this will teach you a unique way to find a profitable target market).
Then, in most cases, you must find a segment within that target market.
Who those people are will be a defining aspect of your USP.
USP MISTAKE #5 – THINKING IT’S A SLOGAN OR TAGLINE
You should be able to summarize your USP into a short tagline, and your USP will influence your tagline, but a USP is not a tagline.
Your USP should be the heart and soul of your business.
It’s what influences your business’s:
- Sales channels
When brainstorming a USP, forget trying to fit it into one short and clever sentence.
Start by being wording and clearly communicating what’s different about your products; so you have a clear picture.
Once you’ve decided on the main point you want to communicate, then you can start refining to create a tagline.
USP MISTAKE #6 – THINKING IT’S ABOUT YOU
Another common mistake I see when business owners are summarizing their USP is that they make it all about them.
“I make….”, “I do….”, “I am…”, etc.
You’re in business to serve a customer.
That customer cares about themselves, how your products fit into their lives, and how your products will make their life better in some way.
Some personal stories can build a connection with your target market, but even so, it’s best to lead with the customer.
For example, I wouldn’t need to tell my personal story of how every face wash I tried left my skin feeling tight, dry, and itchy, so I came up with my own formula. Simply stating that my Face wash won’t leave your skin tight, dry, and itchy, will tell my target market I know exactly what they’re dealing with.
Always put your customer first.
>> What do they care about?
>> What will encourage them to buy?
>> How are they hoping your products can improve their lives?
Help your customers reach their goals; that’s how you’ll reach yours.
USP MISTAKE #7 – TRYING TO FIT A SQUARE PEG INTO A ROUND HOLE
It’s okay if your current business and/or products don’t quite have a unique angle that’s marketable (i.e. a unique angle that consumers care about).
But it’s important to be open to adjusting.
Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Meaning, if the products you’re currently selling don’t have a unique angle, don’t make up a USP to fit those products.
You won’t end up with an effective USP.
For example, let’s say I currently make bars of soap. They use basic ingredients, follow basic recipes/techniques, and have basic packaging.
I may force a USP such as: “I carefully craft small batches of soap in my studio. Each bar is unique, just like you.”
That USP may be true to my current business.
However, it’s not a USP that’s going to attract shoppers and encourage sales.
Instead, I may focus on my soap’s ingredients and infuse each soap I make with tea. I would make the colors, scents, ingredients, names, labels, etc., tea-focused.
It’s just one small change, but now I have a unique angle for my entire business.
My products are different from (almost) every other bar of soap on the market, they’re a great gift for tea-lovers, I could approach local tea shops and cafes about stocking my products, etc.
For a business to constantly grow, it must constantly change.
Making adjustments to craft a powerful USP is just part of the change.
And it’s an important one.
Don’t force a USP out of your existing business/products.
USP MISTAKE #8 – GETTING A BIT TOO COMPLICATED
The way you summarize your USP should be simple, clear, and most importantly, customer-focused.
Sometimes we make our USP’s a bit too complicated in an attempt to make them sound unique.
When you think you’ve landed on a USP, ask yourself this:
>> Would your customers type something similar into Google when searching for your products?
>> Would they tell a friend, “I’m really looking for….(your USP here)”.
Using my soap example, would someone shop for “bars of soap that are as unique as I am”?
If by some chance they did, would they buy when they get to my shop and realize there’s nothing different about my bars of soap?
If someone wants a basic bar of handmade soap, they’re likely going to buy from the vendor with the lowest price.
If your USP doesn’t actually apply to your target market’s life, it won’t be of much use.
What’s your USP? Share what you sell and your unique selling position in the comment section. If you can’t put it into words or clearly communicate it in a sentence or two, your USP may need some work.
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!