A USP (unique selling position) is something EVERY business needs to stand out. But a USP eludes so many business owners.
It’s easy to identify when a business has a good USP or a bad USP (or none at all).
But it can be difficult to explain what gives a business that “it” factor.
If you haven’t read this article yet, and you’re not sure if you’ve gotten your unique factor right, definitely give it a read.
If your unique factor needs some tweaking, or is non-existent, this article will help.
What makes your product unique?
As a handmade business owner, you must be able to answer the question: Why does your business exist?
Here’s the most important part: your business’s “why” should not be about you, it should be about your target market (your customers).
The question is NOT: why did you start your business? Or, why do you think your products are special/unique?
The question IS: why do consumers care about your business?
You’re in business to serve a customer.
If you don’t put their wants and needs first, it will be hard to stand out and make sales.
Sometimes business owners luck out, and what they want to make, and the designs/styles/product features the business owner loves, are also loved by customers.
However, for most of us, we really have to get to know our target market first.
Keep that in mind as you read through this article.
Look at your business and products from your customers’ perspective.
If you don’t have a clear idea of who your customer is, check out this article:
How to find a unique angle for your business
If you’re struggling to make consistent sales, or even if you have a successful business but would like to expand, the following steps will spark some ideas.
This is one method for finding a unique niche that has proven to be successful.
STEP 1 – Find a proven model
Brick and mortar stores or boutiques are a good examples of businesses that (typically) have a strong USP (unique selling position) and stand out in a city.
It costs a lot of money to set up a brick and mortar business, and there’s more risk. A loan is typically required and the business owner must show proof that their business is viable to acquire that money.
The question a business owner must be able to answer if they want a loan is:
Why does the city need another ________ business?
For example, let’s say I want to open a burger restaurant in my city and I need a bank to loan me money, or other business owners to invest. I need to be able to answer why the city needs another burger restaurant.
You can order a burger at most restaurants and anyone can find a Mcdonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc. within a few blocks.
When people have so many known options, why would they choose my unknown burger restaurant?
If I couldn’t answer that question, it would be very hard to get the money I need to open a restaurant.
It would also be hard to run a successful business and keep it open without giving people a reason to try my restaurant. If I don’t offer a unique burger, or a unique burger experience, people will just stick to what they know and love.
This is why we know that long-standing brick and mortar businesses are doing something right.
They’re offering something unique that consumers want. If they weren’t, they likely wouldn’t be open for many months.
You can use these successful business models to develop a product and business that’s unique.
STEP 2 – Make a list of successful shops
Make a list of at least 10 shops that could carry your products, but it’s not their focus.
For example, if I make jewelry, a bakeshop could carry my products, if I made bakery-themed jewelry (e.g. earrings, necklace pendants, rings, charms, etc. in the shape of cakes, pies, ice cream, etc.).
Another example is if I make stationery. A brewery isn’t a natural fit, but my products could be sold at a brewery if I made beer-themed stationery.
Venture as far away from your product category as you like.
It helps if you work with the types of stores you know and love.
For example, if I’ve never visited a bakeshop and I don’t like sweets, I would cross bake shops off my list.
Here’s how I found my list of boutiques:
- Google a street or area of your city where people go shopping.
- Open the map, zoom in, and list the types of businesses along that street.
Here are some examples of the types of businesses in a popular shopping area of my city.
- Barber & hairstylist
- Hockey shop
- Bird supply store
- Flower shop
- Record store
- Coffee shop
- Tattoo parlor
- Cheese shop
- Clothing store
STEP 3 – Research the businesses
From your list, choose the businesses that resonate with you.
For example, if I don’t like beer and I’m lactose intolerant, I might take the brewery and cheese shop off my list.
Of the stores left on your list, brainstorm ways you could take your product and make it a fit for the shop’s customers.
It doesn’t matter if you’ll never make products to fit in the majority of boutiques on your list. This is a creativity exercise, and the more you think outside the box, the more ideas you’ll come up with and the more likely you are to find a winner.
Next to each type of shop, list a variety of products you could make that would be appropriate for the shop to sell.
For example, if I sell jewelry, I could alter my jewelry to follow a theme of a boutique. Jewelry could look like objects within a theme or quotes could be stamped onto jewelry.
Necklace pendants shaped like a hockey stick, puck, skates, etc. Or, flat pendants stamped with hockey-themed quotes, such as “hockey mom”. I may even explore ways to make jewelry using the wood from broken hockey sticks or hockey pucks (e.g. men’s rings made from old hockey sticks or pucks).
Or, let’s say I make handbags, I could also follow the theme of a shop (e.g. handbags shaped like a pie, or bags made with fabric that has a dessert theme; cake illustrations printed on fabric). Or, I could think about a type of bag the people who work in or shop at the boutiques might use.
- bakeshop – a bag that carries pies or keeps them warm
- butcher – reusable bags for meats, that won’t leak and can be washed
- barber / hairstylist – travel bags for hair products and tools
- brewery – cooler bags that fit growlers or larger bottles/cans of beer
Think outside the box and brainstorm ways you can take your current products and make them appeal to the boutique’s customers, or even the boutique’s owners/staff.
For example, I might make dessert-themed reusable shopping bags that people who own a bakery might buy to use, or that a bakery might carry and sell to their customers. Both are good target markets.
Alternatively, you may come up with a new product.
For example, if I make bags, I know how to sew and may consider making aprons. I could make aprons butchers would buy to wear, or ones they may sell to their customers who are going to BBQ/grill/smoke/cook the meat they buy.
But I would focus on one target market or the other; not both. I would make products that target butchers, or the customers butchers target (BBQ-ers, cooks/chefs).
Explore ways for your products to fit the theme of each boutique on your list.
STEP 4 – Research a few unique ideas
Once you’ve brainstormed product ideas for a variety of boutiques, start eliminating ones that aren’t likely to work. And research ones that could be profitable.
For example, let’s say I’m considering making aprons for butchers or their customers.
- Is there demand for butcher or BBQ aprons?
- Will I have much competition?
- Is there search volume online for butcher aprons or BBQ aprons?
- Are there several shops that could carry butcher or BBQ aprons?
- How much would it cost to make a butcher apron and what could I sell it for?
- Are there any niches within butcher or BBQ aprons that would be profitable? (e.g. BBQ aprons for women)
Before you dive into making a product, find proof that it is likely to be a good product to sell.
>> This article will help: 5 Ways to Know if People will Buy your Handmade Product
STEP 5 – Make it a fit
When you find a product idea that’s a winner, it’s important to make it a perfect fit for the target market you want to sell to.
For example, if I make aprons and I want to sell them to people who grill/BBQ/smoke meat, it would be important that I redesign my aprons for those people.
I wouldn’t take a regular apron and just slap a new name on it (e.g. BBQ apron) and expect it to sell.
Rather, I would think about design features a BBQ-er might want in an apron:
- stain resistant
- dark colors to hide grease or BBQ sauce stains
- pockets or loops for BBQ tongs and a flipper
- an insulated pocket to keep a beer cold
- a clip-on bottle opener, or oven mitts, or rag, etc.
- print diagrams of different meat cuts on the aprons
Get to know the target market you want to sell to and create a product that’s perfect for them.
Why this method works
Long-standing local shops are doing something right. They’ve found a way to stand out in their city and offer something unique.
They’re pointing you towards a profitable target market and a specialty product consumers are willing to spend money on.
Not every idea will be a fit, but you might find a unique angle to take your business or products in a new direction.
This also points out opportunities for you to sell your products wholesale.
If I created an amazing line of meat-themed BBQ aprons, it’s an easy product to pitch to every butcher shop in my city.
And if I price them right, it makes it easy for the butcher shop to say yes to carrying my product in their shop. It’s another revenue stream for them.
Please share in the comments if this brainstorming idea was helpful for your business, or if you have any questions 🙂
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!