Unique Selling Proposition – we should all have one, right?

The truth is, an astounding number of advertising agencies don’t and there’s a very good reason for that. With approximately 20,000 agencies in the United States all pretty much offering the same set of services, the chances of landing on a completely unique selling proposition are slim. Unfortunately, many agencies go to the opposite extreme. Fearing missed opportunities, they get seduced by the idea of being all things to all prospects. That doesn’t work either and I’ll address that syndrome more in Part 2.

Last month, I helped a client define its differentiating positioning statement in a single afternoon so I know this can be done and done fast!

Recently, I’ve given up on the idea that an agency (especially a full service one) is “unique.” In a sense, agencies are unique in the same way we humans are. We’re a combination of a lot of the same ingredients – eyes, ears, bellybutton, a fascination with cat videos, etc. – and our quality of uniqueness lies in our blended personality. Admittedly, this can be a subtle thing to define.

But define it we must and the first step to making it easier is to let go of the need to be unique. At the risk of oversimplifying a difficult process of introspection, here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. I take a page out of new business consultant Michael Gass’s playbook. Since 2007, he has consistently reminded us in his blog Fuel Lines how important it is for agencies to differentiate themselves. The good news is that those points of differentiation are probably hiding in plain sight and include things like your location (biggest agency in Texas? the only agency in Pismo Beach?), your ownership (woman or minority owned; big agency veterans; industry newcomers), and the types of clients you attract (fast-growing tech companies; conservative CPG brands; regulation-laden pharma). Ask yourself if these points are truth or aspiration and make sure you’re handling them accordingly.
  • Filter those points of differentiation through the desires of your clients and prospects. You may have the most awesome softball team or the coolest dogs-at-work policy, but if you want to use those as selling points, make it abundantly clear why your prospects should care, whether it ties back to a lower employee turnover, increased productivity or some other benefit.
  • Own it. Once you’ve distilled that positioning through the filter of your clients and prospects, use it everywhere – on your website, through your social media, in your PR and in internal communications. Incorporate it into your prospect selection criteria and your marketing plan. Own that positioning so fiercely that your competitors wouldn’t dare touch it.
  • Don’t be everything to all people. Resist, resist, resist. Overcome the fear that you will lose out on opportunities by being too specific. In fact, I’d wager that the opposite is true. The more you can articulate who you truly are, the more easily the right prospect will find you and the wrong prospects will avoid you.  

Last month, I helped a client define its differentiating positioning statement in a single afternoon so I know this can be done and done fast! So far, the results have been positive. Not only has it made it easier to articulate the agency’s value in nanoseconds, which is about all the time you’re given when you finally get your prospect on the phone, it’s already resulted in several meetings with the right kinds of prospects.