I tell that story for a few reasons. First, it is easy to understand that if we were to highlight those same points as our USP in today's market, we’d make a laughing stock of ourselves. The market has changed and those items are no longer unique. The second reason I bring it up is to illustrate that a USP will, in all likelihood, not be the same for 10, 20, or 30 years. As market conditions change, what we need to be and do to stand out will change as well.
So, let's jump back to your USP list. If you are like most operators, your list includes some of the above-mentioned selling points. While those are all good things for a motorcoach company to have, they are about as unique as air conditioning and restrooms in today's market.
Here's the thing: I know that there is a little voice in your head right about now that is saying, "But our equipment is newer than those other guys’, and our drivers are better trained, and we do have the best reservation staff." You could go on and on justifying why these are important differentiators. I also know that, while restrooms and air conditioning are things you either have or don't have, the expertise of your drivers or the quality of your maintenance program is much more subjective. (Just because you prioritize maintenance does not mean all maintenance programs are the same.)
It's important to realize, however, that the second half of the acronym—the Selling Proposition—can’t be overlooked. You see, the point is to have something that a consumer can use to set you apart from your competitors. Imagine, for a moment, that you are planning a family reunion. You know you want to use a motorcoach because, let's face it, 50 ubers just isn't going to work for anyone, and you start looking around for someone to help. What are you going to do?
Well, first you'll use google to help you narrow down the list. No matter where you are, a quick search will inevitably give you a few options. Then, you'll take a quick look at the websites. You'll probably spend less than 4 minutes on each site looking for things that will ultimately disqualify some companies from the mix. Next, you'll get quotes—either by filling out a quote form on each site or making some phone calls—and try to make a decision on which company you'd like to work with.
While many sales people in this industry would say that it all comes down to price, the truth is a bit more complex. In this case, if you are like most consumers, the next thing you’ll do is try to determine the reason for the price disparity among the different companies. You will compare the quotes and backtrack to the websites as you look for something to help you make the right choice. Yes, price will be something you'll consider, but it will not be the only determining factor.
Now let's imagine you are shopping between 3 companies. Company one quotes $800 for the day, company 2 quotes $950, and company 3 comes in at $1100. You head to their sites to check out what they are offering and this is what you come up with.
All three have late-model coaches that seat 56 passengers. All of the companies claim to provide clean, safe, reliable services, and they say they’ve got good drivers and a great safety rating from the FMCSA. Each one has photos of equipment that appears--to the untrained eye--to be nice, and they all advertise a regular maintenance program. One company did have a slightly-nicer person on the phone, however, and one got the quote back much quicker than the other two.
How would you choose? In this case, and in countless scenarios like this every day, the answer would most likely be price. But why are they choosing based on price? Is it because of actual budget constraints, or is it just because price was ultimately the only USP that the companies presented?
This all leads to one inevitable question: How do we actually create value through a USP? The short answer here is this: Look beyond the proverbial air conditioning and restrooms to identify what it is that actually makes you different from your competitors. Is it your history, family, staff, or drivers? Is it your level of service? Perhaps it actually is your maintenance program. Once you know what it is, the next part of the USP equation is to turn that thing into a selling proposition—that is to say, into something that the person shopping for their family reunion can look at and say "I choose this company because of that." This process is more complicated than simply pinpointing what your advantage is; you've got to craft the story of what it is, along with illustrating, for the consumer, why they should care about it.