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Innovate UK: How to Define your Startup’s USP

ED note: Below is another guest post by our friends at Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency – an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Innovate UK We works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.

Life as a startup isn’t easy. Don’t make things harder for yourself by entering into the market without a clearly defined USP. It sounds elementary, but how do you actually find a key point that sets you apart from the crowd? These four tips from Innovate UK will help you develop and define your unique selling point.

Find Your Target Audience

Know what your audience cares about, what matters to them and what makes a difference to their lives” – Mark Johnson, Head of Digital Marketing at KTN

This is an absolute must. If you’ve not got a laser-focussed understanding of your audience, you’ll struggle to pinpoint an effective USP. Take a look at your consumer’s buying habits, attitudes and interests. Then ask yourself: why are they going to pick you over the competition? If you’re struggling at this point, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your product/service aimed at businesses or consumers?
  • Does your audience already buy your product elsewhere?
  • Is there a gap in the market you can exploit?
  • Is this mass market or for a niche demographic?
  • Where does your target audience live?
  • What social media platforms do they use?


Solve a Real Problem

Avoid focusing on the solution before getting into a real in-depth understanding of the problem to be solved” – Darren Ragheb, Head of Business Development at the Centre for Process Innovation.

This is a common trait in startups; we often see it at TechPitch 4.5 events. Small businesses can focus so much attention on finding a resolution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist. This sounds great in a pitch, but is likely to lead to little or no real-world demand. When you begin defining your USP, you need to be sure that there’s a genuine need for your product or service.


Demonstrate Unique Benefits

Understand how and why your customer buys and uses your product. If you don’t you are making money by accident” – Mike Pitts, Head of Urban Living & Built Environment at Innovate UK

So you’ve got your product or service, time to list some benefits. You should be able to do this pretty easily. Consider what is actually tailored to your target customer and what affects them directly. These benefits are key to making your brand the only logical choice. These assets will be the main message communicated to your consumers. If you’ve done this effectively enough, you’ll find a worthy USP.


Validate Your Brand

Validation is essential – get out there with your product or service” – Stefano Marrone, Managing Director at Nuccobrain

Work hard to earn some paying customers as soon as you can. The importance of this can’t be overlooked. The sooner the public gets on board with your brand, the better. Focus on KPIs that demonstrate execution, think about your visitors, engagement, conversions, downloads and subscriptions. These will all validate your brand as a viable opportunity. Early adopters go far in proving to investors that your product orservice is worth their time and money. This is all about establishing a demand in your sector.

Want to see more videos and startup tips like this? Subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel here.

Alternatively, you can follow @InnovateUK on Twitter here.