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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.

Marka Explains the ‘Unique Selling Proposition’

Last time, Fire Enterprises, Inc. (FEI) President Org, Marka the marketer, Zoot the salesperson and Numo the accountant discussed the materials and follow-up activities involved in the Customer Nurture Program. Today, Marka teaches the tribe how to create a “Unique Selling Proposition” that tells customers and prospects why FEI deserves their business. Remember, fire = print.

Marka stood before the tribe one afternoon and presented them with an important question: “Why are we in business?”

“To sell fire services?” Numo offered.

“Yes, we’re in the business of selling fire services. But what are our customers buying?”

“Our customers want warmth, better tasting food, safety and productivity,” Org volunteered. “Fire is means to an end.”

“Better,” Marka said. “What I’m looking for, tribe, is a unique selling proposition, or USP. The foundation of our promotional plan involves knowing exactly what FEI brings to the table business-wise and being able to communicate this in 30 seconds or less. When anyone hears FEI’s pitch, they should immediately know why we deserve their business.”

“We’ll always be known as the first,” offered Numo. “We have the name recognition that comes with Prometheus. We stand for quality.”

“It’s true that being both the first and the best-known brand gives us some advantage in top-of-mind positioning,” Marka said, moving toward the whiteboard with coal in hand.

“Bragging about being first isn’t enough, and anyone can say their quality is the best,” Org said, liking the direction of the conversation. “We need to be able to succinctly and accurately say why we’re different from Pyro, Flintstone and the others.”

The room was stumped.

Over the next half hour, the tribe came up with the guiding principles that would serve as the foundation of FEI’s USP. Numo suggested building on the company’s history: “If it wasn’t for Prometheus, we’d still be freezing in our huts.” However, Org insisted that the USP focus on FEI’s exciting future, not its storied past.

Zoot wanted to attack Pyro and FlintStone by including concepts of value and innovation. However, Marka insisted that its USP ring true. “We can hint about value and innovation, but fundamentally our competitors can make those same claims,” Marka argued. “Matches and expansion into the B2B market are definitely steps in the right direction, but they’re not the core competencies of this company.”

It came down to reliability. The company’s new slogan ‘Always There’ would form the foundation of the company’s USP.

“I’ve got it,” Marka said. She scribbled on the whiteboard in coal. “How’s this? ‘FEI helps our customers and friends live warmer, brighter, more exciting lives. From dependability to innovation, FEI will always be there for businesses and hearths alike.’ ”

“It’s snappy,” Numo said, picking at his last piece of bacon. “And easy to remember.”

“An effective USP passes three tests,” Marka explained. It must be:

1. Compelling—If we’re not excited by it, our customers won’t be either.

2. Unique—If the USP still rings true with Flintstone or Pyro’s name in place of ours, it isn’t unique.

3. Memorable and repeatable—The USP must be easy to repeat it in less than a minute at a normal conversational pace. If we can’t do this, it’s too long and most likely boring.

“A USP that passes these three tests will put us on the road to creating a memorable brand,” Marka said.

“We all have to memorize this?” Zoot asked. The salesman remembered the time he’d tried in vain to learn the Greek alphabet and shuddered.

“No sweat, Zoot,” Marka said, playfully kicking her friend’s sandal. “A good USP is quick and simple.”

“If we happen to share a ‘chariot-taxi’ with a prospective customer, we should be able to recite why FEI’s in business within three city blocks,” Org said.

“Absolutely,” Marka said. “Let’s all become ‘brand ambassadors.’ Eventually we want everyone within our organization—from the tough guys down in our torch-welding factory to the young interns answering the O-phones—to know our USP. If they interact with a customer, they’re part of the FEI brand and need to know what we stand for.”

“Bottom line,” Marka said, rolling up her whiteboard for the day. “The USP communicates the strength of our business to our target market.”

FIRE! In Action

Stellar customer Service can be a Powerful USP has built a sterling reputation for customer service, delivering 35 CSRs available 24 hours-a-day, a 99% product in-stock rate, and an ad-free website personalized to the customer’s shopping needs. Despite investing little in traditional advertising, the business reported $90 million net revenue in 2008 and was recently named “Fastest Growing Retailer in the U.S.” by Inc. magazine.

Next week: The tribe explores the idea of staying “on message” with communications and customer service.

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