If Your Product or Service is Considered a ‘Commodity,’ Then You Really Need That Second USP…

As I was thinking about Bob Bly’s insightful assertion that every successful business really has TWO USPs and not just one (see previous post), it occurred to me how this applies in an industry that I have some experience with.


Self-storage (mini-storage), once upon a time, about 40 or 50 years ago, was a unique, innovative and highly specialized service that few people knew about and even fewer had available to them. It was crude, primitive and commercially unproven, but it served a need and met a demand in American society that was just beginning to emerge.

Over time, the “mini-storage” market evolved and matured. Prices became more competitive and standardized. The industry became more uniform, better organized, more financially viable and more legally/legislatively defined.

And along the way of all that development, growth and sophistication, self-storage became, as a result of becoming more common, more available and less unique, more of a commodity.

And that’s not good when you’re trying to carve out a unique selling proposition!

But that’s the harsh reality of it. When your business deals with a product or service that prospects and buyers view as a commodity rather than a unique, valuable service, it means they’ve decided that providers of your product or service are pretty much the same, and the only difference as far as they’re concerned is price.

Not a true perception, necessarily, but a widely held one, whether it is accurate or not.

And that’s what counts — what the market perceives and places higher value on, not what YOU think they should perceive and place higher value on!

If a large portion of your prospects and buyers think “commodity” when they think of what you’re selling, then the challenge you face is to hone your primary USP to a fine edge and get your secondary USP into high gear!

This means that the human element in your business plays a larger role in its success than you might otherwise have thought. Now your unique personality, style, knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and reputation all come into play.

In self-storage, that translates into the manager (or operator) becoming the lynch pin and all-important variable in the profitability and market success equation. With other types of businesses, it would be whoever the personal point-of-contact is for the public.

So, your “secondary” USP carries much more weight and becomes much more valuable when your product or service is considered, right or wrong, to be a commodity.

And, suddenly the “who” in your business becomes every bit as important and crucial to your success as the “what.”


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