What is your USP? Do you stand out from the crowd?

Apr 28, 2020 8:33:02 AM

The importance of USP in Tourism Marketing

Do you know what you are selling and what is your actual target group?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone is trying to sell you something, but you don’t really understand what? Or is the message so vague that you simply can’t catch it? Are you sure that you are not guilty of similar ambiguous communication, for example in your own marketing and sales speeches? What seems self-evident to you may not be so for others.

The internet is full of articles that talk about targeted marketing, targeted messages, and customer segmentation. Also in the tourism industry, you come across companies and sales reps who don’t always seem to know what they are exactly selling and to whom. Or so it might seem to the listener at times. The target groups of a company can be an entire country (e.g. local people in whole Sweden or Finland) or on the other hand international tourists in general. If you are selling everything to everybody, how are you able the reach all these people with a limited marketing budget? By focusing your marketing activities on certain target groups and segmenting your ideal and potential customers, you’re sure to get the best concrete results, too. Running a successful business is full of choices and analyzing and choosing target audiences is certainly one of the most important ones.

What is your unique selling point or USP?

Analyzing and determining your unique selling proposition / point (USP) is not rocket science. You must have come across the term, since it has been talked about for eternity, namely since the 1940s. So what is a USP? Is it a promise of value or a unique selling proposition, or both? It’s a simple way to specify what you exactly do and to whom you do it for. But why do only few tourism operators and providers take advantage of the opportunities brought by the USP in their own communications and marketing? The USP helps you get the attention of exactly the customers for whom your message is intended for.

Of course, it is also important to answer the question: do you have a USP or multiple USPs? What makes your tourist destination or business unique, special and different from the competition? Can you really tell the customer why he or she should choose you instead of a competitor? Although the question seems simple, for many it can be a challenge to give a clear and concise answer to it. Making a long story short is a good guideline. If you truly want to stand out from the crowd you need to have a little courage and an intriguing story that appeals to one’s emotions. A plain message catches nobody’s attention.

Are you addressing a specific target audience or everybody in general?

was recently in an international training where one of the tasks was to give an elevator pitch to an international client. Participants were free to choose the target group of the speech (consumers/b2c or professionals/b2b meaning tour operators or other entities comparable to this segment). The purpose of the task was to adapt the “traditional” sales pitch to suit a specific target group and to present the services offered by the company in a way suitable for the representative of the chosen target group. If you chose individual consumers (i.e. FITs) as the target group for your sales pitch, why would you focus your story on a restaurant that is open by prior reservation only for groups, or why tell about your gorgeous sauna product if it is not available to an individual traveler? The message will not appeal to the listener and no business will come out of it. So always remember to put yourself in the shoes of a client as you format your speech.

USPs are often missing from the websites of tourist destinations as well as single service providers. The websites usually clearly list the products or services the company offers, but nowhere is the USP or the story of the company to be found. Are you telling the customer who you are and with what kind of values you operate your business with? Nowadays you can also present your USP in the form of a video in addition to writing it out in a textual format. If you have a family business, you should highlight it clearly on the front page of your website. Share your story. If your company invests in, for example, local or organic food, or sustainability plays an important role, tell that to your customers as well. Don’t take these things for granted, as they may well be part of your USP, and influence a potential customer’s choices. At its best, the USP is the sum of its parts. Northern lights alone or a hotel are not anyone’s USP, instead they can be very important parts of a product package.

The USP tool can help

Visit Finland, together with the German DER TOUR, has created a simple USP tool for defining a competitive product (Figure 1. Actionable USP tool). First, the USP must be functional, that is, available for purchase. When determining the USP, it should be taken into account that the content of the product has been defined with sufficient precision. It is also essential that the most popular product is more a combination of “USPs” than just one single thing. If, for example, a glass igloo was a USP, it would sell well all year round, and not just at certain limited times. The best result is achieved, for example, when you build a storytelling entity around your accommodation service, which includes an activity, culture and tradition, good food and northern lights (Active / Outdoor, Tradition / Culture, Enjoy / Gourmet, Northern Lights). Northern Lights are not a USP per se, but a part of the winter product package described above. The same applies to the midnight sun, for example, it alone is not enough.

USP työkalu Visit Finland

Figure 1. Actionable USP tool (Business Finland / Visit Finland)

In addition, the overall product definition is strongly related to product availability, pricing and services, ie capacity (pricing / availability, hardware, accommodation) (Figure 1. Actionable USP tool). “A single hotel by the lake, for example, is not enough until it is sold. Basic issues such as distribution channel pricing, capacity management throughout the season and sales-driven pricing are also really essential if you want to make September your high season,” says Jyrki Oksanen from Visit Finland.

The USP can also be approached from another perspective. After all, a tourism product is a chain of different services and the quality level of a product is decided by its weakest link. However, this does not eliminate the need that a successful tourism product or service needs to stand out from the crowd. Thus, the tourism product can also be seen as a whole, which includes the USP as one part. Northern Lights can be the USP of a particular object in this interpretation, and a service chain that complements the northern lights has been built to experience it. The most significant part of the chain can be, for example, a glass igloo, which enables seamless tracking of Northern Lights in a comfortable and warm environment. The customer's experience is complemented by additional services on offer, such as themed food and activities that respect the culture of the area.

Regardless of which approach fits your service better, it is essential in both interpretations that you need to be distinct and that a single part of a tourism product or service chain is not enough. You can best stand out either by combining multiple USPs and / or building a quality service chain around your travel product. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Is your USP a combination of different services? Or are you still trying to stand out from the competition with, for example, pure nature and the midnight sun? Aren't those factors that are available to all your competitors as well instead of just you?

When the USP is clear, it also facilitates the company’s marketing communication. A clear USP serves as a guiding principle for your marketing communication. If you travel around the world, for example at various sales events, fairs or workshops, it is worthwhile to include the unique selling points to your sales speeches and company presentations - taking into account different target groups and always adjusting the elevator pitches accordingly. Since when did you last stop to think about your company’s unique selling point? An honest answer will hopefully lead to action and rectification of the matter. Here’s a short checklist to get you started.

USP checklist

  • Specify your USP. Be bold but truthful.
  • Don’t assume anything, communicate precisely and clearly.
  • Practice giving an elevator pitch and pay attention to the chosen target group. 

If you are interested and would like to practice your sales speech for the international market, please contact us! We will be happy to organize a product development workshop for your area or group of companies with an elevator pitch training. If you wish, we can also use an international tour operator, for example, to join online, who can give direct and useful feedback.

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