The following article was first published in St. Louis Small Business Monthly’s May edition
When I was a teen, I loved to order Domino’s pizza. I would call the neighborhood shop, order my favorite (a small pepperoni), note the time of my order on a slip of paper, and then wait with breathless anticipation.
My excitement had little to do with the quality of the pizza. In fact, there were plenty of other pizza joints in town that, in my opinion, delivered better pies.
Why did I choose Domino’s over all of the other pizza places?
I chose Domino’s because it offered me something no other restaurant would: “Fresh hot pizza delivered to (my) door in 30 minutes or less…or it’s free.”
So time and time again, I would order this pizza—which I liked less than other brands—and wait for my reward.
Domino’s cornered the pizza market in the late 1970s and 1980s because it convinced millions of pizza lovers to value fresh and hot, fast or free over some other benefit.
Domino’s didn’t promise delicious. Domino’s didn’t promise big. Domino’s simply said, fresh and hot, fast or free. That was Domino’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It still stands today among the greatest USP’s in marketing history.
Why should your prospects choose your business over all of the other options they have? Your answer is your Unique Selling Proposition. If you don’t have one, get to work.
Your USP must be the foundation of all your marketing and sales materials. It must appear in your emails, on your web site, in direct mail, and broadcast. Everywhere you connect with prospects and customers, your USP must be prominent.
Here are some questions to help you create or improve your USP:
What benefits do customers realize by choosing your business?
As you answer this question, make a distinction between features and benefits. Anti-lock brakes and air-bags are features. Getting your family there safely is the benefit. High-speed pizza ovens and efficient delivery systems are features. Satisfying your hunger quickly and avoiding the frustration of waiting endlessly are benefits. Businesses frequently lead by listing features. Prospective customers are shopping for benefits.
What makes your business unique?
We don’t call this a unique selling proposition for nothing. At the time, Domino’s was the only pizza place that could deliver consistently in “30 minutes or less.” Even if others could deliver as quickly, Domino’s staked the claim as the one and only that would.
As you consider what makes you different, don’t forget that distinction between benefits and features.
Next time you’re waiting for a pizza delivery, browse the Yellow Pages (if you still have them) in a competitive category, such as electrical contractors. This is a great way to see the difference between ads that emphasize features and claim nothing unique (you’ll find many) versus ads that emphasize unique benefits. I found one with the following headline; “Electrical Problems? Save Money!!! We Charge by the Job…Not the Hour!! No surprises. Know the price BEFORE We Start”
It’s a great ad—unique (no other ad claimed to charge by the job) and focused on benefits (save money and avoid surprises).
Can you offer a guarantee?
Every time I called Domino’s I knew I would either get the pizza quickly (Good! I’m hungry!), or I would get it free (What do I have to lose!?). Domino’s eliminated the risk.
Guarantees work. Sure, Domino’s had to give away plenty of pizzas over the years, but they sold far more because of the guarantee.
The question really is not can you offer a guarantee; the question is what guarantee will you offer? If you offer the guarantee, teamed with a unique benefit, more prospects will buy.
If you have nothing unique to offer, if you promote the same features as every competitor without identifying the benefits, if you don’t mitigate some of the risk for the buyer, you give prospects reasons to hesitate, to price-shop, and to choose your competitors. That’s the wrong approach at any time. That spells disaster in this economy.
As noted above, I count Domino’s USP among the best. But it’s not my favorite. That honor goes to Mike Diamond, a southern California plumbing contractor. His USP: “I guarantee my plumber will show up on time and smell good or your house call is free!”
This brilliant USP has all the ingredients. It’s unique. It emphasizes benefits. And it has a bold guarantee. Plus it’s funny. (If there are any plumbers or plumbers’ relatives who are not laughing, please send comments or complaints to Mike Diamond, not me).
More Marketing Tips from the Pizza Parlor
On the very day I began writing this column, I read an article in the New York Times about Domino’s. If you believe the PR mantra “all news is good news,” you didn’t see the YouTube video in which a Domino’s employee stuck cheese up his nose, and then put the cheese on sandwiches that may have been delivered.
The frenzy that followed that video—and the social media lessons that can instruct your business—will be the topic of next month’s High Voltage Marketing column.