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What's Your Unique Business Idea?

Intuitively, or based on sound research, you believe your business will succeed because you are doing something different from some or all of your competitors. The first test of any business, small or large, is its uniqueness when compared to its competitors.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't borrow a good idea from some other company and build a successful business around it. For example, every town needs a certain number of dry cleaning operations, and most of them look very much alike. However, if you examine the more successful dry cleaners in your area, you'll notice that each one tends to emphasize and promote something special. It may be lower prices, faster service, better cleaning, a drive-up window, or more frequent coupons in the local shopping news.

Some of these business owners undoubtedly borrowed their ideas from other companies they've dealt with, or promotions they many have noticed when traveling in other cities. The point is, successful businesses find ways to make their products or services stand out from the crowd, or at least the crowd in their immediate geographic area.

If your business provides a product, sources of uniqueness can range from pricing, packaging, distribution method, or feature differences, to the mere perception of a difference that may or may not exist. For example, granulated white sugar is difficult to differentiate from one supplier to another except in pricing, packaging, or amount of advertising. But white sugar substitutes like aspartame (e.g., "Nutrasweet brand") or saccharine (e.g., Sweet 'n Low brand) have important product feature and benefit differences that help determine consumer purchase decisions.


Features are "descriptions" of a product or service (e.g., green color, pear-shaped, inexpensive, fast, slow, etc.)

Benefits are the "advantages" you receive from using the product or service (e.g., feel better, look beautiful, more endurance, etc.)

There are two main issues to consider here:

  • How is your business different? Can you express it in terms of a concise statement, known as a "unique selling proposition" or USP, that will form the basis for all your advertising, promotions, sales communications, and other marketing activities?
  • Is this a difference that customers appreciate, so that they'll prefer or even seek out your business's offerings rather than your competitors?

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