USP for your Start up Business with Lisa Hughes

As a business coach with over two decades of experience and a mentor with the AIB Start-up Academy, Lisa Hughes knows what it takes to make a successful start-up.

We spoke to her to find out how finding your Unique Selling Proposition or USP can make a serious difference to your business.

Get an Outside Perspective

As an entrepreneur herself, Lisa cautions that it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of running your business and lose sight of what truly makes your product unique. “You can’t see a building in its entirety when you’re inside the building,” she explains. “And when you’re an entrepreneur, who’s living and breathing your business every day, you can easily lose perspective on it. What ends up happening is that the business owner is not looking at the product from their customers’ perspective. They’re looking at it from the inside out.”

“We are all here to serve our customers, to take people’s pain away or add value,” she continues. “Until we get that message baked into our thinking, then sometimes it’s going to feel like we’re pushing a rock up a hill because we’re selling something that perhaps we don’t necessarily want or need. Ultimately, your USP is what your customers value. Not what you value.”

Learn From Customer Behaviour

Know your customer is a familiar business mantra, but finding your USP can require a more wide-ranging approach than traditional market research. “Sometimes if you ask a customer what they like about your product, they will tell you things that they think you want to hear,” Lisa says. “But ultimately, it’s their buying behaviour that tells you what they really do value. Lynne Twist always says, “Look at your chequebook”. Where you send your money is what you really value.”

“If we take the example of Kiki Moon from this year’s Start-up Academy,” she explains. “Keelin had developed this beautiful baby blanket, but what happened is that people started asking if she had it in a bigger size. It completely changed her view from ‘this is a baby product’ into ‘this is a product that everyone can enjoy’. And all of a sudden she had all kinds of market segments opening up.”

While Lisa doesn’t discount the value of market research, she cautions that a holistic approach to examining customer behaviour can pay greater dividends. “Listening to your customers for unprompted things is probably going to give you greater insights,” she says. “If you’re asking your customers specific questions you already have an agenda. Whereas listening to the online conversation around your product can really help you to understand what people really want from it because they will discuss it more naturally.”