Finding your USP: It's not about being the best
Say you're the best nowadays and many will raise an eyebrow (at most) and move on.
Prove your distinction and people can't argue - even if they don't like what you or your brand stand for!
It's not likely that many people feel a great fondness and affinity to a pound store or that they'd freely admit to a little rail hunting around a certain 'value' sports retailer, but these retailers are very clear on where they stand in the market and what they have to offer.
It's the way you define success
What is 'the best' anyway? Most sales? Highest profit? Largest customer base? Best range of products or services? Most exciting ad? There's a lot open to interpretation - just ask any PR who has used a little 'creative license' ;)
Success is subjective and you need to set your own goal.
You also need to create a divide between you and your competitors.
There are fantastic brands who aren't number one sellers in their category, but they do have a clear proposition and a strong stake in the market none-the-less.
Good old cheddar cheese faces an incredibly crowded and competitive market, accounting for half of all GB cheese sales according to a Kantar Worldpanel report published back in July 2016. The number one spot for sales in a store can be won on price promotions on a week-to-week basis.
Two clients I've worked with previously both had successful portfolios with a range of cheese types. Only a few of these cheeses were amongst the best sellers in terms of number of sales in the cheese category, but both brands had distinctive selling points that they played to.
For example, some appealed to a very specific audience, such as kids for lunch boxes, others focussed on usage within cooking with recipe ideas, and some played on their authenticity, heritage and place of origin. Some used playful and cheery creatives, while others took a more serious, 'grown-up', sophisticated approach.
Both brands and their ranges were incredibly successful globally because they played to what made their products different within the market and the audiences within the market.
How to find your USP in the market
Know who you want to target and understand their likes and dislikes - if you don't know this, you won't be able to create a unique proposition for them
Do your research - who else is playing in the same field as you, what do they do, could you complement them or are you replacing them? Note: if you can show a retailer you can grow their category you're already on to something. If you think you have to compete with another product, you have to give the retailer reason to take the other product off the shelf if that's what needed - and do it without slating that competitor product or brand (that's never a good thing to do)
Draw a quick X and Y grid to visualise where you and your competitors sit in the market and where you want to be - e.g. luxury and budget, taste and experience etc.
Do your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis for your own business and even for your nearest competitors
Ask yourself what value you deliver for your customers
It's a fine line between being the best and being different in reality. You can argue that by being different that does make you better and you can define your own success and status in many ways.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to reach the top and be a leader if that's what success looks like to you, but in order to get there you have to know how you're going to separate yourself from the best of the rest!