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Branding and Marketing – It All Starts With Your USP

By Jen Gramm, Tru Vue Director of Marketing

Our series of articles about The Tru Vue® Retail Makeover at Fourth Corner Frames in Bellingham, WA, has covered the operational aspects of running an independent custom framing shop, with an emphasis on financial strategies that boost profits to merchandising that wows customers.



In this series, our focus turns to marketing — with the goal of providing shop owners like you with a framework to evaluate the way you currently market your business, as well as the information and direction to fine tune, augment or completely overhaul your existing efforts.



Importance Of A USP:


When the Tru Vue Retail Makeover team of Ken Baur and Meg Glasgow began working with Fourth Corner Frames owner Sheri Wright on marketing, they focused on branding and the development of a Unique Selling Proposition.  The Unique Selling Proposition — or USP — identifies the qualities of a business that differentiate it from all of its competitors and provides consumers with a compelling reason to consider that business.



Ken, president of KB Consulting, stresses the importance of this crucial step in brand marketing: “A store’s USP is the basis of a robust and targeted marketing program. Without it, a business will find it more difficult to achieve the consistency it needs for effective marketing.”



From the start, it was apparent that Fourth Corner Frames had unique and meaningful qualities that set it apart from the competition, but that hadn’t been articulated into a USP, reflected in the store brand or consistently communicated to the marketplace.



Questions For Development:


To develop an effective USP, it’s important to realize that it is not just the proficiencies of the store that need to be examined but also how they compare to competitors’ offerings.  This will require scrutinizing your competitors’ businesses — looking at customer reviews online, analyzing their marketing and even visiting their shops or talking to their customers — to determine:


  1. Who is the competition
  2. What the competition is doing
  3. Who is their target audience


“Understanding your competition and audience is critical in defining your USP,” said Meg, owner of The Gallery at Finer Frames in Eagle, ID, and industry educator. “In order to know what you have to offer that is different, you need to know what others are doing, and what matters to your current customers and those you are trying to attract.”



Extensive research in the Bellingham market indicated three aspects of Fourth Corner Frames that helped it stand out:


  1. A high level of service
  2. A distinctive sense of design
  3. A commitment to the local art community



In the case of Fourth Corner Frames, each piece of marketing — from business cards to the website — was inconsistent in its look, messaging and failed to communicate the design aesthetic and professionalism that was part of the customer experience. The development of a well-defined USP opened the door to the creation of a logo, overall look, and language that communicated what Fourth Corner Frames had to offer. (The execution and deployment of the USP in the shop’s marketing will be explored in greater detail in future articles in this series.)



Where Do You Start?

When it comes to formulating your store’s USP, consider your relationship to:


  • Your Competitors: What do I provide that is different from my competition? For example, does the competition have the same focus on preservation? What is their design aesthetic? Do they offer the same depth, breadth and quality of services?


  • Your Customers: Why do my customers choose my business? This will tell you what aspects of your USP are already at work. One of the simplest ways to get this information is by distributing a survey by email. Keep it simple with a majority of multiple-choice questions but allow for specific input with a final open-ended question.


  • Your Market: What is happening in my market that my business can address? For example, Fourth Corner Frames is located in an area with an active arts community. The fact that Sheri is so involved in it is an important differentiator for her business. Maybe you specialize in sports memorabilia — think about how you can serve sports fans beyond just framing jerseys. If you are in a family-oriented market, emphasize what you do to capture their memorable moments.



Once your USP is established, think about how it is reflected in your brand and marketing communications — and how you can build on it going forward.



Almost any business can benefit from the exercise of reviewing and defining (or redefining) its USP. As we continue in this series on marketing, we will tell the story of two shops at very different places in the development of their marketing programs:



Shop A:

Like Fourth Corner Frames, this store has great potential due to the quality of its work but suffers from a severe case of lack of branding.



Shop B:

This business has some of its branding elements in place — such as a logo and an attractive website — but it isn’t taking advantage of all of the opportunities to communicate its brand to its audience.



Whether you are Shop A or Shop B, or somewhere in between, check back to get more insights inspired by the Tru Vue Retail Makeover and actionable steps you can take to strengthen your marketing program.






This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.

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