When you think about what makes any company special, it's primarily something that sets it apart from its competition; on a personal note it's something that offers you, the buyer, something more, something different. In sales terms, this is often called a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It's the one thing that make us choose one company over another. It's what makes that company attractive and distinct from other companies. In short, it's what makes it unique.
But why have a USP? Consider for a moment why you shop where you do – perhaps for groceries in person, or books online. Somewhere along the line you made a choice and that choice was based on some sort of criteria. For instance, perhaps you shop at a grocery store called Quality Foods. Your reasons include the fact that the store is close to where you live, the staff are friendly, the prices are reasonable, and it allows you to choose one product each visit that is on sale especially for you, and you are allowed to buy four of this particular product on each visit. The store also features $1.49 days, pop-up sales where many products are marked down for the day. These combined, form the store's primary USP. You probably value the ability to choose what product you get a special discount on, and the $1.49 days are a bonus. But, if the store wasn't close, the staff unfriendly, and the prices higher than the competition, maybe the USP wouldn't be strong enough to keep you going back. In this case however, the ability to choose what item you can get on sale may be a unique benefit that is far more attractive to you than the store's competitors who only give you a discount if you purchase items in multiple quantities.
Your USP can be anything from guaranteed best prices, best/longest warranty, free delivery, free servicing, widest selection, free upgrades, or something completely different (dare we say unique?) Whatever it is, it has to be something your competition isn't offering.
Make it the focal point of your company, ensure it is appealing to customers, build your marketing strategy around it, and make sure it creates excitement which makes you stand out.
One way to discover a USP for your company is to carry out a strengths and weaknesses analysis on your competition and particularly pay attention to their weaknesses. It's there you may just discover something you could introduce that would give you your USP.
One word of warning – make sure you can live up to your USP. United Airlines used the slogan "Fly the friendly skies" to demonstrate its USP of caring more about its passengers than other airlines. How did that work out? Not all corporate slogans, or tag lines, are companies USP's but they often reflect the USP.
If you can have a combination of USP's all the better! Multiple USP's offer the chance to appeal to different people; what's important to one person may be of no interest to another. Being unique gives your company an edge, so think about what you can do to offer your customers something your competitors don't, or even better can't!
One last word, about the word unique; you often hear people say things like, "It's very unique" or "It's almost unique," when they probably should be using the word 'unusual' instead. Something can be very unusual, but if it is unique, it is one of a kind. Make your company one of a kind.