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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
customers into supporters, February 2, 2007, 7C.
Companies without customers are doomed to failure.
Organizations exist to engage in ongoing and profitable
exchanges with external others. Without profitable
exchanges, costs will exceed revenues and the venture will
yield negative returns. Eventually, those responsible for
running the firm will choose to invest their time, talents,
and resources in other opportunities that provide greater
returns. Without ongoing and profitable exchanges,
businesses will go out of business.
firms attract customers and supporters? They offer products
and services that satisfy customer needs, sell their
offerings to customers at prices that maximize profit (that
is, low enough to attract customers and high enough to
provide a healthy return on investment), and provide their
offerings in the places expected and required by customers.
They also must make customers aware of their offerings and
promote the desire in them to seek out and make exchanges
with the firm.
products or services are highly demanded by customers, firms
with monopolies on the offerings reap big rewards—because
they have more control over supply and prices than firms in
competitive situations. In competitive markets, where many
similar or substitutable alternatives exist for consumers,
firms must differentiate their offerings on one or more
important and relevant consumer dimensions and distinguish
themselves as the place to shop.
marketing, the concept of choosing and using one or more
important consumer dimensions to compete with others for
customers is known as the unique selling proposition
(USP). The USP is the thing or “angle” that firms use to
differentiate themselves from their competitors in the minds
of the consumers. Banks, for example, try to attract
customers by offering free accounts, convenient locations,
competitive interest rates, or family-friendly service.
Grocery stores create exchanges by emphasizing low prices,
local ownership, superior customer service, or exceptional
selection. Colleges and universities try to attract
students with promises of student-faculty ratios, low
tuition, scholarship assistance, flexible class times and
locations, and personal interaction between students and
effective development and use of USPs can create competitive
advantages for companies. When a firm’s USP is truly
“unique,” it can create monopoly-like advantages for the
firm. Economists use the term “monopolistic competition” to
describe this idea. It refers to a firm in a competitive
market that offers its goods or services in a way unlike any
of its competitors. When competitors cannot easily copy a
firm’s USP, it can become a form of sustainable
competitive advantage for the company.
that is not unique will not lead to competitive advantages
for firms. When everyone offers low prices and outstanding
customer service, no one is unique. Firms that identify
other relevant and important things needed and wanted by
customers will attract customers to their offerings—perhaps
in monopoly-like ways. To do that, firms must be in tune
with consumer needs and wants, be aware of competitors’
strategies, create organizational systems that meet consumer
needs, make consumers aware of their offerings, and offer
their products and services at prices and in places desired
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