H&R Block vs. Turbo Tax: What is a Unique Selling Proposition?

Finally, something good comes from taxes.

In the heat of this tax season, surely you’ve seen the ads for the two most prominent tax help companies out there, H&R Block and Turbo Tax. Each is very successful, and have been going head to head for years.

And each, this tax season, has been running what are, in my opinion, brilliant advertising campaigns. They are interesting, engaging, and effective. However, the most important lesson to glean from this year’s epic tax ad fight is about a fundamental and indispensable business principle, one without which none of us will stay in business long.

I’ll explain, but first watch the ads:

Told you they were good (“Last year, did you make a tiny person that eats really bad?” – great line).  So what is this indespensible business principle these two companies nail? H&R Block and Turbo Tax, in their ads, clearly and persuasively display what is called a Unique Selling Proposition, and it is the topic of this post.

What is a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

In short, your Unique Selling Proposition is what sets you apart from your competitors, and your business must have one. Otherwise, when consumers ask the most important question they can ask of a business, “What can you do for me?”, you will have nothing to say.

unique selling proposition h&r blockConsider the ads again, then consider the very specific way they are messaged. Think about what Turbo Tax is really saying in their ad. They describe a common human experience, having a child, then ask the question, “Who is best suited to talk about this event in your life than you?” The implication is that you know all you need to know to do your own taxes (“It’s amazing what you’re capable of.”). And what does Turbo Tax offer? Do it yourself tax services.

Now H&R Block. You see dozens of pallets of cash on an aircraft carrier, a billion dollars, and a tax professional (it’s important that he is a tax professional) in a bow tie says , “This is what’s left over after people do their own taxes.” Then a forklift pushes a pallet into the sea. The message is clear – you are not competent to do your own taxes. You need a professional who can get back all the money you deserve, and are not getting (“This is your money!”, sploosh). And what business is H&R Block in? Well, tax preparation, of course.

Why do I need a Unique Selling Proposition?

unique selling proposition turbo taxTry this thought experiment. You are shopping for a car, and pull up on the lot. As you walk around, you notice every car looks the same. Exactly the same make, model and color. You ask the salesperson which of these cars is best on gas mileage. He says they all get the same MPG. You then ask about safety features. No differences. Tires? Same. Air freshener?! All pine. You get the point.

There are many ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and it is crucial that you identify and leverage them, especially in your advertising. Otherwise, you cannot identify your target markets (people who want what you offer over your competitors), and with no target markets, you have no sales. No sales, well, hasta la vista. You must have a reason why people should come to your business, and no other. Hence, a Unique Selling Proposition.

How do I determine my Unique Selling Proposition?

There is a simple and effective exercise to determine your Unique Selling Proposition; it is called a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunies and Threats.

How does a SWOT Analysis work?

The first two sections of the SWOT concern your business:

Strengths – What are you really, really good at? Usually the reason you went into business in the first place.

Weaknesses – What are you not so great at? Be brutally honest here; it does not help to paint a rosy picture. If you need help with this, just ask some loved ones. They are great at pointing out weaknesses 🙂

The next two sections are for your competitors:

Opportunities – What do your competitors not do as well as you? These are their weaknesses. If you can fill in that gap, you have the beginnings of a USP.

Threats – What are your competitors really great at? These are areas where, if you are going to compete with them head to head, you must up your game or look for some other way to differentiate yourself. 

How often should I do SWOT Analysis on my business?

Perform SWOT Analysis regularly. Business is dynamic; conditions change all the time. Always be looking for strengths in your business where your competitors are weak. And those may not be the same today as they were last year, or even last month.

Again, look at the tax ads. What is H&R Block’s strength? They provide professional tax help. And what is Turbo Tax’s weakness? You can do your own taxes with them, but might leave money on the table. So, in their ad, Block accentuates their strength and their competitor’s weakness. For Turbo Tax, the other way round.

Defining and highlighting your USP is job one for business owners. And now you know how to do it. Take some time today and think this through. It will focus your marketing and help you win more business.

Thanks for reading.

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