According to a study by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, there were a record 5.7 million small businesses at the start of 2017 – representing an increase of 2.2 million since 2000.

With so much competition around, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd and distinguish your business from others. Having a unique selling point is crucial to your business succeeding in such a competitive space, yet many underestimate the importance of finding theirs.

The truth is, unless you understand what makes your business different from those around you, you can’t target your sales efforts effectively.

Identifying your SME’s USP can prove a difficult task, but a good starting point is looking at how the leading players in your market have positioned themselves and what their marketing techniques are, and decide how you compare and what will give you the edge. As a basic example, Waitrose sell high-end, whereas Iceland sell bargains – each markets itself accordingly.  Of course, it’s not just about price.  A USP can be also be based around product characteristics, service levels or key benefits to the target market.

When you start out, it’s important to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Almost all entrepreneurs fall in love with their creation, but not all consider what their target audience is actually looking for in a product or service. Whether or not you find this vital piece of the jigsaw can make or break your start-up.

A customer won’t always choose a product dependent on cost – a competitor could be undercutting you price-wise, but if your product is better than theirs in other ways, you stand a good chance of winning a customer over.

Ask for feedback from your customers and prospective customers, so that you can tweak your USP to ensure you are continuing to meet demand. Many large corporations struggle to be flexible – years of red tape and thousands of employees to retrain can make adjustments harder and slower to implement.

Being an SME makes you nimble – use that to your advantage, and you’ll reap the rewards.