A key characteristic of a product or service that differentiates it from similar products or services in the market place. It is a characteristic that leads customers to choose the products of a firm over its rivals. The USP might, for example, be superior product quality / performance / function / appearance, extra features, better packaging, superior customer service (eg after sales service), greater convenience in terms of location or opening times, lowest price. All successful products have a USP and without it firms can only compete against rivals by cutting prices and, therefore, reducing their own profit margins. Developing a USP requires both customer and competitor research. Most importantly, a USP has to be something that the customer will value, otherwise it will not help the product / service to sell, no matter how different it makes the product / service look to competitors. Not surprisingly, developing USP’s often requires qualitative research, and this can be time consuming and costly to obtain. USP’s should also, wherever possible, be something that can be protected – for example – through a patent and / or trademark. It does not take long for competitors to imitate something that is successful in winning sales.