The 5 things you need to build a Super DSI


Is your DSI super?  Wait…let’s step back first.  A DSI is a Dominant Selling Idea – think of it as the modern day version of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP).  Basically it’s THE big idea inside a marketing brand – it’s the selling idea that establishes you as the #1 choice within your category and specialty.  You can learn all about the DSI concept from the book “Why Johnny Can’t Brand” by Bill Schley and Carl Nichols.

When they talk about a DSI, they’re not talking about marketing fluff and being super funny or creative (although that’s not excluded from a DSI).  A DSI is about having a simple (sentence or two) way to communicate the value you bring to your customers that makes you the top of your specialty and category. 

An example of DSIs? 

There are lots of car brands…cars are the category.  A specialty within the car category is safety.  What do you think of when you’re looking for a safe car?  Volvo established their Dominant Selling Idea a long time ago as the safest car brand – they pretty much own that specialty.  Here are some others:

M&Ms – the candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

Enterprise Car Rental – “We’ll pick you up”!  (They created their own specialty of rental cars not at airports).

Halls – with ‘Vapor Action’ (lots of throat lozenges, but only one with ‘vapor action’)

The beauty of an effective Dominant Selling Idea is that it automatically makes you the top choice within your selected specialty (assuming you can live up to your claim).

The Test for a Super DSI

In Why Johnny Can’t Brand, the authors go through a lot of ideas and a process to help you figure out what your DSI should be.  It’s not easy…and not every business is going to be able to legitimately have a DSI, but here’s a test to help you figure out if you’re onto something.

Is your product or business idea:

1. Superlative

Are you as good or better than everyone else within your specialty?  Can you claim #1 in something?  Best in class within your boundaries? (i.e. best pizza in Kansas City).

2. Important

Does your differentiator – your DSI – address something that’s important for decision makers? You may sell cars that have top and bottom windshield wipers…but that’s not likely to sway many decisions.

3. Believable

Is it clear why we should believe your claims?  Do you have credible and important testimonials?  Does it logically follow that you would be good at this product or service? (Think about your favorite steak restaurant offering up an enchilada…probably not believable).

4. Memorable

Does your idea stand out from the crowd?  Does it link to an emotional feeling?  What would cause me to remember your idea if I looked at a dozen similar ideas within your category or specialty?

5. Tangible

This is where the rubber meets the road.  You might have created a great idea that establishes you as a believable #1 within your specialty in a memorable way, but if you don’t actually deliver on that promise you won’t last.  To have a Super DSI, it has to actually perform (and be more than just an idea on paper).

What I really like about the concept of having a DSI is that it’s not just clever marketing and it’s not just for big national players.  Any business or idea will benefit by positioning as a Dominant Selling Idea…and any business or idea will suffer without that positioning.

Think about the last time you told some friends about a great restaurant in your area.  Maybe you said something like; “They have the best fries…you’ve got try them!”  or “I was amazed at their service, I’ve never had an experience like that before!”.  That’s potentially their DSI…something they should build around.

Now think about how your customers describe your business…would they consistently isolate on your important strength?  Are you consistently positioning yourself as #1 in a specialty?

These are tough questions and they take a lot of time and soul searching to answer honestly, but if you can figure this out you will be successful.  A valid DSI can take you to new heights in your business.

What do you think about Dominant Selling Ideas?  Are you comfortable that you know what yours is?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

Photo by aka Kath