If you're running a small business, you'll know all about the importance of having a unique selling proposition (USP). In order to attract customers and keep them out of the clutches of your rivals, you need to offer something a little bit different - a product, service or characteristic that sets you apart from your rivals.

If all you do is sell ordinary goods, at ordinary prices, in a non-descript location, how can you expect to build up a really successful business? In order to kick on, drive revenues and ensure more repeat custom, you need to be unique. Your USP is what grabs people's attention and then encourages them to keep coming back - you've got to have one.

But let's face it, we can't all be creative geniuses. It's very rare that business people come up with something entirely new - an idea that nobody has ever heard of before. If you've got the originality and drive to see your vision become a reality, then you could be destined for the top. The rest of us need to look for market opportunities, openings and unfulfilled needs, which they can provide solutions for before their competitors.

The ability to spot emerging trends and gaps in the market is a very valuable one - and this is creative business in itself. Being quicker to react than your rivals can be your major asset, if you are able to market your new offering effectively to your customer base. If you are the first company in your town or region to launch a new product or service, or embrace a fantastic new technology solution or production technique, this can be your USP. It might not be your invention, but it is your idea to introduce it as an early adopter.

If you're wanting to find out about the latest product innovations, developments and consumer demands, where better to go than a trade show? Even just spending a single morning or afternoon speaking to manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and front-line business leaders can give you the knowledge, insight and ideas to improve your company no end. Whatever the industry, trade shows offer so much to see, do and learn.

You might witness an inventor giving a product demonstration, and make an order for your business there and then. Or perhaps you'll attend a workshop on customer service techniques, or maximising your resources in the mid and back-office. You might simply spend an hour or two networking with other people in the same position as you - businessmen who are looking for a great idea to take their company on to the next level.

When you attend trade shows, it gives you the opportunity to tap into other people's genius, and use their inspired creations - or new ways of thinking - to improve your own company. Then you can take what you have learned, or the new products you have bought, back to your company and make a bigger difference to the lives of your customers. Then they'll be sure to come back and buy from you again in the future.