Your Unique Selling Proposition

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What’s a unique selling proposition (USP)? First the Wikipedia explanation:

“The unique selling proposition (a.k.a. unique selling point, or USP) is a marketing concept that was first proposed as a theory to understand a pattern among successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. It states that such campaigns made unique propositions to the customer and that this convinced those buyers to switch brands. The term was invented by Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. Today the term is used in other fields or just casually to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects.”

A strong USP can mean the difference between being “just another company” and one that’s unique and memorable in the minds of customers and prospects. To do this, a USP must accomplish three things.

  1. Each USP must make a strong appeal to the target audience. Not just words, not just product puffery, and not just window advertising. It must say to each reader: “Buy this product, try this service, and you will get this specific benefit.”
  2. The benefit must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. In other words, it must be unique.
  3. The proposition must be strong enough that it can attract new customers to your product or service on its own.

Here are some USPs you might recognize:

  • Nike: “Just Do It!”
  • Apple: “Think Different.”
  • Miller Brewing: “Tastes Great, Less Filling”
  • KFC: “Finger Lickin’ Good”
  • Subway: “Eat Fresh.”
  • Energizer: “It Keeps Going, and Going and Going…”
  • Head & Shoulders: “You get rid of dandruff.”
  • Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free.”
  • FedEx: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”
  • M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”
  • Metropolitan Life: “Get Met. It Pays.”
  • Southwest Airlines: “We are the low-fare airline.”
  • Walmart: “Always Low Prices. Always.”

Your USP is your unique answer to these questions:

  • Why should I listen to you?
  • Why should I do business with you instead of anybody and everybody else?
  • Why should I do something instead of nothing?
  • What can your product do for me that no other product can do?
  • What will you guarantee me that nobody else will?

There are two types of USPs: explicit and implicit.

Explicit USP

  • The message you lead with
  • Clearly stated in your marketing materials
  • Involves promises & guarantees
  • Aimed at new customers or first-time buyers of a particular product or service

Implicit USP

  • What customers love most about you
  • Things that keep existing customers coming back to you
  • May get mentioned by customers in testimonials & word-of-mouth referrals
  • You may go for years and never state it publicly: “We operate with absolute integrity.”

Whether you have a new business or an existing one that needs a stronger USP, here are some ideas to help you come up with a USP that translates to a benefit the customer wants. A strong USP can have some or many of these characteristics.

  • Faster service
  • More personal service
  • Services above and beyond the basics
  • Guaranteed on-time completion
  • Guaranteed delivery
  • Guaranteed friendliness
  • Guaranteed live phone support
  • Better prices
  • Exclusivity (“Ours is the only package that includes ‘x.'”)
  • Superior quality
  • Convenience
  • A better promise or guarantee of results

Your USP should be unique, useful, simple, and memorable. A well-thought-out USP can help you position your company in a powerful and strategic way. It’s never too late to strengthen your USP. Start today.

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