Unless you’re fortunate enough to be the only player in your industry (say, the only dedicated supplier of lion-taming equipment in North America), you’ll need to differentiate yourself from your competition through your unique selling proposition, or USP.
A strong, instantly recognizable USP can make or break businesses operating in competitive markets and niche marketing industries, so it’s essential that you leverage your USP and make it the cornerstone of your overall marketing strategy. Until you know what your USP is, and how to capitalize on it, your business will be just another voice clamoring to be heard.
In this guide to developing a unique selling proposition, you’ll learn how to write a truly compelling unique selling proposition, with help in these five areas:
Simply put, your unique selling proposition is what makes your business different from everyone else in your market. A strong unique selling proposition can help you attract and retain customers and reduce client churn.
For some businesses, identifying a USP will be easier than others. For example, if your business really is the only dedicated supplier of lion-taming equipment in North America, this will be your USP. Sure, there are plenty of companies that sell general circus equipment, but your business focuses solely on high-end accessories for the discerning big cat behavioral performance artist – this is what sets you apart from the rest of the clowns.
However, for most businesses, identifying a unique selling prop is not this easy. In fact, for more conventional companies, it can be very difficult. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can make a name for yourself, even if you make or sell a common product or service. Let’s look at some unique selling proposition examples.
The best USPs directly address a specific need experienced by a company’s ideal customer. A great unique selling prop, sometimes known as a value proposition, should also emphasize what individual quality separates a business from its competition.
Here are some examples of unique selling propositions that work.
Small, growing businesses and solo entrepreneurs have to-do lists a million items long, and one of those items is the need for business cards. You might also need signage for your physical business or delivery vehicles, branded swag to raise brand awareness as you make the conference rounds, labels and stickers, brochures … you get the idea. So where do you turn?
Vistaprint is a one-stop shop for online printing: You can order everything you need online and get it shipped fast. It’s easy and affordable and completely engineered with small businesses in mind. What’s not to like?
Credit where credit is due – if it hadn’t been for the guys over at Fizzle, I might have gone the rest of my life without discovering Saddleback Leather. This company’s USP (and website in general) perfectly exemplifies how it addresses customers’ specific needs and highlights a truly unique quality of its products.
Now, you might think that finding a unique – and memorable – USP for a leather satchel company would be difficult. However, take a look at Saddleback’s 10-part “About Us” page.
Amateur bullfighting. Escaping from a corrupt Mexican Federal Police officer. Trading puppies for 100 tacos in Juarez – Saddleback’s “About Us” page reads like a pilot for a new AMC show. This ties in perfectly with the rugged, adventurous aesthetic of the company’s products.
As if that weren’t enough, Saddleback also offers a 100-year(!) warranty, which the firm half-jokingly refers to as its “They’ll Fight Over It When You’re Dead” warranty. How many companies remind you to mention a product warranty in your will? Not only does this make a bold statement about the company’s confidence in the craftsmanship of its products, it also appeals to its ideal customer – daring, thrill-seeking travelers who need bags that can survive their globe-trotting adventures.
Seriously, just writing about these bags makes me want to buy one. Genius.
Donut shops are ten a penny – especially here in Boston, where you can trip on a curb and practically fall into a Dunkin’ Donuts – but Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon, manages to make traditional baked goods sexy in a highly distinctive way.
Although virtually everything about Voodoo is unique, its extensive range of donuts (and the obvious relish with which the owners devise their sugary creations) set it apart from any other donut shop. In their quest to create a truly unique menu, Voodoo’s owners even fell afoul of the FDA after experimenting with two particular recipes that included Pepto-Bismol and NyQuil – stunts that could have threatened their business, but ultimately helped word of the small donut shop go viral.
A diverse menu isn’t the only thing that makes Voodoo unique. Its hot pink rockabilly décor, cash-only policy and late-night opening hours have made Voodoo far more than just a donut shop – it’s a tourist attraction. Sure, you can get a donut almost anywhere, but Voodoo’s USP is the diversity of its menu and the experience of waiting in line for a decadent taste of what lies within.
The popularity (and notoriety) of the store has even allowed the owners to open a second branch in Denver, and additional stores are planned for other locations across the country. Voodoo’s USP gets people talking in a way that few social media marketing campaigns could ever hope to accomplish.
The clothing and fashion industries are savagely competitive, and finding a unique selling proposition in this market is far from easy – but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated, either. This is exemplified excellently by Osmium.
The phenomenal rise in popularity of handmade goods in recent years has transformed traditional arts and crafts from a casual pastime into big business, thanks in large part to the success of online handmade marketplace Etsy. However, clothing remains one area in which mass-produced goods are still very much the norm, due to the substantially cheaper materials and overseas labor utilized by most chain retailers. This is how the simplicity of Osmium’s USP helps the small company shine.
Every single garment sold by Osmium is made by hand, with the majority of the company’s inventory being made right here in Boston. The company places emphasis on its ethical production processes and the durability of its products, both of which differ starkly from most conventional clothing manufacturers.
So, now we’ve seen some strong unique selling proposition examples, what should you bear in mind when trying to create your own USP?
Before you start thinking about which qualities set your business apart from similar companies, you need to know almost everything about your perfect customer.
When you’re identifying your ideal prospect, consider the following:
Remember – it’s not enough to merely target a rough demographic. You need to know exactly who you want to sell to and why. Once you know this, you can get to work on the next unique selling proposition best practice, which is…
Consumers don’t want to buy products – they want to solve their problems. This could be as simple as purchasing a reliable set of tools that will last for years, but it can (and frequently is) much more complex.
Take the cosmetics industry, for example. Companies in this space don’t just sell make-up – they sell lifestyle ideals; glamour, confidence, and style. Think about this in a problem-solving context; people who may not feel glamorous, confident or stylish will if they use a particular product. This lies at the heart of most cosmetics advertising, and this concept applies to many other industries, too.
To create a strong USP, you have to examine the profile of your perfect customer and then market your products in a way that shows them you can meet their needs and solve their problems. You can’t hope to write persuasive, compelling copy in the voice of the customer unless you know who they are. If your prospective customers choose your products, how will their lives be improved? What makes your business so different that prospective customers should choose your products or services? The answers to these questions should form the bedrock of your USP.
Now that you know who your ideal customer is and the problems they face, it’s time to tell them precisely why they should choose your business over your competitors.
FedEx is the perfect example of this principle. Sure, there are dozens of package carriers people can choose from (including the USPS), but FedEx’s slogan of “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” transformed the company from just another logistics company to a market-leading global brand. Even though the company dropped the slogan years ago, FedEx’s USP and branding helped it become a proprietary eponym – a trademarked name often used as a generic term, like Kleenex, Band-Aid and Coke.
Another USP best practice you should think about in this stage is making your customers a promise. FedEx, for example, guarantees it can get any package (from anywhere) to its destination overnight. This not only addresses customers’ specific need (reliable package delivery), but also makes them a promise – to deliver their packages with care, on time, every time.
So, you’ve figured out who your perfect customer is, explained how your business can solve their problems, and told them why they should choose you instead of the competition. However, you’ll rarely have the opportunity to wax lyrical about any of this at length. Just as advertisements have mere seconds to capture consumers’ attention, your USP should be almost immediately obvious.
Thinking of your USP in terms of an elevator pitch is a great way to condense what makes your business different, and how you can use it as the foundation of your marketing efforts.
Let’s see how this works, using our lion-taming equipment supply business as an example. Note that everything in brackets can be changed to suit the specifics of your company, and that this framework can apply to both companies and individual products.
See how easy it is once you have all the pieces of the puzzle? If someone asks about your business, you can use this as a snappy, concise way to explain what your company does. Thinking of your business or products in this way allows you to focus on what really matters – your ideal customer – and identify any glaring problems with your USP.
Now you’ve nailed down your USP and condensed it into an elevator pitch-style summary, how can you use it in your PPC advertisements? By applying everything above to the principles of writing killer ads.
It’s essential that your USP is highlighted in your ad copy. Preferably, it should be in the headline or first line of your ad. If you choose to feature your USP in the headline, make sure it’s keyword-rich. Alternatively, if you include elsewhere in your ad copy, make sure it emphasizes the benefits of using your product or service. Many advertisers can’t resist the temptation to rave about product features before moving onto the benefits to their customers, but this is a rookie mistake. By emphasizing the benefits of your service, you’re placing greater value on the emotional payoff and appealing to your prospects’ desire to solve their problems.
Safety was the primary benefit in this ad, but what about choice or specialized knowledge? You could create other ads that emphasize the diversity of your inventory or the specialized knowledge of your staff across both lines of copy in your ad:
However you choose to incorporate your USP into your PPC ads, be sure to target one highly specific need per ad. Trying to solve all your prospects’ problems in a single ad will dilute its strength and result in lower conversions.
Now that you’ve written a series of compelling PPC ads highlighting your USP and its benefit to your ideal customer, it’s time to turn your attention to your highly optimized landing pages.
Let’s use the first ad above as an example. Creating a dedicated landing page for this ad could focus on the USP in several ways and reinforce the benefits of ordering from Lucky Leo’s. How?
It almost goes without saying, but you should make landing pages for each of your ads. This means that each landing page should highlight a different benefit of your USP, and include relevant calls to action.
What’s your company’s USP? Did you know what it was right away, or did you figure it out as you went? Tell us in the comments!
Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.
See other posts by Dan Shewan
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.