There’s a reason behind every choice. Whether you are choosing what shirt to wear, what food to cook, or what car to buy, your decision making comes down to unique aspects of each option.
When you’re trying to sell something to a potential customer, they need a reason to choose your product or service over one of your competitors. What is different about your solution that solves a customers need better or differently than the other alternatives? We call this your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
So what is a Unique Selling Proposition or USP, why do we need to define one, and how do we use USPs in our marketing strategies to reach potential customers? This step-by-step guide will teach you everything you need to know about unique selling propositions, how to identify USPs and how to use them effectively to convert leads into more sales.
Table of Contents
What is a Unique Selling Proposition?
Let’s start with the most basic question: What is a unique selling proposition? A unique selling proposition, also sometimes referred to as a unique selling point or unique selling position, is a company’s key differentiator(s). Essentially USPs are the reason why your target customer would choose your product or service over competitors.
When used effectively unique selling propositions (USPs) define a brand, setting them apart from the competition, establishing a stand-out position in the market while solving a specific customer pain point… and there lies the key.
Consumers are not interested in spending money and buying your products or services, they want your business to solve their problem(s).
Unique selling propositions focus on providing value to the customer that only you and your business can provide.
The two following statements will be true for an effective unique selling proposition:
- It matters: key differentiators are compelling, beneficial and relevant to your ideal customer.
- Is truly unique: A standout, powerful differentiator clearly defines your brand as a leader in a specific niche or category.
A business can have multiple USPs which can be used together, or individually depending on what value they bring to each customer. We will cover several paths to consider when identifying USPs and how to leverage them in the sections below.
The Benefits of USPs
Now that we understand what a USP is, let’s turn to the many benefits clear-cut USPs have for any business. Simply put, without a unique selling proposition both your business and product/service will not succeed. Consumers will never purchase something, no matter if it is a product or service, that offers zero benefit over competitors in the marketplace. We’ll emphasize this again, consumers do not want to spend money, they want to solve their problems with a product/service. Your USPs will highlight exactly that.
If your competition is successfully using, creating, and most importantly articulating these key differentiators then they will have no trouble attracting your customers with relevant and compelling benefits.
A businesses USPs are the backbone of a marketing strategy and the core foundation of the company. They wind up in a value proposition statement to customers providing specific details, focusing on the individual customer and the value they are receiving.
Unique selling points are used throughout marketing and business efforts, often being the focus of a company’s position statement and highlighted in advertisements. They allow a business to dial in their marketing scope concentrating on solving the pain point(s) of their ideal target audience in a memorable way.
There are many avenues to explore when identifying key differentiators that can be used as leverage to grow a business. Product features, location, design, price, convenience, ingredients or guarantees are just a few examples of categories that businesses can use for developing a distinct position that in consumers’ minds is noticeable and separate from potential alternatives.
A Guide to Identifying USPs and How to Use Them in a Successful Marketing Strategy
The process of identifying your unique selling proposition(s) includes the analysis of both your business/product and key competitors in the marketplace. The following guide will cover step-by-step the questions that, when answered, will provide a business with a focused and clear position in the market.
This guide consists of 7 topics that, when all completed, will boost your business above the competition:
The first thing you need to do is review and analyze your own business/product so that we can make comparisons with industry standards, the offerings of our competitors and the expectations of customers. The more detailed we are here correlates directly with the more insights we will uncover moving forward.
Starting with the basics, answer the following 4 questions:
- What is our business selling/offering?
- What problem do we solve?
- Whose problem do we solve?
- Who else solves this problem? (include a list of your competitors)
Create a benefits list of compelling reasons why said customer would choose your companies product/service to solve their needs. This list will be used to compare with the competition to pinpoint where exactly you have a competitive advantage and what key differentiators make for the strongest selling point.
A benefits list can include any business fact or decision that could differentiate a brand, such as:
- Price/cost – More affordable?
- Production efficiency/delivery speed – do you ship in 1-3 days?
- Location/Geography – locally produced or do you have a team close by?
- Performance and quality — how well made, reliable and superior your product/brand is
- Expertise and knowledge — are you and/or your team considered an industry expert?
- Appearance/qualities – physical characteristics of your product/brand such as size, weight, and color
- Ingredients/specifications — This could be elements that together make up and comprise your product
- Market dominance —Factual, definitive statements about a brand such as sales, revenue or overall market share
- Testimonials — approval, endorsements or support from thought leaders or past/current customers
- Certifications or awards – accolades and acknowledgement from relevant public or private organizations
- Niche market — brand appeals/caters to a specific target audience
- Features/technology— technological advantages, both hardware or software. This would also include intellectual property or patents
- Company culture/brand personality— unique programs, people, design, processes or brand expression
- Brand story — why/how your brand came to exist
- Social influence – strong social media presence
Remember your answer to “who else solves this problem?”
This next phase in identifying USPs dives deeper into the markets’ alternatives to evaluate your competitors using the same listed benefits. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is equally important as knowing your own.
While evaluating competing products/services, be sure to take notes of how these businesses are attempting to separate themselves from others.
Ask: “What are their marketing messages?” & “How are they reaching their audience?”
Keep an eye out for industry trends.
Compare your benefits list with relevant competitors to identify which benefits are unique to your company and where your competitors strive or struggle.
Create a Position Map
Making a position map is a great way to visualize the market and where each individual brand resides, which can be very helpful for identifying unique selling propositions. This will remove a lot of clutter and personal opinions and help clearly define where your brand stands compared to competitors in the market.
Position maps help plan your marketing strategies around the areas you excel to most effectively funnel your strategies to grab the most market share.
Develop a Buyer Persona for your Ideal Target Audience
In the brand/product analysis phase you should have answered “whose problem are we solving?” If you have not recently updated your buyer persona(s), now is the time (see our full guide here).
Simply put, a buyer persona will highlight your ideal customers, where to find them and how best to reach them. Without knowing your customer, how can you offer them what they are looking for.
What does the customer expect, what motivates their buying decisions, how are they currently solving their problem.
The business whose marketing messages tell the right customer the right message at the right time will always win.
Pain Points and Motivations
With your buyer persona you can isolate customer pain points and motivations that are crucial in your marketing messages. With these in hand it becomes possible to combine your benefits and USPs with the customer’s behaviors and buying decisions to deliver your solution in the perfect situation.
Make a list of customer expectations and review if you accurately meet those demands. Your ideal target audience may be looking for reliability, convenience, style, price or even size. Potential customers could be motivated by fear, peer pressure, necessity or even time constraints. Examine each possible scenario and touch point to ensure that you are truly solving the customers problem.
Map the Entire Customer Experience
By mapping the entire customer experience a business can realize when potential customers are encountering problems, how they search for solutions/find your brand, how they use your solution, how they make buying decisions, how they purchase, when they purchase, when do they receive the product/service and when/why they stop using it.
Most brands stop at understanding all the steps that a customer takes, from the moment they have a problem to the moment they become aware of your solution. A great company will know past the customer’s buying journey, being cognizant of their entire overall experience.
Create a Value Proposition Statement
A value proposition statement basically states “why choose us?“
Using your benefits to solve customer pain points is how a business provides true value. Take the information gathered so far to develop one or two sentences summing up the value your brand brings to the table. This value statement basically says “why choose us?” Write down what will ultimately drive and incite your audience to purchase from you over a competitor.
Develop Your Marketing Message
Now that you have got a unique selling proposition geared towards benefiting your ideal target customer and you’ve identified all the motivations, pain points and touch points of the buying process, you need to start acting. Use your benefits to solve problems, and spin this into a final marketing message promising your customers of your solution.
Unique Selling Proposition Examples
We have defined what a unique selling proposition is above. Here are some examples that you can use to draw inspiration for identifying your own USPs.
- FedX has a unique selling proposition that they can guarantee delivery reliably and faster than the competition. This is in their slogan, “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
- Buckley’s USP is that it just works. Sure, you can get better tasting cough medicine, but you can count on us to get the job done. “It tastes awful. And it works.”
- Disney Land has a unique selling point that it is the best place to bring joy to your children and entire family for an outing. This is why they say, it is “the happiest place on earth.”
- Dollar Shave Club’s unique selling proposition is that their high quality shaving blades last longer to guarantee you save time and money in the long run. The company uses this in their slogan, “Shave time. Shave money.”
- Uber has a USP that their service is the largest ride sharing platform that provides you the ability to “move the way you want.”
- Rothy’s is a sustainable fashion company that uniquely blends style and environmentally friendly materials and manufacturing processes better than competitors. “Reduce your carbon footprint in style.”
- Staples has a USP that they can provide all of your school and office supplies in one location. “That was easy.”
- Dominos has a classic USP that they can promise you your pizza delivered to your front door in under 30 minutes. “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less – or it’s free.”
Your unique selling propositions or USPs are the reasons your customers are going to choose your product or service over any of your competitors. Following the sections of this guide will ensure that you identify effective USPs which best solve the problems of your potential customers to ultimately improve sales.