What is a USP?
You probably know it already but just in case you don't... USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition (or Point) and every business needs one. It's easy to spot a USP once you see one in action.
It's the service or product that you offer which no other business is currently offering to their clients.
It's what your business stands for.
It's how you're different.
Your USP is why customers should do business with you instead of someone else. It'll also be the reason why repeat customers keep coming back to your business.
Contrary to popular belief, your USP can (and should) change over time. Market needs will change. The priorities of your audience will change. And your industry will also change and shift.
That being said, your original USP will continue to deliver on the promise you made - it will just evolve over time.
In this post, we'll look at a few examples of winning USPs so you can see what a USP is, and how to create one for yourself.
The Important Question
Done right, a USP goes beyond being just a catchy phrase or slogan. It tells you important aspects about the company's products and services. It highlights something their competitors aren't doing (or at least not conveying).
And most importantly, a USP needs to answer this question:
"Why should I choose your business over another?"
And that's the question you should be asking yourself about your own business when it comes time to create a USP.
"But I'm not unique!"
Let me stop you before you start thinking... "This isn't going to work. What do I have to offer my customers that my competitors aren't already giving them?"
Think about it... how many clothing stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, and coffee shops are out there?
And yet, each one of them has its own unique selling proposition that attracts and caters for a certain type of customer.
You may not think that your business has a unique selling proposition... that it isn't different from another, but it is.
Because no one else is like you. Your story, the reason behind creating your brand, your goals and why/how you plan to help your market are all part of the foundation behind a successful USP.
Weave your own unique story into your notes when coming up with ideas for your USP. But make sure others will relate to it.
Your USP should focus on how your products or services benefit your customer - not how it benefits you - but your own story is often an easy starting point when evaluating your business and how it's different.
So, start by jotting down notes about your business. Cover all angles, including why you decided to start your business and how you help others.
You must believe in yourself and your business if you want to create a convincing USP. Without confidence and enthusiasm, you're not going to be able to stand out.
You need to be as excited about your products and services as you want your customers to be.
Ready to create your own winning USP? Let's begin!
Examples of Great USPs
In recent years, many recipe box providers have sprung up here in the UK. I've tried them all. So let's take a look at why I've stuck with Gousto and ditch everyone else.
Gousto has 50+ recipes on offer at any one time, with the menu rotating each week. The boxes are packed with fresh and premium ingredients, and the recipes are adventurous and full of flavours.
I'm a loyal fan of Gousto because their USP, "Impressively easy meals. All of the flavour, none of the fuss." matches my needs exactly.
Gousto offers its customers many benefits, all within their USP, such as:
- Offering a large and adventurous collection of recipes, from family classics to exotic global cuisines.
- Easy-to-follow recipes. Most can be completed in under 30 minutes. Some even in 10 minutes!
- 100% British meat.
- Tasty plant-based and gluten-free options.
- Precise ingredients with zero food waste.
- Free delivery, any day you like.
- No commitment. Cancel any time.
They are the ideal choice for people like me who:
- Don't have time to shop
- Dislike grocery shopping
- Lack inspiration about what to cook
- Want recipes that are quick, easy and tasty
For me, it means no more staring at the fridge at 6pm wondering what I'm going to feed myself and my family. Make no mistake, it's not just about the convenience and time-saving. It's about the transformative feeling of "Wow! I can cook!"
Examples of other great USPs:
- SiriusXM: "180+ channels, commercial-free music"
- BillFaster: "Professional invoices in 7 seconds"
- Domino's Pizza: "You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less -- or it's free."
- iPod: "A thousand songs in your pocket"
- Nerd Fitness: "We help nerds, misfits and mutants lose weight, get strong and get healthy permanently!"
- Saddleback Leather: "They'll Fight Over it When You're Dead."
Creating a Compelling USP
A good USP answers the customer's first question when they discover your business:
"What makes you different from the competitors? And why should I choose you?"
You'll need to do some serious brainstorming to come up with a winning USP. Your USP will help you focus your marketing strategies. It should play to your own unique strengths. It influences your branding, messaging, copywriting, and other marketing decisions.
A compelling USP is more than just a slogan. Of course, a slogan or jingle is one way your USP can be communicated and become memorable. However, your USP should go beyond that.
A compelling USP should be:
(1) Assertive, but defensible
A specific proposition that forces your customers to make a case against your competitors will be more memorable than a generic stance like "We sell high-quality products" or "We take your business to the next level".
For example, if you create online courses, how does your courses stand apart from others? Are you updating more frequently? Are you offering bonus auxiliary contents not typically found in competitor's courses? Are you well-known for creating clear and precise course materials that are not padded with "fluff"?
(2) Focused on your customers' wants and needs
Being unique won't count for much if your customers don't care about your product or service.
It's your job to understand your customers' values and offer them a solution to a problem.
Fulfill their needs and wants and they'll keep coming back for more.
This comes down to thoroughly knowing your market. You should spend time researching your niche or industry inside and out, long before you create your own product or service - and long before you decide on a USP.
The more you know your market, the easier it will be to create a USP that resonates with them, speaks to them and motivates them.
This is why it's important to allow your USP to evolve over time. What matters most to your customers today may change in a few years, so be flexible and willing to change your USP as your market demands it.
(3) More than just a slogan
Of course, a slogan or jingle is one way your USP can be communicated and become memorable. However, your USP should go beyond that.
Look for a way to be unique, even if it's in a small way. What makes you stand out in the market could come down to the smallest detail so spend time closely analysing your products and services to determine all of the many ways you could stand out.
What a USP isn't
Specific marketing strategies aren't always the best USP. 20% off, free shipping with orders over $100, superior customer service, or a fair return policy - these statements may be convincing, but they're not unique on their own.
They're also not positions that will be easy for you to defend, because your competitors can easily offer the same.
When you get to the point where the only difference between you and your competitor is pricing, you've lost. They're almost always going to be able to undercut your sales prices, or offer better coupons or shipping prices.
Instead, focus on incorporating other benefits into your product or service that aren't so easy to copy.
Your USP should demonstrate the position and angle your business takes as a whole. It should be integrated into your products or services, your brand, and the experience you offer your customers. It should mean more than just a few words on a website. It should represent your entire business: what you stand for and what you represent.
Remember, we want to stay away from pricing as the fundamental basis of your USP simply because once we've lowered our prices, our competitors may do the same and undercut us again.
Targetting Your Audience
Before you start thinking about your USP, you should think about your ideal customer.
Who's going to be buying your product or service?
What are some of their characteristics? What are their worldviews? What are they passionate about?
When you're identifying this person, ask yourself:
What does this person really want?
Spend time in some of the places that your ideal customer goes, such as Facebook groups and support forums. Read message boards and social media posts. Participate in the conversations and find out what's missing in that customer's life.
What are they NOT getting from your competitors?
If you know that, you're half way to selling them your product or service. And you'll be able to come up with a powerful USP for your business.
How can your product or service solve their problems?
Customers aren't looking for a product or service, they are looking for a solution to a problem.
As the famous saying goes: People don't want a drill. They want a hole.
If your ideal customer chooses your product, how will it impact their life and improve it?
You need to be able to articulate this solution clearly so your ideal customers can visualise how their life will be different.
Why do your existing customers choose your business over that of your competitors?
There's a reason your existing choose you over your competitors. Knowing why will help you come up with ideas for your USP.
Creating Your USP: Competitive Edge
By now, you should have a firm idea of what you have to offer your ideal customer that your competitors don't.
Now you need to find your competitive advantage.
Make a list of your competitors and what they are offering to the market. Which needs are they filling for the customers? What are their unique selling propositions?
Now analyse those competitors. Look carefully at their ads and marketing messages. How are they fulfilling their USPs? How are they distinguishing themselves from the other companies? What exactly are they doing that you can do better? And more importantly, what are they not doing? Is there an area of the market that's not being covered? Can you exploit that area with your own business and USP?
Look for a spot in the market where you can stand out from the crowd. There may be dozens of ways you could sell your product or service, but your USP will be the one that best positions your brand according to what your ideal customer cares about.
You also need to look at those wants and needs that aren't being taken care of at all. What problems do your ideal customers have that nobody is solving? Is there a way your business can fulfill those needs for them?
If you pay attention to your ideal customer and put yourself in their shoes, you can come up with a captivating USP that draws people to you.
Testing Your USP
Once you come up with a convincing USP, you'll want to test and refine that statement.
Start by interviewing a handful of potential customers and get their feedback on the different ways you're positioning your product or service. You need to see what your USP looks like from the customer's viewpoint.
If you're just starting out, you may not have a lot of actual customers to study, so you may need to look at the competition instead. Visit one of the competitors' shops or websites and see what customers are buying. If you can, ask some of them what makes them buy here - what do they get from this competitor that they can't get elsewhere.
Go beyond traditional customer demographics like age, location, gender, income, or race. Figure out the rationale behind those sales. Find out what's drawing them to that particular business and see if you can offer something even better.
As your business grows, you can ask your own customers why they buy from you.
Communicating Your USP
Your USP should drive your marketing campaigns. Whether you're creating a landing page, a logo, or a social media post, always be aware of how your USP is clearly represented in all your campaigns.
Focus on your customers, not you
Remember to make sure your USP starts with "You" instead of "I," even if the "you" is unstated (as in "Save 15% in 15 minutes or less").
If you say "We (or I) can save you 15%," you're shifting the focus away from your customer, where it needs to be, and back onto yourself as the business.
Target your USP to each market segment. Do your homework and find out what customers in each market are looking for and change up your USP to fit that need.
For example, you'd give a car mechanic a different USP than the one you'd give to the doctor. You'd use different types of advertising depending on where you're selling. It's not hard to play with the wording a bit and change the USP to fit. Just remember to keep it focused on the customer.
This stands for Keep It Short & Simple. You don't want your customers scratching their heads trying to figure out what message you're trying to convey. If they don't get it the first time, they're not likely to spend time and energy to try and figure out what you mean.
People are busy. And they're lazy too. Don't make people work hard to figure out your USP.
In fact, your USP should be described in a short sentence. You want to keep it short and to the point so that it lends "stickiness" to your campaigns and becomes quickly (and permanently) associated to your brand.
Use plain language. Don't throw around slangs and jargons that customers might not understand.
Offer a solution to your customers' problem
Tell them the obvious benefit of buying from you: their lives will be easier or more satisfying if they do. You don't have to state their problem in your USP - they already know what that is. But your USP should show that you understand that problem and offer them a solution.
Keep your branding consistent
Everything you put out onto the market, from your website or landing page to your social media posts, should reflect your USP. It should be a central part of your brand, helping both your current customers and prospective ones to understand what makes your brand different.
Make your USP immediately understandable and recognisable as part of your brand.
Your USP is the foundation of your business. It tells your customers how you're different, why they need you, and how they will benefit by using your products or services.
It separates you from the competition and helps you stand out from the crowd.
Take your time studying the competition and better understanding your market. Spend time where your ideal customer goes so you can not only keep a pulse on your market, but are able to create a snapshot of your customer base.
Take a hands-on approach to closely monitoring commonly asked questions, concerns and problems that your market is facing. Then, develop a powerful USP that speaks directly to your audience, makes sense to them and stands out.
Crafting a USP for your business takes time and effort. But it'll be worth it in the long run. Your USP is the driving force behind creating a recognisable brand in your market. A compelling USP is the reason why some businesses can charge twice what their competitors charge, and still sell out every single time!