Take a moment to answer this: What distinguishes your product from similar products in the market?
You probably had several things come to mind; maybe your product is integrated, easy to use and versatile enough that it has many possible applications across a number of industries.
But providing a long-winded list of every feature and potential benefit of your product is a poor selling technique. Instead, consider forming a unique selling proposition or USP.
A USP is a succinct statement of what your product or service does, how it solves for the customer’s challenge and why it’s better than other options in the market. By zeroing in on the one unique feature, benefit or use of your product, you can focus your sales and marketing strategies for a more targeted approach.
So How Do You Define Your USP, Anyway?
Trying to pinpoint the one defining characteristic of your product can sometimes feel like choosing a favorite child. You probably love everything about the product, and you can see it for everything it is and everything it has the potential to be.
But in the decision-making process, customers have short attention spans. If they don’t immediately see the true value of your product and how that value benefits them, they’ll move on.
For starters, you need to take off your rose-colored glasses. Consider the strengths and the weaknesses of your product — and then ask yourself, which of those strengths makes the weaknesses worthwhile? If you’re struggling, conducting a SWOT analysis is a great way to get down to the nitty-gritty of your product, your brand and your unique position in the market.
Analyze your competitors' sales and marketing materials, and try to figure out what their USPs are. What is setting them apart successfully? What is most appealing to the customer base? Where might they be struggling?
Additionally, you have to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Ask yourself:
How are they actually using the product?
How does it affect their experiences?
What benefits do they reap from the product?
Why did they choose your brand over others?
What motivated their buying decision?
As the founder of Revlon once said, “in our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.” By focusing on what the product can do for the end-user, rather than the product itself, you can create more powerful sales and marketing strategies based on empathy and human connection.
After all, you can provide prospects with a list of product specs all day, but if you can’t quickly and clearly convey the greener grass on the other side of the buying decision, then they’ll move on to the first competitor who can.
Before I go on, it’s important to note that the USP is not the same thing as your brand. Your brand is created through the story, personality, and values of your company as a whole — sometimes, branding takes shape without you even realizing it. The USP, on the other hand, is focused on the unique benefits of your product for your customers.
In any case, you should be able to find some harmony between your brand, product, USP, and ideal customer base. The most successful sales and marketing strategies occur when all of these components are working in tandem.
Unique Selling Proposition vs Value Proposition
Your value proposition is a simple statement that clearly communicates your product or the service benefit you promise to deliver to your customers. Ultimately, this is what makes your product catch the attention of your ideal customer.
While your value proposition is what catches your customer’s attention, your unique selling proposition is why your customers should buy from you and not someone else. Your USP should establish an emotional or strong story about why your potential customers should care about you. You have to find the balance of efficiently solving your consumers’ problems while also making a statement that sticks in their minds. Standing out in the crowd requires more than simply having the best product — your customers should believe in your product and, more importantly, become champions of your brand.
Seems easy, right? After all, you’re passionate about your product, so making your customers passionate as well should be a simple case of telling your story. But it’s not always that simple. Expressing your value through your USP has to be done swiftly and efficiently, and can either make or break the way your brand is perceived.
What Are the 4 USP Categories?
Crafting your USP takes lots of creativity and workshopping — and sometimes even sweat and tears. It can go a lot smoother once you understand the four key categories of every USP: price, quality, convenience, and differentiation.
- Price — Our product is sold at a market competitive cost or lowest cost.
- Quality — Our product has the highest quality of any product on the market.
- Convenience — Buying our product is convenient to you, the customer, through either our delivery or product value props. This gives customers an incentive to choose you over the competition.
- Differentiation — This product is unlike any other on the market because of X reasons. Or, this product is entirely new, the first of its class.
These categories can all be leveraged when having discussions of “this is something we have that our competitors don’t”. Depending on your product or service, you can strategically leverage all of these categories in one USP, or hone in on one per campaign.
6 Steps to Creating a Unique Selling Proposition
A strong, recognizable USP will take into account what your ideal prospect will really want, including their motivations and emotions when facing a buying decision. None of this should be formulated by guesswork, but rather through carefully crafted marketing research. It’s not enough to know what target demographic you want to hit — you have to know exactly who you’re selling to and why. Let’s take a look at the steps for creating a strong USP to make your product or service irresistible to your customers.
Step 1: Conduct Market Research
Just like before any marketing campaign, conducting market research is critical. How can you speak to your target audience’s needs if you don’t even know who your target audience is? Research your potential consumer and identify their needs and preferences.
But don’t stop there. Your analysis should also cover your competitors, too. Why is your audience buying from them? How are they solving a problem that you can solve better? Identifying any strengths and weaknesses of your competition helps you identify how to better position yourself within the market space.
Step 2: Define Your Target Audience
Now that you know who your audience is, it’s time to take a look at the characteristics of your typical customer. What are their buying habits? What channels do they use to make their purchases? For example, if they are frequently responding to ads on Facebook, turn your attention to creating a Facebook campaign.
Recognize that not all customers have the same interests, needs, or purchasing power. Instead of trying to cater to everyone who may be interested in your product, use marketing segmentation to narrow down those highly likely customers who want to make a purchase and target them. By developing specific plans with consumers who are more likely to buy in mind, you can increase your chances of generating revenue.
Step 3: Analyze the Competition
Now that you’ve identified who’s going to buy your product, let’s take a look at who is standing in your way of making that final sale. Understanding your competition is arguably just as important as understanding your prospect. If you know their USPs and value propositions, you can identify ways to set yourself apart from them.
Step 4: Identify Your Unique Selling Points
Knowing the market is only one piece of the puzzle. Once you understand your audience, you have a larger challenge at hand — knowing yourself. What does your company bring to the table? What sets you apart from the competition in your products or services? Identifying your own strengths and weaknesses can help you keep track of any opportunities and threats to your growth. Delivering an effective campaign hinges on your ability to identify the unique selling points of your brand.
Step 5: Craft a Compelling Message
With all this information under your belt, now it’s time to put your plan into action. To keep customers engaged, your USP should be concise and straightforward. Use simple language that clearly explains what makes your offering innovative, beneficial and worthwhile. Try to limit yourself to one sentence if possible—the more concise you can make your USP, the easier it will be for customers to understand why they should invest their time in considering or buying your product or service.
Additionally, emphasize the merits of your product or service with real-life examples. If customers are able to see tangible evidence that you provide a product or service that adds value to their lives, they will be more likely to invest in what you’re selling. Use graphics, videos, and testimonials from customers who have experienced the positive effects of your product or services as proof that your USP offers real-world value.
Step 6: Test and Refine Your USP
Always remember that your USP isn’t set in stone. Continuously monitoring how your audience receives your product or service after launch can give you a better understanding of what resonates with your customer base. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from stakeholders or customers directly and make adjustments or improvements based on this feedback.
The goal of your USP is to not only express the selling points of your brand, but to sell it in a way that fulfills your consumers’ needs. Even in the most saturated of markets, a strong USP can be all you need to set yourself apart.
10 Examples of Unique Selling Propositions
Let’s take a look at some brands that crafted unique USPs that drove results.
Domino’s Pizza: “We guarantee — Fresh hot pizza, delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” This establishes a specific promise, both around the time frame of delivery and the quality of the product, allowing customers to form concrete expectations about their services.
GEICO: “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” This establishes the benefits customers could expect by switching to GEICO from their current insurance platform. It calls attention to a short effort that could lead to big results, and the clever repetition makes it more memorable.
American Musical Supply: “Rock now! Pay later.” This online retailer’s catchphrase boosts their payment plan along with the whimsey of their company’s culture all within their USP.
Canva: “Empowering the world to design.” This is a nod to the platform’s simplicity — it’s so easy it can work for anyone. This separates the company from tools such as Adobe PhotoShop, Illustrator, and ProCreate, whose products are marketed toward experienced artists.
Death Wish Coffee: “The World’s Strongest Coffee.” Instead of trying to sell the smoothest or best-tasting cup of coffee, this brand separates itself from competitors by telling you that it packs a punch. The company’s branding, marketing campaign, and tone of voice all align with this bold claim, daring consumers to rise to the challenge.
Patagonia: “We’re In Business to Save Our Home Planet.” This USP perfectly reflects this company’s mission statement. Patagonia sets itself apart from competitors by establishing they are more than just a clothing brand — they promote a lifestyle and movement that is dedicated to making a difference.
HelloFresh: “America’s Most Popular Meal Kit.” This bold USP statement relies on the trust of social proof: if it’s the most popular meal kit in America, it must be good. It also relies on creating FOMO; if it’s really this good, consumers won’t want to miss out.
Tiffany & Co.: “The right one is worth waiting for.” Tiffany & Co. is known for its timeless and elegant engagement rings. This USP conveys an analogy about love and unique engagement rings all in one phrase.
Warby Parker: “Try 5 frames at home for free.” This USP immediately solves a consumer problem: the difficulty of finding a pair of glasses online. This strategy of offering an at-home try-on not only overcame their sales issue of being an online retailer, but also made them stand out in the market.
Best Buy: “Find a lower price and we’ll match it.” In an industry where consumers can’t get lower than the sticker price, this USP offers something unique: the ability to price match. This not only speaks to Best Buy’s commitment to serving their customers, but also acts as a challenge as it implies consumers won’t be able to find lower prices.
These are only a few examples of noteworthy USPs. Chances are, you’ve heard a lot more. Take these as guidelines as how to make your USP stand out in people’s memories and ultimately improve conversions.
Once you’ve defined your USP, you need to make sure it’s present throughout every part of your marketing and sales process.
Use the USP to create alignment between your marketing and sales teams. When marketers understand how to position the USP in marketing content and salespeople can speak to it in a sales conversation, the resulting consistency creates peace of mind for prospects.
Even in the most saturated of markets, a strong USP can be all you need to set yourself apart.
Elizabeth is a former New Breeder.