Marketing Strategy

How to Create a Ferocious Unique Selling Proposition

By Dan Shewan April 07, 2014 Posted In: Marketing Strategy Comments: 10

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, 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 post, you'll learn:

What is a Unique Selling Proposition?

Simply put, your USP 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 ventures, 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 USP 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.

What Makes a Strong Unique Selling Proposition?

The best USPs directly address a specific need experienced by a company’s ideal customer. A great unique selling prop should also emphasize what individual quality separates a business from its competition. Here are some examples of unique selling propositions that work.

Saddleback Leather

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 “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.

Voodoo Doughnut

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.

Osmium

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.

Unique Selling Proposition Best Practices

So, now we’ve seen some strong unique selling proposition examples, what should you bear in mind when trying to identify yours?

Get Inside Your Ideal Customer’s Head

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:

  • What does your perfect customer really want?
  • How can your product or service solve their problem(s)?
  • What factors motivate their buying decisions?
  • Why do your existing customers choose your business over your competitors?

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…

Explain How Your Business Solves Your Ideal Customers’ Problems

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. 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.

Make Your Business Irresistible to Your Customers

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.

Create an Elevator Pitch

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.

  • For [lion tamers]
  • Who [need high-quality lion-taming equipment]
  • [Lucky Leo’s Lion-Taming Emporium]
  • Is [the world’s only dedicated online lion-taming equipment distributor]
  • That [provides the very best lion-taming equipment, delivered straight to your door].
  • Unlike [other circus equipment supply companies],
  • [Lucky Leo’s Lion-Taming Emporium] is [the only e-commerce business in North America that caters specifically to these performers].

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.

How to Use Your Unique Selling Proposition in Your PPC Ads

Now you’ve nailed down your USP and condensed it into an elevator pitch-style summary, how can you use it in your PPC ads? 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.

How to Use Your Unique Selling Proposition on Your Landing Pages

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?

  • Your landing page copy could begin by reinforcing the inherent dangers faced by lion tamers, and how these risks are increased by using poor-quality equipment.
  • You could then highlight the quality and craftsmanship of your products – and the fact that Lucky Leo’s is the only specialized lion-taming equipment distributor in North America – before…
  • Including a strong call to action and providing more information about your home delivery services.

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 out as you went? Tell us in the comments!

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Comments

Tuesday April 08, 2014

Sunday (not verified) Said:

A powerful article I must state. USP or Unique Selling Proposition for any business should  give the customer a good reason to use a product. Creating  the most ferocious USP takes time, skill, and planning. The best businesses understand this, and readily apply the concepts discussed in this post. The best practices shared here are practical.

Tuesday April 08, 2014

Dan Shewan Said:

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you found the post useful.

Wednesday April 09, 2014

Ryan Biddulph (not verified) Said:

Dan, power message. Getting inside of your ideal customer's head gives you THE point of view you need to adopt to nail down a USP. I like seeing myself as someone buying my eBook, or visiting my blog, or doing whatever people who pop up on my radar do. By seeing yourself as a customer, you begin to take a 3rd person view that so few entrepreneurs ever adopt, in their business life time. Most sell to themselves, seeing things from their point of view, while with a little bit of mental gymnastics you can see your site or brand as a customer, and develop a powerful USP.

We all have a powerful USP for whatever we're selling. Most people just haven't found it yet. Bravo on the leather ad, and About page above. So powerfully creative, fun, and yes, unique, as no other company from this niche on the planet delivers their USP in such a fashion. Super memorable, unforgettable really.

Thanks, tweeted!

 

Wednesday April 09, 2014

Dan Shewan Said:

Thanks, Ryan! And I agree, Saddleback Leather's USP is one of the best I've ever come across. I haven't bought one of their bags yet, but I'm still thinking about them. They must be doing something right!

Wednesday April 09, 2014

Andrew M. Warner (not verified) Said:

Really great article here. I think that for any business, a USP is mandatory to help you determine exactly how your business is different from the next person's. Once you find out that difference, then you'll be able to use that to your advantage to help stand out from the crowd. 
 
You've structured a very useful post on this topic I must admit. Really great stuff.

Thursday April 10, 2014

Soumen Siddhanta (not verified) Said:

Very good article Dan. That's the purpose of a resume. You happen to be creating an advertisement, a marketing doc, the first salvo of the advertising campaign during which you are the merchandise. And the beginning shot, the USP, can mean the difference between obtaining the interview and having your resume lumped in because of the other failed efforts.

Thursday April 10, 2014

Dan Shewan Said:

An interesting take, Soumen. I think most people are still focusing on the "packaging" when it comes to resumes (think infographics, mock-ups of Google SERPs etc.), rather than their personal USP, though.

Thursday April 10, 2014

Chery Schmidt (not verified) Said:

Finding your USP will set you apart form others I love how you state to get inside your ideal customer’s head, I have never heard it put like this, so true. what set you apart, why should they come to you vs your competitor. Agreed if you want to stand out you need to make your business irresistible to your customers.
 
Yet another great share.. Chery :))
 
P.S. I did land on your blog here today Via Kingged where I also comment and kingged this post..

Saturday April 12, 2014

Arun Kallarackal (not verified) Said:

Hi Dan,

 

That was a good read. And the strategy you mentioned is quite evident. Create a USP, which distinguishes you from the rest of the players. Then get inside your potential customers' head, make them know the quality, importance and usefulness of your service. Make an irresistible offer that they can't refuse!

 

I guess this strategy will work like a charm! Thanks for putting up this article. Really informative stuff!

 

I found the link to this post on Kingged. I'll Kingg this post over there so that more people get to read this valuable post! :)

 

Arun

Friday August 22, 2014

Mark (not verified) Said:

A really good read  - thoroughly enjoyed this article thank you so much for posting. Loved the pictures!

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