Marketing your business without a unique selling proposition is a waste of time

What is a unique selling proposition?

Your business has competitors, maybe even a lot, and in a world where customers have easy access to several options, it is difficult to convince them that you are the best option for them. A unique selling proposition helps you do that convincing by clearly stating why your product or service is different from and better than what your competitors are offering.

Fact: You’re most likely not the only one selling what you’re selling.

To put it simply, a USP is a straightforward statement that tells your target market the most important benefit of your product or service, what makes your business remarkable and why potential customers should pick you over your competitors.

Let’s look at a classic example to help drive home the point.

From 1978 to 1983, FedEx used the slogan “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” in its marketing campaigns. This slogan contains the courier delivery company’s USP: a guarantee that customers’ packages will always arrive on time and intact. What is even more intriguing is the functional simplicity of the statement, conveying the most important benefits of using FedEx in a nine-word sentence. Clarity is vital to the effectiveness of a USP.


How do you develop a convincing USP?

Step 1: Know your potential customers

Along with learning who your potential customers are and where they are, find out what they want (for example, discounts, better customer service etc) and determine how your product or service can meet their needs. Don’t make uninformed assumptions. If you have to conduct a survey, do it. Pose as a customer to get a true picture of your competitors’ marketing tactics. You can also ask the customers of your competitors what drives their buying decisions.


Step 2: Explain how your product or service solves your potential customers’ problems

Price is not the only factor that drives customers’ buying decisions. Your customers have problems they want solved and needs that lower pricing might not meet. Use the knowledge of your target market gathered in the first step to identify the problems and needs your potential customers have and match them with solutions your product or service provides.

Look at the solutions from a potential customer’s perspective. Are they convincing? Compare your solutions with what your competitors are offering, looking for gaps you can fill. To differentiate your business, you need to be sure your solutions stand out.


Step 3: List the most important benefits of your product or service

What do you have that potential customers cannot get from your competitors? Selling a product or service that does not have any outstanding benefits is hard. Don’t put your business in a difficult place. Be very clear about what potential customers get when they choose you and make sure you can back up your claims.


Step 4: Make a promise you can keep

In the example we considered earlier, FedEx used its USP (as seen in its slogan) to make a promise to potential customers: the guarantee that their packages will always arrive on time and intact. Taking a cue from that, define a simple commitment you can make to potential customers through your product or service. Make it simple and be sure that you can fulfil it at the current capacity of your business.


Step 5: Merge what you have from the previous steps and condense

Your USP should be simple and short, ideally not longer than one line to make it easy for potential customers to understand it and for you to implement it in your marketing strategy.

Going over the details again, your USP should communicate the following:

  • Who your potential customers are and what they need.
  • What your product or service is and how it will meet your potential customers’ needs.
  • How your product or service is different from what your competitors offer.
  • Your promise.


Step 6: Survey your target market

Before using your USP in your marketing, share it with a few people in your target market. See if it convinces them to choose your business over your competitors. Use their reactions to refine it.

Note that your USP can change with new trends, developments made by your competitors and changes in your business. Be flexible enough to adjust your USP when you need to.

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