The Unique Selling Proposition (USP for short) is what sets your products and/or services apart from your competitors.
Expressed as a single sentence that summarizes the essence of your business, the USP serves as the theme of all your marketing efforts.
The question the USP answers for your customer base is, "This is why you should buy from me, instead of my competition."
The catch is, your USP must also provide your potential customers a specific benefit that they see as attractive. It's not enough to say that your product or service is "better" or has "more value". Vague-speak doesn't cut it with customers who want to know how a particular benefit will apply to them.
That's why developing a USP before you bring a product or service to market is a good way to determine in advance if it will sell. If there's nothing that sets your product or service apart from the competition, why would anyone want to buy it? And, even if there is something that makes your product or service stand out, is it something that consumers are going to see as having value? If both of these conditions are not met, why spend your time or money developing a product that will not be viable in the marketplace?
You Must Convey Your Message to the Public
A Unique Selling Proposition is an especially critical marketing tool for small businesses who are forced to compete with both other small businesses and larger retail chains. Your business may have superior service or product offerings, but unless you can get the message out to potential customers they will have no reason to choose your business over a competitor.
The USP is not a new concept. It was created by American advertising executive Rosser Reeves (1910–984) who believed that the only purpose of advertising was to communicate a particular company's slogan for their product or service and that this slogan should remain unchanged.
4 Steps for Creating a Unique Selling Proposition
- Start by reviewing your business offerings from the perspective of the target market, which may be segmented by factors such as gender, age, income level, race, religion, education, etc. What does your typical customer really want? Does your customer base want a lower price, better customer service, a particular location, convenience, home delivery, etc?
- Ask yourself, "What is it that my product or service offers that my competitors' products or services don’t offer?" Then ask yourself what specific benefit this provides your customers. If you can't give exact answers to these questions in a few sentences you probably are not doing enough to differentiate your business offerings from your competitors in the marketplace.
- Now, put it all together in one sentence that is memorable enough to use as an advertising slogan. For example, "We serve the best gluten-free pizza in the city", or "Complete auto service that you can trust," or "Top quality furniture at an affordable price."
- Next, use your USP in your advertising, in your emails to customers, on your website, in all your social media postings like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Also, use it for all your marketing and promotional materials, wherever it might get the attention of potential customers. Don't miss a beat. Don't deviate.
Some Famous Unique Selling Proposition Examples
Hallmark: When you care enough to send the very best.
Subway: Subs with under 6 grams of fat.
The Men's Wearhouse (George Zimmer): You're going to like the way you look–I guarantee it.
FedEx Corporation: When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.
One of the most famous Unique Selling Propositions that Rosser Reeves created was for M&Ms, "The milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand."