Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): How Unique do you need to be?


Whatever you are selling; cars, homes, insurance, food or even yourself, you will help buyers to choose you or your business if you have put a little time into considering your USP; your Unique Selling Proposition. This piece of advertising mambo-jumbo is a valuable example of short-hand. Trying to describe USP in long hand doesn’t really help to clarify:

Your USP is the feature, attribute or behavior that you or your company can and do demonstrate on every single transaction that you undertake with customers. This feature, attribute or behavior is sufficiently different from those offered by your competitors that you believe it will cause buyers to preferentially select you or your company as a provider.

USPs develop and grow with changing trends and fashions. At one time it was enough just to be cheaper but these days the focus could be anywhere:

  • Environmentally friendly (automobiles)
  • Expensive (“you’re worth it” cosmetics)
  • Organic (food)
  • Traditional (furniture)
  • Most complex (cell phone)
  • Smallest (camera)
  • Largest capacity (MP3 players)
  • Ergonomically designed (keyboard)
  • Customer friendly (airline)
  • Fastest (courier service)

Your USP should be contained in fewer than 10 words and, unless you’ve already carried out this exercise, it’s unlikely that you can encapsulate the differentiators between you and your competitors so neatly.

Jack Boardman, a young entrepreneur set up a printer cartridge refilling business in his home town. He had already been trading pretty successfully for a couple of years when he realized he needed to do some advertising to enhance his sales. Being a young guy who reckoned he didn’t know everything, he guessed that he was probably not the best person to define his business’s USP. So, he did what everyone should do; he asked his existing customers what it was that caused them to do business with him. The list was quite a long one, so he wrote it all down and put it to one side.

Then Jack asked his staff what they thought made them special to customers. Once they stopped laughing, they got down to producing another long list.

Jack then did a bit of research with his competitors and tried to work out what they thought their USPs were.

The final stage of this process was to sit down and strike out anything from the lists that was true of Jack’s business and also true of his competitors. You can’t claim something is unique if there are two of them!

Jack was left with around half a dozen features and attributes of his business that he now knew his competitors were not implementing at that time. With these last few issues, Jack prioritized them by:

1. Ease of imitation (by competitors)
2. Sellability (the ease with which the average customer could understand it)

This gave him three or four concepts to mould into a catchy phrase that he could honestly claim was true of his business and he incorporated this into all of his advertising with spectacular results.

Categories Sales and Marketing

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