What makes you valuable, visible and varied? You’ve probably heard the saying “Differentiate or Die.” In today’s high-velocity marketplace, you have to be unique and fill a niche to be successful. A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is what sets your business apart from the competition. “USP” was coined in the early 1940s by successful American advertising executive and pioneer of television advertising Rosser Reeves. His ads focused on the one reason the product needed to be bought or was better than its competitors. They often took the form of slogans. In fact, Reeves oversaw the introduction of dozens, some that still exist to this day, such as M&M’s “melt in your mouth, not in your hand.” Selling propositions, however, may come in many forms: descriptive, benefit based, witty catchphrase, personality, visionary or provocative. Consider:
• Federal Express — “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”
• BMW — “Ultimate Driving Machine”
• American Express — “Don’t Leave Home Without It”
• Coca-Cola — “The Pause That Refreshes”
• Nike — “Just Do It”
• Volkswagen — “Think small”
• Wheaties — “Breakfast of Champions”
No one said that developing a USP is easy, but it does help if you begin with a communications audit. This is an essential part of the development — the time you spend working on the audit is key to your future success. So what are the steps?
• First, learn about your company and its people. Understand the needs and wants of your customers. This may mean interviewing them or conducting surveys. If you don’t know what they like and don’t like, you can’t create an effective USP.
• Examine the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. What makes them better than you? What makes them weaker? Use this information to identify your biggest benefit to the customer (based on what they like) and define your uniqueness.
• Now, the fun part – constructing a memorable message USP. Offer something that your competition does not offer and show why the customer should choose your product or service. The key is to solve an industry pain point or performance gap. Also, make sure you condense your USP into a clear, concise and easy-to-understand language that people can easily absorb.
• Integrate your USP into all marketing and public relations materials. Beyond that, weave it throughout the culture of your business – including your “elevator speech,” sales presentations, phone scripts, printed materials, advertising and website. A good USP will already reflect who your business is and what it stands for.
Your USP is the essence of what you are offering, so it needs to be compelling, concise and clearly define what you do. It takes time, but it’s worth it — if you can’t concisely describe the uniqueness and create some excitement in potential buyers, the road to success is much steeper.