What is a unique selling proposition (USP)? A Unique Selling Proposition (sometimes called a Unique Selling Point) is the set of unique qualities that separate a company’s brand, services, and products from those of its competitors. USPs briefly highlight the specific benefits of a product or brand in just a few words or a short sentence.
A strong unique selling proposition is an essential part of every marketing strategy: it allows a successful company (regardless of whether it’s a small business or a large one) to stand out to prospective customers in a crowded field of competitors, and keeps existing customers coming back again and again.
Think about some of the world’s most recognizable brands and you can probably figure out their USPs. Apple Computers, for example, is known for sleek, state-of-the-art design, user-friendly products, reliability, innovation, and being a ‘cool’ alternative to the PC. Zappos, the online shoe retailer, is known for free, no-hassle returns and excellent customer service.
Imagine if either of these companies switched things up. What if Apple came out with a series of dirt-cheap laptops that didn’t have that unique Macbook style? What if Zappos changed the return policy on half of their products?
Chances are, customers would become frustrated, and many would give competitors a try; at the very least, this change would water down both brands. Those elements customers had come to expect from Apple and Zappos—the specific USPs that helped them stand out—would no longer define either company: the very foundation of both brands would crumble.
A successful USP clearly states to potential customers why they should buy from you. Your USP can be as long or short as needed, provided it defines what makes your brand different and desirable.
Here are four examples of successful business’ USPs:
So what makes you stand out to your target audience?
Wait! Don’t answer that question yourself. Even if you know your company and your products inside out, you’re really not the best person to answer.
If you want to know how the world sees your brand, you’ve got to ask the people who really matter—your customers! After all, they’re the ones who chose you over everyone else in the market. And even though you might think of yourself as the Apple or the Zappos of your industry, only the market can tell you whether that’s actually true.
Step 1: collect feedback from your customers
a) Run a post-purchase survey on your website to give your customers a chance to explain what stands out about your brand and products. Some of the questions you can ask include:
You notice that the questions are open-ended, and this is especially important because you don’t want to plant ideas in your customers' heads or limit their answers based on your own assumptions.
b) Run a handful of customer interviews: speak with some paying customers and get to know their experience with your brand.
This process will give you a sense of how you stand out in your industry and what you could do to build an even stronger brand.
Step 2: craft your messages based on what you learn
Once you’ve identified what your customers want and why they buy from you, craft your marketing message around your USP.
For example, if customers love that your product is easy to use, stress that USP on your website, in your email marketing campaigns, and in your paid advertising. If your service has a highly affordable price tag, make sure your target market understands how much value they get when they buy from you.