Unique Selling Proposition: How to Develop the Ultimate USP (Lots of Examples!)
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Having your unique selling position down pat can help you differentiate and stand out from the noise.
To sell your product or service, your goal is to quickly attract the attention of your target audience in attempt to make a sale. This is especially true when sending cold email, because you have a fraction of a second to make a good first impression. Having a solid unique selling proposition for your product is the ultimate weapon in this fight for attention.
The ideas from this blog are from the amazing Copy Chief forum, a place where business owners and advanced copywriters get together to discuss and improve sales messaging. If you are looking to improve the sales copy for your product or service, I highly suggest you join this community.
First thing to know:
Unique selling proposition = Value proposition
Different people use different phrasing, but it’s all the same. What is a unique selling proposition?
“If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?”
It seems simple, but it’s deceivingly simple. If I am choosing something, why should I choose this option over that option? Marketing is all about choice. If there’s no choice, there’s no need to do marketing and persuasion!
If I am your ideal customer –
- You must clearly define your ideal customer.
- A unique selling proposition must be stated from their point of view. Use customer-centric logic. Put yourself in their shoes.
Why should I buy from you? –
- A USP must form a rational argument. Emotions are important but so is logic.
- Explain the reasoning why the customer should buy from you.
- Meaning it must start with the word “Because.”
Rather than any of your competitors –
- A unique selling proposition must have an “exclusivity” factor.
- A dimension that separates you from your market.
- There needs to be an element that ONLY YOU can deliver.
Purpose of a business
If you don’t have a unique selling proposition, everything else fails. That’s why you may find some advertising feels weird.
The unique selling proposition gets what you do into the minds of your market. A USP is why we choose! When you’re forced to make choices, you calculate the value of option 1 versus option 2. If you want to be chosen, everything you do must have a USP!
If there isn’t a compelling reason to be chosen, you won’t be.
Start with your product or service unique selling proposition because it’s the most tangible. But you also need a personal and company USP.
Nike vs Adidas
- because Nike is the company that focuses on peak athletic performance.
- because Adidas is the most popular brand when it comes to urban sports style.
The problem is when you start messaging a USP that your audience isn’t getting. It’s all about how people actually perceive your USP. So you have to make sure you USP is being read correctly by your audience.
Assuming both of these high end music services have what I need. The unique selling proposition isn’t based on the product itself but stuff around it. Every music service has a big portfolio of songs nowadays, so you have to find something greater than that to sell to your audience.
Example of three tiers of unique selling propositions
Legitimate questions you need to ask in your marketing! Customers are asking themselves this!
You have a USP whether you know it or not. There’s a conversation going on about your product.
Right now, everybody at the fishmarket looks the same. But the unique selling proposition for the first lady on the left is … she’s the first on the left. She hasn’t utilized it yet though! Her fish may come from a specific part of the Pacific Ocean where there’s no pollution, the fish is caught every day and flown to this market. But you can’t tell right now and you have no reason to choose her over everyone else.
Drifft sent 4 vague emails spread out over months. It’s an opportunity missed on building a relationship and establishing your USP.
Who are these people, and why should we care?
So I went to their website … which was also super vague.
They’re asking a lot to click on those links and don’t give much detail. Their unique selling proposition is vague. They’re suffering from a marketing condition called Keyword-itis. Because everyone sees Google and SEO as the savior of business, they go out and think if they condense what they do into a good word or phrase, people will find them on the web. “Engage”? “Relationship Marketing”? What does that mean?
Worse than that, they’ve done this careful work with keywords to get attention, and then they’ve completely wasted that attention!Completely wasted that attention. Click To Tweet
So Ross wrote them and asked: WHAT DO YOU DO?
AKA … more vague!!! And it’s in closed beta, so don’t ask any questions. Why would you share more specifics later when you’ve just announced that you’re here? Ross could be their ideal customer, but there’s no way he can know.
He got the T-shirt and a nice handwritten note. So they give out nice quality stuff, but we still don’t know why we should care about their work … whatever it is.
Turns out Drifft was founded by David Cancel, a proven CEO who’s made good stuff, but we still don’t know what Drifft does! So we can’t buy, can’t tell our friends about them, etc.
Here’s a company who did their unique selling proposition well:
Aldo has never lost a fight and shuns the spotlight. He doesn’t strike you as a charismatic guy, and in 10 years of never being defeated, he’s never gotten much attention. McGregor has entered the UFC by storm, very talented fighter and big trash talker, so he’s built up a huge fan following. So it’s easy to call this the biggest fight in UFC history.
The UFC looked at all the media attention McGregor was bringing (including MMA) and they’re like, this is going to be massive.
So they put more marketing behind this than ever before in UFC history.
When Aldo got injured and could no longer fight, the UFC had to find a new USP with two weeks notice.
Result? Sales increased anyway!
The UFC probably had a USP on backup in case there was an injury. And McGregor won!
Above picture: Rogan looking like Holly Holm just kicked him in the face (after she whupped Ronda Rousey).
If you can find a compelling unique selling proposition and deliver, it increases your stock 10x. Now the McGregor vs Aldo fight is going to have even MORE interest! Because McGregor just proved he’s hardcore and people will wanna see how he fares against Aldo.It increases your stock 10x. Click To Tweet
What makes a powerful unique selling proposition?
Elements of a powerful USP:
- Claims of value (appeal and exclusivity)
- “Facts” – the quantifiable specific nuggets of information related to your claims of value that back it up
- A crisp USP statement
Appeal vs Exclusivity
Appeal breeds success and the competition is quick to imitate. What’s appealing about Spotify and Apple, for example? It’s being able to access a huge portfolio of music, but it’s not exclusive now because everyone’s doing that.
Appeal is the price of admission. If it’s not appealing, you’re out. But exclusivity is where the magic happens. It’s easy to manufacture exclusivity but it’s not always appealing.
For example … the Bieb:
Kevin could make this hat an exclusive part of Copy Chief membership tomorrow. (“Enjoy the hat! Don’t cut yourself on it.”) Guaranteed no other marketing community is doing this … but how appealing is it? Not very.
So what you want to look for is the sweet spot between appeal AND exclusivity:
If people come to a conclusion themselves, they own it and decide that’s reality. It’s the most potent thing you can do in any sales copy.
Sprint may make the claim that they have the best customer service in the US and are the leading provider … but what does “leading” mean? It means you’re not #1 but want to be #1. How many claim they have the best service and best coverage?
But if Sprint came out tomorrow and says their coverage covers 97% of all US territory and they have a 99.9% customer service uptown, they’re specific, quantitative, and can be backed up. When people are making those big claims, what they want to say is, “Choose us because you’ll be covered and won’t have problems.” You can show them the facts so they can conclude this choice is good enough for them.
Sprint is constantly running specials and campaigns probably because they don’t have a unique selling proposition. Such a hyper-competitive market, such finite differences between one service or another.
There is that USP war going on. What’s the response from competitors?
Takeaway: be specific and quantitative in your language.
Effective unique selling propositions in action
Their USP is: Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich, and it’s implied they’re the best sandwiches. Facts: 250 years of experience making sandwiches, they bake the bread when you order, they roast the meat every morning, and they use traditional family recipes.
This all comes down to lifestyle. The iPhone cover is for “people who can put their phone down.” You’re getting a strong sense of who the ideal customer is.
So what’s the USP?
REMEMBER: A great USP doesn’t make claims. It fosters conclusions!!!
Right away, you’re identifying the ideal customer: owners of big dogs.
The experiment is they take this pressure sensor on the ground and showing red spots where the dog’s joints are rubbing against the ground. This is a big problem for big dogs, which have notorious joint problems.
In these tests, the 4th bed (Big Barker’s) shows the dog is fully supported. Again, Big Barker isn’t telling people what to think, they’re using devices like this to let people believe the truth for themselves. It’s not slight of hand.
The ideal customer is the person who wants only the best for their dog, so they’ll know about these issues with dog joints, and about low quality crap coming out of China. That’s why you have to be intimate with your ideal customer and know what they know and what they’re worried about.
How to craft a killer unique selling proposition
- Discover your existing unique selling proposition. Whether you think you have one or not, you have one. There are certain claims of value and elements of value within your product and business, and you need to uncover what they are. What the contributors that contribute to my appeal and exclusivity?
- Then, strengthen your USP. You may need to work on your business. The bonus is, when you see what levers you can pull, there’s nothing stopping you from raising certain levers so as to attract your ideal customer.
The first time you figure out a company’s unique selling proposition, it becomes super easy to write the website copy. You simply expand on the company’s facts and claims and put it on the page. Many businesses don’t know their own USP so having the skillset to uncover what it is will mean your copywriting will produce results that far outweigh other strategies or copywriters.
You NEED to state the first question correctly so you can then understand which claims of value are important.
Step two is fun. ID 5-10 claims of value. If you can find more, better. There’s no such thing as too many.
Step 3 is to rate appeal and exclusivity of each. You can do this on paper or a spreadsheet. Rank these values. Be as objective as possible. Don’t think that just because you find something appealing, other people will as well. Get a third party’s opinion.