What is a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
A unique selling proposition, more commonly referred to as a USP, is the one thing that makes your business better than the competition. It’s a specific benefit that makes your business preferable to the other businesses in your market.
Walmart’s USP is consistent rock bottom prices. Volvo’s USP is safety. LL Bean’s USP is its money-back customer satisfaction guarantee. While most businesses have more than one factor that make it different from similar companies, the USP is that one benefit that really sets it apart. It’s what the business is known for.
Be a Specialist, Not a Generalist
The problem that some businesses have with the idea of a USP is that they don’t want to limit their market. They fear that by focusing on one specific benefit, they may turn some customers away. In fact, the opposite is true.
Expertise is Added Value
Consumers like to do business with companies that have exactly what they like or need, or that serves customers like them. That could be baking gluten free foods for people with Celiac disease, providing personal training services to people over 50, or installing gunite – not liner - pools. Sure, customers could buy gluten free foods from a generic bakery, but there’s always the risk of contamination within the bakery. And personal trainers certainly have the know-how to help any person get into better shape, but a trainer who is familiar with the challenges and limitations someone over 50 faces is likely to be able to help such an individual more effectively. For families interested in getting a pool installed, selecting a company that has put in hundreds of gunite pools is preferable to a company that generally only deals in liners, which is a different material.
What Makes You Unique?
Your USP is what establishes your unique position in the marketplace. For example, Starbucks is known for serving premium coffees in a world where cheap cups of java were the norm for centuries. Lilly Pulitzer created a line of brightly colored printed fabrics featuring her first name that she used to design a preppy clothing line. The Honest Company sells personal care products made only of natural ingredients.
Defining Your Own USP
If you’re unclear about your company’s USP, or you want to create one, start by:
- Identifying and describing your ideal customer. How old are they, how much money do they make, where do they live, and when do they need your products or services are some good questions to start with.
- Evaluating your competition. What are their USPs? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do those compare to yours?
- Asking what it is that your target customers want from businesses like yours that no one else is providing? Is everyone else low end? Then go high end. Does no one else offer free delivery? That could be what differentiates you. Or do you have a generous loyalty program that rewards customers when they shop with you?
- Communicating to the market what your USP is. Make it clear what the key benefit is of doing business with you, and perhaps how that trumps your competitors’ USPs.
If you have chosen a USP that you know your market wants and that no one else is providing, you should see results almost immediately.