by Karon Thackston C 2007, All Rights Reserved
You have one, whether you know it or not. Everybody does. There is
something unique about your business; you just have to discover what it is.
And therein lies the problem. Most business owners and managers don’t
understand how to create a truly unique selling proposition (USP). There
are specific criteria to consider in order to get your message across
clearly and succinctly.
1. Define Your Uniqueness - Just as the name suggests, a “unique” selling
proposition must explain how your company or offer is unique. It’s easy if
you have a product that’s new to the marketplace. Everything about it is
unique. But what about those companies that have been around for quite a
while? Or products that have a great deal of competition? Uniqueness might
be more difficult to define.
Internet access, for example, is very ordinary. The most recognized
features are price and speed. But the world leader in Internet access, AOL,
has built its reputation based on ease of use. Starting in its earliest
days, AOL landed and kept millions of users because they were spoiled.
Everything they needed was in one place. No need to have an Internet service
provider (ISP) and use a separate email program and a separate browser and a
separate instant messaging program. It was all included. Forget that AOL
charged twice as much as everyone else, was famous for dropping the
connection and had pitiful customer service. They made it easy and that’s
what early surfers wanted.
2. Be Specific - I once landed on a website that presented the following
USP at the top of every page. See if you can guess what type of business it
was. The USP read something to the effect of, “Helping people live better,
healthier lives more efficiently.” Got any ideas? It was a company that
provided kitchen equipment of all sorts. The common denominator was that
this equipment was primarily used by those who wanted more natural foods.
Canners, grain mills, bread machines and the like would be found at this
Do you see how the USP defines their uniqueness in a very specific way?
They do help people live better, healthier lives. But the kicker is that
they help their customers do this more efficiently. Grinding your own grain
for flour, canning your own vegetables and baking your own bread takes a lot
of extra time. Most naturalists would be delighted to find products that
help them do this in less time.
3. Keep It Short - USPs are not introductory paragraphs. They are
generally a short sentence or two. Don’t ramble. The more concise you are,
the better your results will be.
To give you a good idea of what works, let’s look at a few examples:
Practically everybody knows the M&Ms’ USP, which also happens to be their
marketing slogan: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” How about
Domino’s Pizza? Originally, they took the pizza delivery industry by storm
with a guaranteed delivery time. Their USP was “We deliver hot, fresh pizza
in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” Their marketing slogan was very
similar to their USP. And who could forget Burger King’s USP of quickly
giving the customer a handmade burger with whatever they wanted on it. The
marketing campaign featured the “have it your way at Burger King” slogan and
jingle. All of these are very descriptive, specific and short. Also, they
are easy to remember.
If you’ve created a new product or service, ask yourself why. Was it to
fulfill needs customers were voicing? Was it to plug a niche nobody else
was giving attention to? Those can be the basis for strong USPs.
Make a list of features and benefits. Ask customers what they like best
about your company, your product or your service. Compare your offer to
what the competition has available. All of these can be excellent
brainstorming techniques that may jumpstart your thinking. Before long,
lots of unique aspects will come to mind, giving you the basis for writing a
strong, descriptive, specific USP.
Marketing Words, Inc.