What is a unique selling proposition?

7 min read
selling proposition

There is an infinite number of businesses around the world competing to gain a foothold in our global marketplace. Just consider the magnitude of search results that appear when a customer types the name of your industry into a search engine. When looking to make a purchasing decision, the choices are virtually limitless (and frankly overwhelming). Now more than ever, standing out amongst your competitors is vital to staying relevant. To accomplish this, you have to ensure your company’s position is unique within your industry. How exactly can you do this? Tout your unique selling proposition (USP).

The concept of a unique selling proposition is not new. Despite being coined in the early 1900s, it is a term still relevant (arguably even more so) today. Customers aren’t just drawn to an organization because it sells a particular product. They are drawn to an organization because of who they are.

Can you articulate what makes your organization or product unique from every other one available to your customers? If not, the most important question you need to ask yourself is – what is my unique selling proposition?

Define Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Define Your USP

If you could only be known for one thing, what would it be? Narrowing down your brand’s unique selling proposition will allow your organization as a whole to operate in a more focused, intentional manner. While, of course, you want to perfect every aspect of your organization, and careful efforts should be taken to create a seamless, well-flowing operational business model, you can’t be known for everything. Your USP should be at the core of who you are and how you operate. By defining your unique selling proposition, your customers will know that, when it comes to that particular area, there is no organization better suited for them than yours.

1. Start with a simple brainstorm.

Start with a brainstorm

If you are defining your unique selling proposition for the first time, a brainstorming session is the best way to start. Gather your teammates or at least a few others (if you can). Multiple heads (and perspectives) are better than one. Write down all the ways that your company is differentiated from your closest competitors. Reflect on your organization’s DNA. Besides the actual product or service, what do you offer customers? Is it something about the way your company operates? Is it about the way customers can interact with your brand? Or, is it how your physical product or service is formulated that is truly unique? If you are a new company, think about how you want to be remembered by your customers. If you are established, consider what comes to the minds of your current customers when they see or hear about your brand. While you will likely have a wide array of ideas, keep in mind, it’s not possible to be the best at everything. Trying to do so is costly, and quite frankly, inefficient. Just because there may be areas in which your competition can outshine you, does not mean they will attract more customers. The purpose of a unique selling proposition is to establish what you want to be known for. In what aspect will you beat the competition every time? Once you know this, get out there and do everything you can to position yourself in a way that allows your brand to become synonymous with it.

2. Zero in on how your product or service solves a need of your customer.

how your product solves a need?

Now that you understand the direction you are heading in, reframe your brainstorm into an organized, methodical approach. Take all the high-level ideas and narrow them down to reflect how your unique selling proposition benefits the customer. You may decide, for example, that the way your organization is structured is what sets it apart. If this specific structure allows you to provide personalized attention to your customers during the buying process, then this would be your unique selling proposition. Think about the best way of presenting this feature to your target audience. You’ll want to clearly show that choosing your organization over the many others out there will be the best fit for them. While customers may be able to purchase the product from various companies, yours is the only one that will give them the individualized attention needed to make the right purchase for the product most tailored to their vision. (Therefore, you’re the only logical choice!)

3. Make it straightforward and translatable.

You can have the most incredible unique selling proposition, however, if you can’t make it clear and concise, you will have a difficult time leveraging it. Keep in mind that your unique selling proposition is not a mission statement that gets printed and published publicly for the world to see. It’s not about creating an ideal statement, it’s about creating the most accurate one. While you do not need to copyright it, it is something that should influence the way you copy write anything about your organization. A unique selling proposition must be well-defined. If anyone in your business was asked, they should be able to articulate it clearly. Once you have put your USP into a format that’s easy for everyone to get behind, it can be shared accordingly throughout your organization. Your USP should resonate throughout everything you do. This includes your marketing, web design, promotional content, online presence, and direct consumer interactions.

Market Your Unique Selling Proposition

Market Your Unique Selling Proposition

Now that you have a clearly defined unique selling proposition think about all the ways you can naturally communicate it. One of the most important implementations of the USP will be into your marketing. Using it to shape your marketing strategy will be critical. In every element of written, oral, or graphic communication about your company make it easy for the customers to instantly recognize what sets you apart. To deliver your USP properly to your target audience, you’ll need to understand where your customers spend their time. Which types of travels do they gravitate toward? Also, consider how your customers already view your company and if you will have to shift their perspectives or increase awareness. Regardless of what it is, every way in which you communicate about your brand should be designed around your unique selling proposition.

How Does Your USP Affect the Four P’s of Marketing?

Your unique selling proposition should shine through for all aspects of marketing’s four P’s. The four P’s are: product, price, promotion, and place. When crafting a promotional plan, consider how you will distinctly impact each of the four P’s and how your unique selling proposition will shine through them.

Product

The first P stands for product. Whether your organization provides consumers with a physical, tangible product or a service, it must be positioned uniquely to stand out from competitors. The product itself may not be what’s unique. However, it may be the way it is presented, packaged, or provided to customers. The design of your product can play a big part in differentiating within the market as well.

Price

The price is so much more than the actual amount it will cost consumers. It’s a good idea to factor in what the “perceived value” of your product is. How much do your customers feel your product is worth? A unique selling proposition should not be about having the lowest price. While price can sway some customers, it typically isn’t the most influential factor. Think about the value your product can provide within its physical price range. How can you influence the sales rate considering all the other unique components of your organization?

Promotion

The promotional part of your marketing mix should rely heavily on communicating your unique selling proposition. Consider how to strategically position your USP in all aspects of your promotional tactics. Content is king in marketing. The content created to fuel each aspect of your brand strategy, regardless of channel, should reflect your unique characteristics. Include them in your copywriting, search engine optimization (SEO), keyword targeting, social media, web design, and content marketing. Keep in mind, however, that content should not be a mere statement of what sets you apart. Don’t tell your customers that you are different, show them how.

Place

In the current digital environment, place doesn’t necessarily represent a physical location for your product. It is more about the “places” your target audience frequent. Which mediums will you use to reach them? What channels make the most sense for your brand positioning and align with your USP? It is the delicate balance of the four P’s and their reflection of your USP that leads a company to true success. Get in front of the right audience, in the right place, at the right time, with the right copy, and you can capture a lifelong customer.

Your unique selling proposition should be at the heart of everything you do. Everyone involved with your brand should know it (and know it well) so that it can be communicated through both their actions and physical output. If a customer had to explain why they would choose your business over your competitors, would the explanation reference your USP?

A clear, succinct, and distinct unique selling proposition should resonate through all aspects of your marketing mix (product, price, promotion, and place). We recommend you to start with a brainstorming session to determine the differentiating factors for your organization and its products or services. Then, zero in on how your offers will solve a need (or needs) of your customer. This will encourage your organization to fully define your unique selling proposition in an easily digestible way. Make it straightforward and translatable, so that all employees can articulate it, and all customers can recognize it. Once you learn the best way to communicate your USP, success is sure to follow.