Question 3: What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

First of all… what is a Unique Selling Proposition? It completely sets you apart from the competition, it is what makes you different, it’s why people come to you and buy from you rather than anyone else. if you don’t think and believe you provide the best service or product and you are committed to always doing that, then you need to go back and make sure that you do believe that.

What Makes Your Product or Service the Best?

Sometimes it helps to think how you would like your customers or clients to describe you, ” Oh you are the business that……….”.

Be realistic and honest. if you don’t think your product or service is best, why not? What do you need to do to improve, or what can you do to provide something that is special… and in demand?

One of my favourite TV programmes is “Mary Queen of Shops” where Mary Portas goes around to small shops, who clearly cannot compete with supermarkets on either price or convenience and generally turns them around. In each case, where the shopkeeper is open to trying new things, she encourages them to differentiate themselves in terms of the service they provide, information about do it yourself by a hardware store, vegetable deliveries by a greengrocers or a local food delicatessen in a village store. What she is doing is helping the shoppers to find how they can differentiate themselves.

And then you need to explain why you are the best and why your customers should buy from you. Why should the customer buy from you.. and only you?

The classical example of this is Fedex in the US who rebranded themselves with the tag line ( that specified their USP), ” When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”. For the customer they know that they will get their parcel to the destination the following day.

To think about developing your USP answer the following:

  • Where is there a gap in the performance or gap in the market or niche, or where do people feel pain?
    ( Fedex realised there was a gap in the need for reliable urgent service and reorganised their delivery system to a hub system).
  • How can you describe that in one simple sentence?
  • How can you prove that, or give a guarantee to your customer or client?
    An example of this is Domino Pizza’s guarantee, ” delivered within 30 minutes or your pizza is free”. They realised the” pain” of their customers was their hunger when they didn’t want to cook
  • What do you need to do to deliver ( or over-deliver) on your promise?
    For this you need to think about the systems that you have in place, the training and procedures and policies you need to implement to ensure consistent excellent quality.

Decide and write down how you are going to differentiate your business from them. A word of warning: if you are planning just to give a low price service, you need to think about how your clients will think about you, how much harder you will need to work in order to make a living and how your competitors may react (they can probably sustain a lower price longer than
you can).

If you cannot differentiate yourself from them then why should customers come to you rather than them? It isn’t necessarily anything particularly earth-shattering.

An example—my USP

If it helps perhaps I could share my own USP (i.e. how I differentiate myself from my competitors). I am a life coach based near Bristol in the UK. If you search Google you will see there are some 285,000 results for “life coach Bristol”. I do not advertise any longer, so how do I attract customers?

I specialise in business coaching in the niche of therapists (obviously!);

I have actually run my own businesses, which gives me credibility;

I have additional professional qualifications (I am a chartered accountant);

I have taught business on professional courses, at the local further education college and at degree level;

I see clients face to face, or over the phone (actually skype, although it does have a tendency to drop out at the crucial time!) or do email coaching (this is a growing trend I have noticed over the last year);

I make an effort to be friendly and approachable, so people feel comfortable to ask me “stupid questions”… not that they are ever “stupid questions”!

An example of how your USP may look

Yours will obviously be different, but an example could be:

You are a massage therapist based in Birmingham in the UK. There are 348,000 hits on Google.

What is your specialism? Thai massage? Hawaiian? Sports? Aromatherapy?Swedish?

Do you have other qualifications which may be relevant? (nurses usually do quite well here as people trust them and assume that they know what they are doing)

Do you have other life or career experiences that will give you an understanding of potential clients (being a stressed parent could really help you to empathise with similar clients)?

What other activities do you do/could you do to help establish yourself as an “expert” (if you don’t have anything yet, why not get involved in your therapy’s governing body);

How are you going to deliver the service? Maybe you will be joining a well-established clinic with a good reputation? Or can set up a very peaceful therapy room that can act as an “oasis” for your clients?

What are your personal attributes that will attract clients to you?

What makes you more unique, more valuable, and more visible in the market? You’ve heard the old saying “Differentiate or Die” right? In our highly competitive world, you have to be unique and fill a special niche to be successful in the marketplace. Yet one of the most harmful mistakes small businesses make is not being unique and positioning themselves as the best choice in the market. How do you show that your product or service is the best?

Use a Unique Selling Proposition or “USP”. Having a USP will dramatically improve the positioning and marketability of your company and products by accomplishing 3 things for you:

  1. Unique – It clearly sets you apart from your competition, positioning you the more logical choice.
  2. Selling – It persuades another to exchange money for a product or service.
  3. Proposition – It is a proposal or offer suggested for acceptance.

The Force That Drives Your Business And Sales Success

Your USP is the force that drives your business and success. It can also be used as a”branding” tool that deploys strategy with every tactical marketing effort you use such as an ad, a postcard, or web site. This allows you to build a lasting reputation while you’re making sales. The ultimate goal of your USP and marketing is to have people say to you… “Oh, yes I’ve heard of you. You’re the company who…” – And then respond by requesting more information or purchasing.

The Federal Express Example:

Federal Express (FedEx) dominated the package shipping market with the following USP: “Federal Express: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” The deployment of this USP allowed Federal Express to emerge as the dominant leader in the industry, taking market share rapidly, and also increasing its sales and profits.

In today’s competitive market, your business cannot thrive if you are using the same old “me too” marketing that everyone else is using. Your small business absolutely positively has to have a USP that “cuts through the clutter”, separates you from the competition, and positions you as the best choice… the ONLY choice.

Building your USP takes some effort, but it is absolutely worth it because of the added advantage you’ll have in the market. Using a powerful USP will make your job of marketing and selling much easier, enabling you to more easily increase your sales and profits for the same budget.

Winning USP Examples

The following are 6 powerful USPs that alleviate the “pain” experienced by the consumers in their industries..

Example #1 – Package Shipping Industry

Pain – I have to get this package delivered quick!
USP – “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” (Federal Express)

Example #2 – Food Industry

Pain – The kids are starving, but Mom and Dad are too tired to cook!
USP – “Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free.” (Dominos Pizza)
(This USP is worth $1 BILLION to Dominos Pizza)

Example #3 – Real Estate Industry

Pain – People want to sell their house fast without loosing money on the deal.
USP – “Our 20 Step Marketing System Will Sell Your House In Less Than 45 Days At Full Market Value”

Example #4 – Dental Industry

Pain – Many people don’t like to go to the dentist because of the pain and long wait.
USP – “We guarantee that you will have a comfortable experience and never have to wait more than 15 minutes” or you will receive a free exam.”

Example #5 – Cold Medicine Industry

Pain – You are sick, feel terrible, and can’t sleep.
USP – “The nighttime, coughing, achy, sniffling, stuffy head, fever, so you can rest medicine.” (Nyquil)

Example #6 – Jewelry Industry

Pain – The market hates paying huge 300% mark-ups for jewelry.
USP – “Don’t pay 300% markups to a traditional jeweler for inferior diamonds! We guarantee that your loose diamond will appraise for at least 200% of the purchase price, or we’ll buy it back.”

How To Develop Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Your USP is the very essence of what you are offering. Your USP needs to be so compelling that it can be used as a headline that sells your product or service. Therefore, since you want to optimize all your marketing materials for maximum results, create it before anything else (such as advertisements and marketing copy).

Print this article and jot down your ideas to construct a “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP) for your business. Follow this easy 7-step process:

Step 1: Use Your Biggest Benefits:

Clearly describe the 3 biggest benefits of owning your product or service. Let me be blunt. Your prospect doesn’t care if you offer the best quality, service, or price. You have to explain exactly WHY that is important to them. Think in terms of what your business does for your customer and the end-result they desire from a product or service like yours. So, what are the 3 biggest benefits you offer? Write them down on a piece of paper…


Step 2: Be Unique:

The key here is to be unique. Basically, your USP separates you from the competition,sets up a “buying criteria” that illustrates your company is the most logical choice, and makes your product or service the “gotta have” item. (Not your competitor’s.)

Write your USP so it creates desire and urgency. Your USP can be stated in your product itself, in your offer, or in your guarantee:

  • PRODUCT: “A unique baseball swing that will instantly force you to hit like a pro.”
  • OFFER: “You can learn this simple technique that makes you hit like a pro in just 10 minutes of batting practice.”
  • GUARANTEE: “If you don’t hit like a pro baseball player the first time you use this new swing, we’ll refund your money.”

Write your ideas on paper now…

Step 3: Solve An Industry “Pain Point” Or “Performance Gap”:

Identify which needs are going unfulfilled within either your industry or your local market. The need or “gap” that exists between the current situation and the desired objectives is sometimes termed a “performance gap”. Many businesses that base their USP on industry performance gaps are successful.

For example, Dominos Pizza used the “Pizza delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free” USP to become wildly successful. This worked because of the need or “gap” in the market – After a long day at work Mom and Dad are too tired to cook. But the kids are starving and don’t want to wait an hour! They want pizza NOW. Call Domino’s.

So, what are the most frustrating things your customer experiences when working with you or your industry in general? Alleviate that “PAIN” in your USP and make sure you deliver on your promises. Write your ideas on paper now…

Step 4: Be Specific And Offer Proof:

Consumers are skeptical of advertising claims companies make. So alleviate their skepticism by being specific and offering proof when possible. Write your ideas on paper now…

Step 5: Condense Into One Clear And Concise Sentence:

The most powerful USPs are so perfectly written, you cannot change or move even a single word. Each word earns you money by selling your product or service. After you get your USP written, your advertising and marketing copy will practically write itself!

Now take all the details about your product/service/offer from the steps above and sculpt them into one clear and concise sentence with compelling salesmanship fused into every single word. Write your ideas on paper now…

Step 6: Integrate Your USP Into ALL Marketing Materials:

Variations of your USP will be included in the ALL your marketing materials such as your…

  • Advertising and sales copy headlines;
  • Business cards, brochures, flyers, & signs;
  • Your “elevator pitch”, phone, and sales scripts;
  • Letterhead, letters, & postcards;
  • Website & Internet marketing.

Step 7: Deliver On Your USP’s Promise

Be bold when developing your USP but be careful to ensure that you can deliver. Your USP should have promises and guarantees that capture your audience’s attention and compels them to respond to you. Having a strong USP can make your business a big success, or a big failure if you don’t deliver on it thereby ruining your reputation. In the beginning, it was a challenge for Federal Express to absolutely, positively deliver overnight, but they developed the system that allowed them to deliver the promise consistently.


Using a powerful USP is the driving force that builds your business success. Build your USP and use it to optimize your marketing materials for maximum results.
Home > Encyclopedia > Category > Sales > Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Definition: The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition

Before you can begin to sell your product or service to anyone else, you have to sell yourself on it. This is especially important when your product or service is similar to those around you. Very few businesses are one-of-a-kind. Just look around you: How many clothing retailers, hardware stores, air conditioning installers and electricians are truly unique?

The key to effective selling in this situation is what advertising and marketing professionals call a “unique selling proposition” (USP). Unless you can pinpoint what makes your business unique in a world of homogeneous competitors, you cannot target your sales efforts successfully.

Pinpointing your USP requires some hard soul-searching and creativity. One way to start is to analyze how other companies use their USPs to their advantage. This requires careful analysis of other companies’ ads and marketing messages. If you analyze what they say they sell, not just their product or service characteristics, you can learn a great deal about how companies distinguish themselves from competitors.

For example, Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, always used to say he sold hope, not makeup. Some airlines sell friendly service, while others sell on-time service. Neiman Marcus sells luxury, while Wal-Mart sells bargains.

Each of these is an example of a company that has found a USP “peg” on which to hang its marketing strategy. A business can peg its USP on product characteristics, price structure, placement strategy (location and distribution) or promotional strategy. These are what marketers call the “four P’s” of marketing. They are manipulated to give a business a market position that sets it apart from the competition.

Sometimes a company focuses on one particular “peg,” which also drives the strategy in other areas. A classic example is Hanes L’Eggs hosiery. Back in an era when hosiery was sold primarily in department stores, Hanes opened a new distribution channel for hosiery sales. The idea: Since hosiery was a consumer staple, why not sell it where other staples were sold–in grocery stores?

That placement strategy then drove the company’s selection of product packaging (a plastic egg) so the pantyhose did not seem incongruent in the supermarket. And because the product didn’t have to be pressed and wrapped in tissue and boxes, it could be priced lower than other brands.

Here’s how to uncover your USP and use it to power up your sales:

  • Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Too often, entrepreneurs fall in love with their product or service and forget that it is the customer’s needs, not their own, that they must satisfy. Step back from your daily operations and carefully scrutinize what your customers really want. Suppose you own a pizza parlor. Sure, customers come into your pizza place for food. But is food all they want? What could make them come back again and again and ignore your competition? The answer might be quality, convenience, reliability, friendliness, cleanliness, courtesy or customer service.
  • Remember, price is never the only reason people buy. If your competition is beating you on pricing because they are larger, you have to find another sales feature that addresses the customer’s needs and then build your sales and promotional efforts around that feature.
  • Know what motivates your customers’ behavior and buying decisions. Effective marketing requires you to be an amateur psychologist. You need to know what drives and motivates customers. Go beyond the traditional customer demographics, such as age, gender, race, income and geographic location, that most businesses collect to analyze their sales trends. For our pizza shop example, it is not enough to know that 75 percent of your customers are in the 18-to-25 age range. You need to look at their motives for buying pizza-taste, peer pressure, convenience and so on.
  • Cosmetics and liquor companies are great examples of industries that know the value of psychologically oriented promotion. People buy these products based on their desires (for pretty women, luxury, glamour and so on), not on their needs.
  • Uncover the real reasons customers buy your product instead of a competitor’s. As your business grows, you’ll be able to ask your best source of information: your customers. For example, the pizza entrepreneur could ask them why they like his pizza over others, plus ask them to rate the importance of the features he offers, such as taste, size, ingredients, atmosphere and service. You will be surprised how honest people are when you ask how you can improve your service.

If your business is just starting out, you won’t have a lot of customers to ask yet, so “shop” your competition instead. Many retailers routinely drop into their competitors’ stores to see what and how they are selling. If you’re really brave, try asking a few of the customers after they leave the premises what they like and dislike about the competitors’ products and services.

Once you’ve gone through this three-step market intelligence process, you need to take the next–and hardest–step: clearing your mind of any preconceived ideas about your product or service and being brutally honest. What features of your business jump out at you as something that sets you apart? What can you promote that will make customers want to patronize your business? How can you position your business to highlight your USP?

Don’t get discouraged. Successful business ownership is not about having a unique product or service; it’s about making your product stand out–even in a market filled with similar items.

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