Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
What is a unique selling proposition?
A unique selling proposition (also referred to as a “unique selling point” or “USP”) is the element that sets a product or service apart from its competitors. A USP can be achieved by addressing the target consumers’ needs in a unique way. USPs are a crucial part of any marketing strategy.
History and evolution of unique selling propositions
The term "unique selling proposition" was coined in the 1940s by advertising executive Rosser Reeves. Reeves believed that a USP should be the main focus of advertising campaigns and should feature prominently in all marketing materials. Over time, the concept of USP has evolved to encompass all aspects of a brand's identity, including its values, personality, and messaging.
Examples of unique selling propositions
Some examples of well-known and successful USPs include:
Johnson & Johnson: "No More Tears"
Domino's Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it's free."
FedEx: "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
The importance of a unique selling proposition
Unique selling propositions are important for several reasons:
By highlighting your USP and communicating it clearly, your business will attract the right customers. The “right customer” is the kind of customer that is looking to purchase the product you’re selling.
Very few businesses truly disrupt an industry or invent a totally new concept. In a world with many similar and overlapping companies, your USP is the key to standing out from the crowd.
Aside from using your USP to zoom in on the “right customer”, it also gives your business an aura of being special. This in itself raises the value of your offering.
To learn more about getting selling, read our guide to digital products.
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How to define and write your unique selling point
To find your USP, step into the shoes of your customer. Obviously, consider basic info about their demographics: age, location, gender, preferences and interests. But then go a step deeper by asking this crucial question: What is the exact problem that my customer is facing and how do I solve it better than the competition?
Look at other companies in your industry and see how they’ve highlighted their USPs. This will shed light on the different perspectives of what customers are looking for and where there is room for you to stand out.
Your USP can be found in any of the four P’s of marketing: Price, Product, Place, and Promotion.
Price: When taking pricing decisions, check your competitors and look for ways that your offering can be the most cost-effective in its matching of price and quality. Understand how much the customer will be willing to pay and whether slightly shifting your price could benefit your profit margin.
Product: This refers to the actual features of your product or service. Whether you sell sunglasses or a home styling service, you should make sure you have a clear understanding of what you’re offering customers and what makes your product stand out from the crowd.
Place: This refers to the various locations in which you distribute your product, whether in a physical store or online. Research into what your competitors do and find the right placement for your brand. A fair-trade organic chocolate firm might better suit being sold in a boutique health store than in a supermarket - or perhaps a combination of both.
Promotion: Your brand and the status it represents make your product unique. This message should be communicated throughout your marketing efforts. Choose which channels will be best for promoting your product or service, from advertising, to social media marketing, email marketing and more.
Best Practices for creating a unique selling proposition
Here is a rundown of some of the best practices that go into creating an effective USP:
Understand the target audience and their needs before crafting your USP.
Be true to your brand identity and values throughout the creation process.
Avoid gimmicky or misleading claims.
Show how the USP benefits the customer, not just you as the company. or brand
Test your USP with focus groups, surveys, or other methods to ensure it works and resonates with your target audience.
Challenges associated with creating a unique selling proposition
There are some challenges and potential drawbacks associated with implementing a USP, many of which don't become apparent until you try creating one.
It can be difficult to come up with a truly unique selling proposition that sets a brand apart in today's crowded marketplace.
It can also be challenging to come up with a USP if your target audience and potential customer based is large and varied.
Over-reliance on a successful USP can lead to a lack of flexibility or adaptation to changing market conditions and competition. Your USP may have to evolve and change in light of these pressures.
How to use a USP
Your USP can take the form of a slogan. M&Ms “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”, Domino’s Pizza’s “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it's free.” Both focus on different areas. M&Ms talk about a unique facet of the product (how it melts), and Domino’s focuses on placement (delivery in thirty minutes).
Aside from a slogan, every aspect of your marketing strategy should be focused around communicating your USP. You should also make sure to create a website that highlights your unique selling proposition.
Unique selling proposition FAQ
What are the key components of a good unique selling proposition?
A clear and concise statement, a unique selling point, have appeal for the target audience, explains the benefits of what its selling, be memorable and engaging.