In business there is one thing that is as elusive as a unicorn. It also happens to be as rare and valuable as a dragon. What is it? A unique selling point, or USP.
This is a marketing term, and it doesn’t quite capture the power and…dare I say it…romance of a truly unique business.
The kind of business that doesn’t just stand out in the incredibly crowded world, but is so enchanting that people gravitate towards it like moths to a flame.
Unique things fascinate us.
Difference is often shunned in a social context, but in a commercial setting it’s the most valuable thing going; the unicorn’s horn, the dragon’s egg. The Ultimate.
When something is rare it doesn’t just make us look twice, it pulls us up short, demands our attention, and ensures we ignore pretty much everything else.
Rarity is engaging, it’s interesting, it’s captivating, and in the world of business and marketing that’s fairy dust. It’s pure magic.
Unfortunately, it’s also difficult to achieve.
If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be rare. The very thing that makes it so valuable would be lost.
So if you’re struggling to create or determine your unique selling point in your business, and frustrated that it’s proving so tough, don’t beat yourself up over it.
EVERYONE finds it tough.
It is, however, perfectly achievable when you understand exactly what a USP is, and follow a few simple steps to discover yours.
Believe it or not, the tricky part of this process is really grasping the fundamental nature of the USP.
What Exactly Is A Unique Selling Point (USP)?
At some point you’ve likely filled in a business plan, or something similar, that asked you ‘“What’s your unique selling point?”
It’s a standard question on such things, but it’s seldom provided in context, with a clear explanation of exactly what is needed to create USP. And a lot of business have used the concept very effectively.
The concept of a USP originated with Rosser Reeves early in the 1940s. Reeves worked for Ted Bates & Company and used the notion of unique selling points (often called propositions in the US) were a pattern that recurred in successful advertising campaigns.
Since then, the USP has been regularly hailed as the holy grail of advertising.
As long as your business has a USP, you’re golden.
The original observations of Reeves were that the most successful campaigns were those that provided their customers with unique suggestions, which convinced them to go with their brand.
His book, Reality in Advertising, formed the basis for a lot of modern marketing practices, with a few key points that need to be present to achieve a unique selling point:
- Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery…must say to each reader: “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.”
- The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique – either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.
- The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions, that is, pull over new customers to your product.
Here’s the thing you really need to understand about a USP: it’s not as simple as it sounds.
Think back to the answers you’ve given to the question of your USP in the past.
Did they actually cover all of these elements effectively, or were they simply something that was a little different about you, but not spectacularly unique?
Your unique selling point is more than knowing the benefit that comes with your product or service, or knowing the specific problem it solves. It has to be something your competition cannot emulate, something that is powerful enough to enchant people.
Like a unicorn, or a dragon.
The Unique Selling Point In Practice
People often list out a lot of different things that make their business a little different, rather than focusing on one single thing that makes them spectacularly different.
The USP strategy works best when you select something really specific, and build a name for your business as THE place to get that one very specific thing.
Becoming known for one highly specialised thing or extremely unique quirk is a lot better than attempting to position yourself as the go-to-person for everything.
Most people have something at which they truly excel. Business is no different.
So while your business may have multiple offerings there should be one that is stand-out. One that you do best, that people immediately think of when they hear your name or see your branding.
Just one thing.
That’s not to say you can’t do everything well, but rather that it’s a lot more effective to market yourself as the person who does one thing exceptionally well, than a someone who can do several things quite well.
You’re shooting for exceptional.
Aside from the fact you diminish your own uniqueness when you try to become known for multiple things, you will often find different things require different marketing strategies. And the more you have, the more likely it is they will be in opposition.
As an easy example, let’s say you want to be known for providing the highest quality in your niche. This is reasonably easy to do, by positioning yourself as the luxury brand. It’s especially easy if your competition aren’t tapping into that high-end luxury market at all.
Now let’s say you decide you also want to be known for being the low-cost option.
You can’t market yourself as the luxury brand while simultaneously pitching yourself as the bargain option.
The two are in direct opposition.
To avoid this, focus on a single offer and really make the most out of it.
Rarity In A Crowded Market
If you have a highly innovative product or service, finding your USP is going to be simple. But what about the people who offer something that’s really easy to find in the online market?
Entrepreneurs often find themselves in a crowded market, struggling to differentiate themselves or identify a unique selling point in their business. The products or services they offer are, essentially, the same as what the competition is providing.
My own business, for example, offers digital marketing strategies and SEO services. Try Googling ‘SEO company’ or ‘digital marketing strategist’ and you will see just how many people there are offering these services.
There are only two ways to differentiate yourself when your product or service is essentially the same as your competitions:
- Create a unique method that isn’t used by other people, but achieves the same thing.
- Craft a totally unique brand that perfectly encapsulates why you are the best person for the job, even if there are other people who can do exactly the same thing.
In other words, your way of doing things is better, either because it’s different, or because it’s done by you.
Marie Forleo’s USP
Since we’re discussing entrepreneurs, let’s look at a great example of one who does USP perfectly: Marie Forleo.
A quick look at Marie’s About page shows you exactly how she created her own USP. Her story is laid out in detail, from where she grew up, to how dissatisfied she was trying to fit into other people’s moulds, and how she finally broke free and forged the life she wanted.
She became the person she most wanted to be. And it’s made her incredibly successful.
Now, check out her tagline:
An entrepreneur, writer, philanthropist & unshakable optimist dedicated to helping you become the person you most want to be.
If you scroll down a little further you will also find this nugget:
I believe you must bring your whole self to the table if you want to thrive in today’s world.
Finding your true, most fabulous self, utterly embracing that person, who they want to be, and what they want to do, and then showing up. This is the essence of Marie’s brand.
If you can do that, Marie tells us, success will follow.
And she does it herself in spades.
Marie is perhaps the most present and recogniseable figurehead of any business. She has not only made herself the ‘face’ of her brand, she has become the essence of every single aspect of her branding. From her award winning YouTube channel, literally called MarieTV, to the beautiful website including image after image of Marie.
Finding her true self.
Embracing that person, who she wants to be, and what she wants to do.
What Marie offers is not massively different to what most business coaches come up with. B School may be one of the most widely recognised entrepreneurial eCourses, and arguably one of the most popular, but the content of the course isn’t groundbreaking innovation, or totally unique methodology.
It’s similar to any other course you will find teaching you how to start and run a thriving business as an entrepreneur.
What makes it unique is not the content, or even the format in which it’s delivered, but the fact it is Marie delivering it. Her face, her voice, her unique and quirky perspective on the world, her style.
It’s something you can believe in because it is very visual. You can see where she came from and what she has built, all off the back of nothing but being herself.
How To Be Rare: Demonstrating Your USP
Now that you have a really clear understanding of what a unique selling point is, how exactly do you define one for your business? Here are some easy steps you can take to discover your USP:
Step #1: Know Who You’re Dealing With
In order to identify the perfect unique selling point, you need to know your ideal client and competitors backwards.
Considering your competition will tell you two really important things:
- How others in your niche distinguish themselves, and what their USPs are.
- Where there are gaps in the market that you can fill by creating something unique in your own business.
It’s important to emphasis that looking at the USPs of your competition is NOT so you can copy them! That would be entirely counterproductive. Rather, it should give you an idea of the kind of thing that works in your market.
Are people responding to unique methodology and innovation, or to really distinct branding?
In other words, are your most successful competitors known for who they are, or for how they do what they do?
Once you’ve brainstormed some ideas, you can use your ideal clients will tell you what people are likely to value most out of the possibilities you come up with .
Step #2: Add Some Emotional Intelligence
Step one gives you the knowledge needed to create your USP, now you need to add some emotion to it.
What’s the emotional impact you need to create in your ideal clients, in order to get them to respond positively to your unique selling point?
What are their emotional needs and how can your USP fulfill them, in ways that your competitors cannot?
Remember, this isn’t about your emotions, it’s about the people you want to work with:
- How do they currently feel?
- How will your offering make them feel?
- What do you need them to feel to make the leap and chose you?
- How will your USP create that emotion in them?
- What is it about your USP that ensures they will experience and even more profound emotional payoff, or reach their goal sooner, or more easily?
Step #3: Find The Elements That Are Tough To Imitate
You’re likely to end up with quite a lot of ideas, even when you have narrowed everything down to a single USP.
Emotions, for example, are seldom isolated. It’s likely that your ideal clients are experiencing a range of emotions as a result of the problem you are going to solve. Likewise they are likely to experience several different feelings as they convert, and achieve their aims as a result of working with you.
Your USP will have facets.
Some of those facets will be more unique than others, and it is those you need to draw out.
Which aspects of your USP are really tough to imitate?
What things are, for whatever reason, something your competition simply cannot do. Remember this could be because it involves a method or innovation that is totally unique to you – something you have developed – or it could be that your brand that punches up an otherwise standard offering – as Marie Forleo’s does.
To give you an idea, it could be something really big, like a signature service, and a totally unique way of doing things. Or a really quirky brand that is so infused by your personality it would be impossible to emulate.
Or, it can be something really simple.
Maybe all your clients get a free copy of your book when they sign up.
Maybe you have exceptional attention to detail, and can achieve results that are far more effective, efficient, or appealing than your competitors.
Or maybe you have created a seriously wonderful client journey that leaves all your customers raving.
As long as it can’t be replicated, it’s the aspect of your USP than you need to focus on.
Step #4: Write Your Taglines
Take another look at the two lines from Marie Forleo’s branding, which I quoted earlier. They’re short, snappy, and perfectly encapsulate her USP.
The first, in particular, is something she can use anywhere on her brand as an introduction. These are taglines – short, sweet sentences that really drive home your USP, usually in a subtle manner.
In other words, they don’t say ‘I’m different because of X and Y, and you should buy from me instead of other people because of Z.’
Rather, they focus on the client – what they need, want, and will receive.
Take some time and craft a couple of really perfect taglines for your brand, or for each product or service you offer, which perfectly highlight your USP, and really draw out that one unique element.
Once you have them, work them into everything. From your website and social media, to your other copy.
Replicate the language you use in your tagline throughout your brand voice, to really solidify in the mind of your ideal clients that this is what makes you special.
So, while fully understanding the concept of a USP isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, the actual process of discovering your own is nice and easy. You’ve now got a crystal clear understanding of the concept, all you need to do is follow four simple steps:
- Know your ideal client and competition.
- Add emotional language to that knowledge.
- Find one element to focus on that’s really tough to imitate.
- Write a few awesome taglines that perfectly encapsulate that focus, and weave the language through your other copy.