What is Your Unique Selling Proposition?

Bob Leighton
Last updated by Bob Leighton

What is Your Unique Selling Proposition?What makes you stand out from the flock? Your unique selling proposition.

Also called a value proposition, or as Jack Trout calls it, a differentiating idea. Regardless of what you call it, they all say the same thing--what makes your business different from others in your industry and why should someone do business with you? If you can answer that question, you're already miles ahead of most American businesses. Too many small businesses have a weakened unique selling proposition (USP) that's tired and full of over-used language that has little or no meaning to customers or potential customers.

What is a USP?

The concept of a unique selling proposition is not a new one. The theory was developed in the 1940s, but it's still extremely useful today. Your USP is the thing that makes your business different from your competition. It could be your top-notch customer service. Maybe it's that your store only sells locally-sourced items, or maybe it's that you're the only business to offer a particular line of products in your geographic area. Having a good USP is essential to creating your company's branding.

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The concept of a USP has three key components that should be used to measure every part of your marketing plan:

  1. A call to action. Advertising should be more than just pretty words. It should invite, ask, cajole the reader to take an action. Most often it's to buy something or to visit your store, but it can also be to download a whitepaper, subscribe to your newsletter or sign-up for a class.
  2. Something unique. A USP must also include something that can't be found from the competition. That can be a product or service, a location or a "something" like extended hours or easy financing.
  3. Compelling. The final component of an USP is that it must be strong enough to entice customer and potential customers to take action.

How to create your own USP

The first step in creating a good USP is to define your ideal customer. This can be more difficult that you might think. Although it's tempting to try to appeal to every customer, you're better served by aiming your advertising at your target customer. It's better to be viewed as excellent by a chosen few, than as mediocre to the masses.

Be different when writing your USP. In fact, that's what the concept of a unique selling proposition is all about. It's your customer's reason to do business with you.

Your USP also needs to be personal. You need to appeal to a person's emotions as well as their brain. Let them feel that you understand their needs as people, and are just the company to help fulfill those needs.

Creating a USP will take your business from a "throw stuff at the wall" type marketing approach to a very targeted, specific plan. This works whether you're a brand new business or a well-established company, a big firm or a tiny retailer.

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