Unique Selling Proposition (USP) Explained

On the surface, it is simple. Two sentences that tie all of your marketing efforts together:

For [TARGET CONSUMER] who want [DESCRIBE NEED OR WANT], our [PRODUCT] is a [IDENTIFY CATEGORY] that [DESCRIBE BENEFITS PROVIDED AND HOW THEY SOLVE A PROBLEM/PRODUCT ATTRIBUTES]. Unlike [COMPETITOR X], we [STATE POINTS OF DIFFERENTIATION].

But before you fill in the blanks, you need to keep a few things in mind.

1. [Target Consumer]

Don’t offend your target market by choosing a poor name for your Target Consumer. Even though USPs are intended for internal purposes, things like this tend to find their way into public view. It is a good idea to identify your target audience by specific attributes that will draw them emotionally to your brand. Think about potential “switchers” from each demographic and what you would call them to their face.

A second thing to consider in identifying the target consumer is that in the course of your product or service’s life cycle (PLC), your target consumer will shift. Be careful to select congruent consumers for subsequent campaigns or you risk alienating your earlier adopters.

2. [Describe Need or Want]

In this case, the need or want is a generic term. This is because technology and markets change and shift. Consider what would happen if your company states that they are in the business of making the best widgets; where will the company land when widgets become outdated, obsolete, or out of favor? For example, Ford, GM and Toyota don’t make cars, or even vehicles for that matter. They create mobility solutions. When identifying the need or want that your company addresses, think in terms of the big picture.

3. [Product]

This is where details count. Each product that you offer should be unique, down to its personality. This is where you name the model or specific product. The only exceptions are in companies operating in ephemeral markets (such as fashion), companies operating in obscure markets (such as 3D rendering services), or companies that specialize in “bundled” products/ services. In these instances, product lines may have enough intrinsic differentiation to serve as the identifying product.

4. [Describe Benefits provided and How They Solve A Problem/ Product Attributes]

Look at your target market. What is the terminal value that will motivate them to buy your brand? Is it integrity, personal gratification, personal intelligence, self actualization, safety or another ideal? The benefits or product attributes that propel your product in the market should speak directly to these values.

5. [Competitor X]

How do you introduce yourself? When I introduce myself, it goes something like: “Hi, I’m Mo. I’m crazy about marketing, I also like to snowboard and garden…” It is never “Hi, I’m Mo. I’m different from Sam because not only do I enjoy marketing, but I am a better gardener then he is.” That would imply that the person who I am introducing myself to already knows Sam, and that they should tie their perception of me to him. I want them to know me for who I am, and I think companies should operate the same way. Therefore, I have never named the competition directly in a  USPs, although in the process of writing it, I mentally go through an evoke set for each category and I think that in brainstorming sessions, it is helpful to make a list of competitors before creating the USP. I also expand my perception of competition as the product/ service works through the PLC stages.

6. [State Points of Differentiation]

This is where you reiterate the terminal values that are driving your customers. What is it about your product/ service that emotionally draws them? If it is integrity; does your product have features that will take care of them? If it is consumer intelligence, then your product must be a great investment. The important part of the Points of Differentiation is consistency in message.

The syntax of your PLC does not need to mimic the formula set out above, but the concept should be in every element of your marketing framework. Your company’s Unique Selling Proposition is a tool that will guide and unify your company and its products/ services for present and future market conditions. It is well worth the investment to develop a robust USP that encourages strong, favorable and unique buying behaviors in your target market.

SEO Marketing Note: USPs contribute to great keywords! By knowing your website’s marketing position, you can focus your efforts and let your customers know why they should select you as the vendor. Use the USP to guide the development of various tags, headings, and body text.

Did you find this article helpful? Have you written a Unique Selling Proposition? If so, please share your experiences with the community at MarketFix by posting a comment to this article.

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One Response to Unique Selling Proposition (USP) Explained

  1. Joan Swenson says:

    Thank you for the formula and explanation. I hear the term often but never knew the questions to consider when creating one for myself.

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