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What is a unique selling proposition?

Last updated

30 April 2024

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Hugh Good

A unique selling proposition (USP), sometimes called a unique selling point, sets your business or product apart from competitors. 

It’s what makes your brand better than its industry peers.

For instance, your product may offer free shipping while your competitors charge. 

Your product may be entirely sugar-free, made from 100% recycled materials, or has a proprietary manufacturing process that sets it apart. 

Your USP could even be a slogan if it effectively communicates what makes the brand or products unique and appealing (though not all slogans or taglines are USPs). 

Apple’s Think Different campaign powerfully conveyed its USP in the 1990s, its tagline conveying innovation and leading-edge technology. Apple positioned itself as best-in-class and an appealing lifestyle choice for people who aspire to think differently and welcome innovation. 

Conversely, a generic tagline like Good Quality and Low Prices makes for a poor USP. It’s the opposite of unique—any company can aspire to offer good quality and competitive pricing.

The importance of a USP

Your USP is the cornerstone of differentiation. It distinguishes your business from competitors and showcases its problem-solving capabilities. 

A USP succinctly conveys a benefit unavailable elsewhere, solidifying your presence in the market.

In the saturated world of e-commerce, where products may blur together or overwhelm buyers, a clear USP helps customers navigate their many options. 

Beyond selling, defining a USP prompts thoughtful consideration of your company's mission and purpose. Identifying your UPS clarifies your competitive advantages and market relevance.

In addition to building a solid brand, you can increase marketing ROI, revenue, and loyalty.

10 unique selling proposition examples:

Competing in the global marketplace has prompted companies to focus on refining their USPs, which allows them to promote themselves and their products regardless of location, language, or product line. 

Many of these companies have seen tremendous growth and recognition because their uniqueness has appealed worldwide:

  1. Sirius XM: “180+ channels, commercial-free music.” 

  2. BestBuy: “Find a lower price, and we’ll match it.”

  3. Colgate: “Improve mouth health in two weeks.”

  4. Starbucks: "Love your beverage, or let us know. We'll always make it right."

  5. FedEx: "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." 

  6. Amazon: "Earth's biggest selection."

  7. Domino's Pizza: "You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less - or it's free."

  8. Airbnb: "Belong anywhere."

  9. M&M's: "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand."

  10. ClassPass: “Bringing together the world’s best classes and experiences in one app.”

How to determine your USP

Defining your target audience is essential. It's also crucial to delve into the specifics while speaking to value and being evidence-backed. Who exactly needs your product or service, and why?

How does it surpass competitors?

Some potential USPs might center around:

  • Fast shipping

  • Knowledgeable staff

  • Outstanding service

  • Social responsibility and giveback initiatives

  • Generous guarantees and warranties

  • Distinctive manufacturing practices

  • Eco-friendly practices and ingredients

  • Innovative pricing or financing options

To help pinpoint your USP, follow these steps:

  1. Customer research: Engage with your customers to understand their needs and reasons for choosing your product or service. Identify any dissatisfaction they may have with your offerings or your competitors. Determine what drives their purchasing decisions and whether pricing plays a significant role.

  2. Product analysis: Conduct a thorough examination of your product to uncover its unique attributes. Gain insights into why current customers prefer your brand and whether this USP can resonate with a broader audience.

  3. Competitive analysis: Assess your competitors to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Understanding their unique selling points helps you position your brand effectively.

  4. Market trends: Stay tuned to evolving trends to ensure your USP remains relevant and distinctive. Given shifting consumer preferences and market dynamics, what worked as a USP in the past may not hold the same appeal today.

Crafting a unique selling proposition:

A USP is ultimately a marketing tool that enables your team to close a sale. 

You want it to be simple and easy to understand. For that reason, you should formulate a concise USP following these guidelines:

  • Be specific: Your unique selling proposition (USP) should articulate what sets your product apart in a precise, tangible way. It's not merely about claiming superiority but demonstrating uniqueness that translates into customer value.

  • Keep it simple: Avoid technical jargon or overly complex language that might confuse potential customers. Your USP should directly address their needs or pain points.

  • Provide evidence: Back up your USP with concrete evidence or data. If you claim your product is the fastest, quantify its speed with specific metrics or benchmarks to add credibility and reinforce your proposition's trustworthiness.

  • Deliver value: Before presenting your USP to customers, critically evaluate whether it genuinely provides meaningful value to them. Avoid showcasing features or benefits that don't resonate with your target audience or enhance their experience. Your USP should address a genuine need or desire, leading to a compelling reason for customers to choose your product over alternatives.

  • Ensure customer relevance: Your USP must resonate with your target market's preferences, priorities, and pain points. Conduct thorough market research and gather feedback to understand what matters most to your customers. Tailor your USP accordingly to ensure it aligns with their expectations and motivates them to engage with your brand.

4 tips for writing your USP

1. Identify what separates your company or product: Consider factors like experience, location, inventory, and price. Gather insights from customer feedback to pinpoint specifics.

2. Analyze your competitors' USPs and customer appeal: Identify gaps where your products can excel and be uniquely positioned.

3. Understand your customers' needs: Based on feedback, address any shortcomings in your offerings.

4. Consolidate the data: Identify the singular element that defines your brand's uniqueness. And articulate why your brand surpasses competitors. 

What a unique selling proposition isn't

When introducing your proposition to your customers, it's essential to be clear and specific. 

Simply stating that your product is the best on the market without evidence of what sets it apart is not a strong USP. 

To demonstrate value, you must clearly explain what makes your product unique and different from your competitors.

For instance, merely offering a temporary discount or a limited-time promotion does not establish a compelling USP. Although these tactics may drive short-term sales, they do not inherently differentiate your product.

If cost is a critical factor in your USP, you must create a unique pricing model or structure that sets your product apart from others on the market.

How to communicate your USP

Strategically communicating your USP is crucial for enticing customers to choose your brand over competitors. Here's how to do it:

Use your USP consistently across all communication channels. From web copy and social media posts to advertising campaigns and product packaging, every touchpoint should reinforce your unique value proposition. Remember that it's more than just a tagline; it's your business's distinct positioning in the market.

Employ storytelling techniques to bring your USP to life and make it relatable to your audience. Share customer testimonials, success stories, and examples illustrating how your product or service solves their problems or enhances their lives.

Differentiate your brand visually by incorporating your USP into your logo, color scheme, and branding materials—this will help reinforce your message and make your brand instantly recognizable.

Lastly, monitor feedback (and adjust your messaging if necessary) to ensure your USP remains relevant and compelling in the ever-evolving market landscape. By effectively communicating your USP, you can attract and retain customers who resonate with your brand's unique offering.

FAQs

What are the four USP categories?

By leveraging these categories, you can simplify the process and make your USP more effective. Let's delve into each category:

  1. Price: How does your pricing compare to competitors'? Do you offer lower prices, unique pricing models (e.g., subscriptions or bundling), or cost-saving benefits such as reduced shipping expenses for local customers?

  2. Quality: In what ways does your product or service excel in terms of quality compared to competitors? Highlight any superior features, materials, craftsmanship, or performance that set your offering apart.

  3. Convenience: Consider how convenient it is for customers to obtain your product or service. Do you offer faster delivery, readily available stock, or multiple purchase channels? Emphasize any aspects that make it easier and more accessible for customers to engage with your brand.

  4. Differentiation: What unique aspects of your product or service make it more appealing to customers? Whether it's innovative features, exclusive benefits, or a distinct brand identity, clearly communicate what sets you apart from the competition.

By focusing on these four categories, you can develop a compelling USP that resonates with your target audience and effectively differentiates your brand in the marketplace.

What’s the difference between a unique value proposition (UVP) and a unique selling proposition (USP)?

The term "unique selling value" is often used interchangeably with "unique selling proposition" or "unique selling point." Let's break down the distinction:

USP: This is a specific marketing tool employed to highlight the distinctive benefits and features of a particular product or service. For instance, a USP might emphasize a product's durability, affordability, or unique functionality, setting it apart from competitors.

UVP: Unlike a USP, a unique value proposition informs a business's broader marketing and branding strategy. It delves into the overarching value the entire brand or range of products offers its target audience. It could encompass factors such as exceptional customer service, eco-friendliness, or a commitment to social responsibility, which resonate with the brand's core values and the preferences of its customers.

While a USP focuses on a product's specific benefits, a UVP zooms out to encapsulate the overarching value the entire brand or range of products delivers to consumers. Both are essential components of a robust marketing strategy, but they serve different purposes in communicating the brand's unique offerings to its audience.

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