- A unique selling proposition, or USP, sets your product and brand apart from the competition.
- A USP fosters repeat business and should drive your marketing message.
- Finding your USP starts by understanding your customer, competitors and products.
- This article is for business owners and entrepreneurs who want to learn how to define their unique selling proposition.
You may have a fantastic product or service that’s more compelling than any other offerings in your business niche. However, if you don’t connect with your target customers, you won’t succeed. Defining and marketing your unique selling proposition (USP) is essential to ensure your brand and offerings resonate with your audience.
Most marketers view USPs as a way to make your brand stand out. While this is true, a USP is more than a differentiator. It’s an essential small business marketing decision that can establish your business’s identity.
What is a unique selling position?
A USP — also known as a unique value proposition — is the key element or feature that sets a company’s products or services apart from the competition. It’s a short statement that tells current and potential customers why they should choose your offering.
On the surface, finding your USP may seem straightforward, especially when it can be anything — a defining product feature, an amazing customer story, a moving story about your business or even exceptional shipping. However, the spectrum of possibilities makes it more challenging to establish a USP.
Your USP should help build a powerful brand for your business that resonates with customers beyond your product or service, showcasing your uniqueness in a relevant and appealing way.
A USP can be a brand slogan or marketing message. It will inhabit your business’s identity and become a vital component in its decisions, processes and company culture.
FedEx provides an excellent USP example: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” It’s easy to understand. However, its most compelling feature is that it captures FedEx’s mission as an enterprise, highlighting its dedication to providing fast courier services.
Did you know?: Your USP will be your marketing plan’s guiding force, informing campaigns, events and messaging.
How to determine your USP
A USP isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Businesses in similar and vastly different industries have unique, distinct USPs representing value to their customers. While USPs are all uniquely different, most companies go through a similar process to generate them.
Here are four steps to help you determine your USP.
1. Connect with your customers to inspire your USP.
Your customers are the most reliable and valuable information source for your USP because their actions drive sales for your business. It’s not enough to know them on a surface level. Determining your USP requires you to understand the reasons behind their behavior.
To help understand your customers, ask the following questions:
- What makes them return and continue doing business with you?
- What causes them to stop buying from you?
- Which customer groups have similar preferences when buying your products?
- Which customer groups have vastly different preferences when buying your products?
Tip: Use customer surveys and other market research tools to accurately gauge your target market’s behavior and preferences.
2. Identify what makes your brand stand out to inform your USP.
The “U” in USP stands for unique, which also happens to be the primary determinant of your brand’s USP. Uncovering what makes your brand unique and different from others in the same industry explains why your customers buy your product. It also helps you focus on these unique elements and transform them into more profitable and value-driven success ingredients.
3. Analyze your competition when determining your USP.
Chrys Tan, the founder of Chrys Media, says that analyzing your competitors is an excellent way to understand the market in which you operate.
“Instead of focusing on what products they sell, see what ads they are running or what their marketing messages are,” Tan advised. “This will help you define what each company’s unique selling proposition is and how they distinguish themselves from each other.”
By analyzing competitors’ ads, you can get an idea of how they want to be perceived. This is a crucial step in understanding a USP and considering where your business fits into the market.
Key takeaway: Use Porter’s Five Forces model to analyze the competition. This model looks at competitive rivalry, suppliers’ bargaining power, customers’ bargaining power, the threat of new entrants and the threat of substitutes.
4. Track industry trends to develop your USP.
You may already understand your customers’ desires and what makes your brand unique among competitors. However, this information won’t help if you’re not in line with today’s market trends, including tech trends, marketing trends, retail trends and more.
Consumer preferences change rapidly depending on what’s trending, and you must be able to adjust your marketing or sales initiatives to accommodate these changes. Otherwise, your market-penetration efforts may be in vain.
Examples of USPs
To help you better understand USPs, here are some excellent examples of USP statements that encapsulate these brands’ competitive distinctions in their customers’ eyes.
“Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” — M&Ms
This USP statement is quirky and directly tells you what makes M&Ms better than any other chocolate candy. While the USP seems straightforward, it’s been effective enough to acquire the support of many people.
There’s a risk in doing this type of USP statement, especially if your product doesn’t live up to your claims. However, M&Ms managed to do it and people fervently support the brand.
“Empowering the world to design.” — Canva
Canva is a leading design platform and its USP is proving true. Canva has become the go-to design platform for people of all ages. Its interface and tools are effortless to navigate compared to competitors like Photoshop and Procreate. Its USP reflects the support Canva has received in the design world.
“What’s next in music is first on SoundCloud. Upload your first track and begin your journey.” — SoundCloud
Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Post Malone are some of the many musicians who started their music careers via SoundCloud, a website that lets rookie musicians upload their music and share it with other artists and listeners all over the world.
With the success of its artists, SoundCloud’s USP statement seems truthful, not just an encouraging tagline. Users are more likely to try a product or service when they know testimonials speak to its success. SoundCloud managed to relay this in a single line.
USP writing help and resources
There’s no clear formula or blueprint for developing a USP. However, several resources can guide you through the process of determining your unique selling proposition.
- Convince and Convert. Convince and Convert is a marketing consultation website that helps brands seek professional opinions about marketing strategies for effectively deriving value from customers. It has worked with big industry names like Hilton Hotels and Caesar’s Palace. The company provides consultations for firms to jumpstart their marketing initiatives.
- Zen Business. The Zen Business site has helped 300,000 great business ideas become realities. It also promises to help monitor business growth even after launching. Zen Business has interesting input on defining USPs.
- Demand Metric. Demand Metric provides tools and training materials to further your USP determination. The website offers tools to help businesses develop or reinvent their marketing and sales strategies. It also has USP templates to guide you as you begin defining what makes your brand stand out.
Understand your company’s edge
Your brand’s unique selling position is inherent to your company. It presents an effective opportunity to examine your company and customers’ behavior to determine what sets you apart. Many brands owe much of their current success to the time and money investment they poured into developing their USP.
While there’s no actual formula to define your brand’s USP, online guides and successful examples can help and inspire your initiative. The sooner you understand your company’s competitive edge, the sooner you’ll be able to craft a compelling USP to support your future success.
Matt D’Angelo contributed to the reporting and writing of this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.