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Dude, Where’s My Unique Selling Proposition?

Feb 14, 2013 4:16:31 PM

Why USPs are key to winning new customers, yet so rare.

I was surfing company websites the other morning, when the following line made me drop my bran muffin:

We’re the leading manufacturer of products specifically designed to meet your home electronics needs.

The statement wasn’t offensive in what it said, but what it didn’t say, which was much of anything. “Leading” is a word that sounds alluring but means little unless you quantify it. And virtually every business provides something that meets customers’ needs. Otherwise, you don’t have much of a business.

So what caused me to foreswear my breakfast fare? The fact that nebulous phrases like this have become pervasive, and that it is increasingly rare to come across a truly unique selling proposition or USP. Blame the Internet, electronic self-publishing tools, fast go-to-market cycles, global warming or the evils of capitalism, but USPs have become an endangered species.

You’re seconds away from sayonara
Seemingly self-explanatory, a unique selling proposition tells a prospect what value you bring that nobody else does, and why they should choose yours over some other company.

Consider this: consumers are bombarded with content—words, images, plus a welter of commoditized products and services. Add the hair-trigger, point-and-click attention spans spawned by new media, and you often have just seconds to win people over. Happily, a well-crafted USP helps you do that, serving as—

  • A way to unite your company around your products and services—hence your mission
  • A springboard for your go-to-market strategy
  • A benchmark for refreshing your brand, products and services down the road
  • A foundation for better creative, and better direct marketing response rates

Little things count bigtime
When building a USP, remember the best-selling book by author Jack Trout: Differentiate or Die. In a noisy, oversaturated marketplace, even the slightest exception can get prospects’ minds working and provide substantial marketing traction. The following template can help guide you:

For [target audience] who want [compelling reason to buy], [product name/service] is a [product category] that provides you [the consumer][key benefits]. Unlike [your competition], the [product name/service] [key differentiation].

If you’ve got it, flaunt it
There’s a darned good reason why so many companies neglect to create USPs. It takes a lot of work. Indeed, many execs balk at the chore of assembling key stakeholders or wasting so-called non-productive time on such “frilly pursuits.” But the fact is unique selling propositions pay off handsomely, both in terms of the process and final product.

Do them yourself. Or hire an agency for much-needed discipline and political cover. Just remember: deep down you’re one of a kind—and the world needs to know.

Michael Walton

Written by Michael Walton

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