If you want to get more response from your marketing and advertising, then you need a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Your USP answers the #1 most important question in marketing, which I learned from marketing consultant Dan Kennedy: “Why should I, your prospect, choose to do business with you versus any and every other option?“
A powerful USP makes it easier for customers to choose you, and it helps you attract the RIGHT customers to your business. On the other hand, if you don’t have a USP, or if you have a weak USP, you’ll be seen as a commodity provider — just competing based on price.
Examples of Bad USPs
One common type of weak USP is one that is all about you, rather than focusing on how your products or services directly benefit your customers.For example, if you claim that you’re a family owned business that’s been operating since 1908, that’s not really a strong USP. You’re sort of implying a benefit of quality or reliability, but it’s still indirect. You’re focusing on you, instead of focusing on your customers. And remember, your customers are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”
The other weak type of USP is a price-based USP (e.g. lowest prices, guaranteed) Being the lowest price means you have the lowest profit margins, and that makes advertising and marketing very challenging. I always recommend you strive to be a premium provider rather than a budget provider because it’s much more profitable.
Here’s What a Great USP Looks Like
Domino’s Pizza built a billion dollar empire on the back of a powerful USP: “Fresh hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.”
Note that Domino’s didn’t claim to be all things to everybody. They didn’t claim they have the best tasting pizza, or the finest ingredients. They also didn’t claim to be the cheapest. They focused on 1 thing customers really wanted: on-time delivery. And, on the strength of their powerful USP, Domino’s created a billion dollar empire.
Here are the 5 easy steps to create a powerful Unique Selling Proposition. For each step, I’ll provide an example of how we followed the instructions in order to create our own USP here at Main Street ROI.
Step 1. Focus On Your Core Strengths
A great USP requires focus. You can’t be all things to everybody.
Ask yourself questions, such as:
- What’s your core competency?
- Which products or services are most profitable?
- What type of customers do you really want to serve?
As an example, for us at Main Street ROI, our core competency is online marketing. We’re not good at creating marketing materials such as brochures, and we’re not web design specialists. We don’t work with everybody. We focus on small business owners, specifically service-based businesses seeking local clients, customers, and patients.
2. Ask Your Customers
A great USP is built on customer insight.
Ask your customers questions like:
- Why do you do business with us?
- What do you dislike about our industry?
- What do you wish we could provide that we don’t?
You’ll be surprised at what you hear.
In our case, when we started Main Street ROI, we were focused on implementing search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns for clients. But as we went to networking events and spoke to more and more prospective customers, we began to get some push-back.
When business owners would ask me what I did, and I said “We are a SEO company – we help small business owners get ranked in Google,” I would often hear a lot of doubt and mistrust about hiring an SEO company. Many of the small business owners had had negative experiences with online marketing companies. And most were distrustful of online marketing companies.
Over the next several months, by listening to both our clients and prospective clients, we began to change the focus of our company in response to what we were hearing. We learned that many small business owners didn’t really want to outsource their online marketing — instead, they wanted to know how to do it themselves.
And so we shifted the focus of our company in this direction, towards training and coaching rather than just implementation. We’re really glad we made the shift, because we not only have much happier clients, we have carved out a unique niche in the online marketing industry. And this shift would never have happened without first listening to our customers and prospective customers.
3. Analyze Your Competitors
Here in step 3 is where your USP really comes together, because the most important word in Unique Selling Proposition is Unique.
Many years ago, I heard the following advice about succeeding in business: “You should spend 50% of your time studying your competitors, and 50% of your time figuring out how to do a better job.”
I believe that’s always the case, but it’s especially critical when creating your USP.
Study your competitors’ ads, websites, and marketing materials.
The easiest way to do this type of competitive research is to do a search in Google and see what your competitors are saying in their Google AdWords ads. What I recommend is that you create a spreadsheet to compile all of the ads of your competitors. You’re looking for commonalities, and you’re looking for an opening to say something that your other competitors aren’t saying.
If you want to take it a step further, you can call on them as a prospective customer, and ask why you should do business with them, rather than the competition, and hear what they have to say.
In our case, with Main Street ROI, we realized that most online marketing companies are focused on offering done-for-you SEO services. We saw that hardly anybody was focusing on training small business owners to show up in Google’s local results, and so we saw that as an opportunity to differentiate ourselves. That’s why we created The Local SEO Formula.
4. Refine Your USP
Now it’s time to make your USP concise, and refine it to 1 sentence, ideally 20 words or less.
Again, one of the most famous USPs is the one that made Domino’s pizza a household name:
“Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or your money back.”
Here’s our current USP for Main Street ROI:
We are the ONLY company offering do-it-yourself courses and coaching to help small businesses manage their own local internet marketing.
5. Test Your USP
Your USP doesn’t need to be set in stone. Instead, you should feel free to change it based on how effective it is and how people are responding to it.
One of the best ways to test a new USP is with Google AdWords. For example, you can test two different messages in 2 different ads and see which one gets more clicks.
You can also test the strength of your USP when speaking with prospective customers, or when speaking with anybody who asks, “What do you do?” You’ll know you have a great USP when people say “tell me more” and you’re more easily starting conversations with your ideal prospects.
In our case, when we modified our USP to be helping small business owners gain the knowledge and skills they need to more effectively manage their own marketing, we noticed an immediate change in response. Suddenly we weren’t “just another SEO company” — we were unique, and people suddenly had a reason to do business with us rather than the other guys.
Now It’s Your Turn…
Set aside a few hours this week to follow these 5 steps to create your own powerful Unique Selling Proposition.
Step 1. Focus on Your Strengths
Step 2. Ask Your Customers
Step 3. Analyze Your Competitors
Step 4. Refine Your USP
Step 5. Test Your USP
It’ll take a little brainpower, but the time and energy you invest in a USP will pay for itself for years and years to come.
Want Feedback On Your USP?
If you already have a USP and you’d like feedback on it, share it with us and we’ll be glad to provide our feedback.
Main Street ROI is a digital marketing agency based in New York City.
Our mission is to help small businesses thrive. With our services and training, we help small businesses succeed with marketing regardless of their budgets.
Since 2010, we’ve helped thousands of small businesses create profitable digital marketing campaigns.
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