Posted: Thu 1st Apr 2021
Are you looking for ways to make your business stand out in the competitive market? If so, a unique selling proposition (USP) is something you must consider. But what exactly is a USP?
To understand what a USP does and how it can benefit you, it's important to know what exactly this concept is about. In this blog, we'll define USP and look at its importance in the fast-paced digital world. We'll also discuss a number of strategies for building an effective USP for your business.
What is a USP?
Unique selling proposition (USP) definition
A unique selling proposition (USP) is a distinctive attribute or perceived benefit that sets your business apart from its competitors. It's a way for you to communicate a clear and compelling message about your product or service to potential customers.
Having a USP is crucial because it helps your brand stand out in what's undoubtedly a crowded marketplace. Put simply, it's a vital part of your business's marketing strategy.
Your USP should be assertive and focused on what your customers value. It should say clearly what makes your business unique, and be able to answer questions such as, "Why should I choose your product or service over others?"
USP is also sometimes known as a unique selling point. However, you should perhaps avoid thinking in this way, as your USP is highly unlikely to be one single 'silver bullet'.
What are the benefits of having a USP?
Having a strong, well-crafted USP can benefit your business in several ways.
Increases brand recall
You're giving customers a clear reason to choose your products or services over other companies'. A strong USP helps customers remember your brand and associate it with a particular benefit or feature.
Lets you attract and retain customers
By offering something unique that resonates with the target market, you can promote your brand to people who haven't bought from you before and, once they experience the benefits, keep them buying from you over the long term.
Helps you build relationships with customers
When you give customers something unique and valuable, it creates a sense of loyalty. Customers who are satisfied with your USP are also more likely to recommend your brand to their friends and family, turning them into advocates.
In competitive markets, having a great USP is a huge advantage. It makes you less reliant on price, which leads to better profit margins and a more sustainable business model.
What are the different categories of USP?
When thinking about your USP, you need to consider the range of ways that your business can differentiate itself and, ultimately, stand out. Which one you choose to focus on will depend on your target market and what you're offering.
Price-based USPs emphasise cost as the main reason for someone choosing your product over competitors'. You might decide to appeal to customers by providing payment plans or special offers. Offering flexible payment options or running promotional campaigns could entice customers to choose your particular product ahead of any others.
With this type of USP, you're highlighting specific features or benefits that customers value and that suggest the idea of quality. Making sure that the products or services you offer are of high quality gives customers a sense of trust and reliability, which can lead to repeat business and foster customer loyalty.
You can create a USP based on convenience by identifying pain points in the customer journey and providing solutions that save the customer time and effort.
For example, something as simple as offering online ordering and home delivery can make it more convenient for customers to buy products without leaving their homes. Or, you might extend your opening hours or provide 24/7 customer service to cater to customers with busy schedules.
By focusing on convenience as a core value proposition, your business can build customer loyalty and increase sales.
These USPs focus on your product's (or service's) unique qualities or attributes that set it apart from the competition. If your product has a novel or inimitable feature or innovation that makes it different from similar products on the market, this type of USP could attract customers who are purposely looking for products that offer something unique.
Being known from your unbeatable customer service is another type of USP that can give your business an edge in the market. Providing swift responses to queries and complaints, personalising your interactions or offering flexible return policies, for example, could give customers a positive experience and a reason to choose your company over others.
How to create an effective USP
To build a USP that will prove effective, you can follow these key steps.
Step 1: Identify the features that set your product apart
Start by making a list of the features and benefits that make your product or brand unique. Focus on what makes you different, rather than what you have in common with others in your market. This will help you pinpoint your USP.
Step 2: Research your competitors
Assess the competition to see how they position themselves in the market. Look for gaps or areas where your brand can stand out. Analyse those companies' branding and messaging, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. This can help you further refine your list of differentiators.
Step 3: Compare your angles against the audience's needs
Think about your target customers and their pain points. Consider how your product or brand can specifically address their needs. Make sure that the things that make your product unique align with what your target audience wants and values.
Step 4: Compile the data
Finally, bring together all the information you've gathered and identify the best option for your USP. Make sure it's concise and memorable and that it effectively communicates the benefits and value that your product or brand offers people.
Step 5: Apply the USP across the business
Once you've created your USP, it's important to apply it across your business consistently. Consider using your USP in your marketing materials, website copy, and even your email signature.
A positioning statement can help clarify your USP for audiences inside and outside your organisation, making sure that everyone understands your product's or brand's unique benefits.
It's also crucial to highlight your USP and emphasise your product's benefits in any advertising you do. Use your USP in your ad copy and make it clear how it sets your product or brand apart from the competition. This can help you attract new customers and build customer loyalty over time.
How to test your USP against your competitors
Testing your USP with your target audience is vital, as you need to be sure it's resonating. Carrying out testing allows you to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments before launching your marketing efforts.
So, how do you know if what you think is your USP really offers any advantage over your competitors? Can it lead to more effective selling? Below are four simple tests to see what you really have.
Test 1: Is this valuable to customers or reduces cost to your business?
Yes to question 1 = Competitive parity
If you deliver something that customers value – but your competitors do too – you have competitive parity.
These are often yesterday's USPs and not of significant extra interest to a customer base – for example, next-day delivery, once an advantage, is now often a standard requirement. If the phone has stopped ringing, this could be why.
Test 2: Is this something that few competitors offer?
Yes to questions 1 and 2 = Temporary competitive advantage
OK, so you provide something of value that your competitors don't. Could you have a real quality product on your hands?
This could be a new product or service, skilled members of staff or even your business location. Great, you're in the winning zone, but this may not last.
If it's valuable to customers, you can be certain that your competitors will be working hard to match you. Don't rest on your laurels: Stay close to your customers, keep those marketing materials fresh, and never take future success as a given.
Test 3: Is this difficult and/or costly to obtain or replicate?
Yes to Q1, Q2 and Q3 = Unused competitive advantage
Congratulations! You're providing value that your competitors don't offer and, more importantly, would find difficult to offer.
The reality is, this is unlikely to be one distinct part of what you do as these can be easily copied. It's a combination of activities, skills, values and people that is really the key to standing apart.
Collaborations with other suppliers, integrating your products or services into the customer's business, or shared values around social and environmental impact.
Test 4: Is the business organised to support and exploit this?
No to question 4 = You're failing to really capitalise on your advantage
Should your business not be in a position to exploit these opportunities by unleashing effective marketing campaigns aimed at your target market, that can lead to a huge loss of opportunity. There's no sugar-coating it.
Sustaining your advantage is about recognising what really makes that 'secret sauce' and then making sure you organise your business systems to support and enhance this.
Benchmarking against competitor results
Benchmarking your business against your competitors will, at best, allow you to achieve competitive parity. Clearly defining your target customer, staying close to them to really understand their needs, and continuing to monitor developments in the market is the way to staying in the winning zone.
It's not simply a case of finding your USP but creating a company that delivers something different for consumers. It's not easy but that's why it's so valuable when you get it right.
USP examples in business
Amazon is renowned for its unbeatable customer service, free delivery and a vast selection of products. Customers can buy items from a variety of different categories, from books and electronics to groceries, clothing, and home goods.
It also offers Prime memberships, which provide customers with free two-day shipping, streaming video, and other benefits. This USP has created an unbeatable customer experience and helped Amazon remain one of the top online retailers.
Nike is a well-known brand for its iconic swoosh logo and its "Just Do It" slogan. It's long been a leader in the athletic footwear industry, and its USP is its focus on innovation.
The company is constantly releasing new products, such as its Flyknit shoes, and its Nike+ app, which helps customers track their running and fitness goals.
Apple has long been known for its sleek, stylish products and its focus on user experience. The company's USP is its focus on design and innovation, and its ability to create products that are both stylish and functional.
Apple also offers a wide range of products, from its Mac computers to its iPhone devices.
Uber has used its USP of offering on-demand ride services to revolutionise the transportation industry. Its innovative business model and focus on customer convenience has made it a popular choice among urban consumers.
By identifying the pain point of transportation and providing a solution, Uber was able to differentiate itself from traditional taxi companies and emerge as a market leader.
British businesses with strong USPs
Lush Cosmetics: A handmade cosmetics company with a focus on sustainability and ethical sourcing of ingredients.
Innocent Drinks: A fruit smoothie and juice brand with a humorous and friendly tone that appeals to consumers who want a healthier drink option.
Cambridge Satchel Co.: A leather goods brand that specialises in high-quality, handmade satchels and bags.
BrewDog: A craft beer company that has a strong focus on sustainability and ethical practices, as well as unusual and bold flavour combinations.
Hotel Chocolat: A luxury chocolate brand that sources its cocoa directly from farmers and has a focus on ethical and sustainable practices.
Neal's Yard Remedies: A natural and organic skincare and beauty brand that emphasises holistic health and wellness.