Hammer Home Your Unique Selling Proposition

First, determine how your company stands out from competitors.
Then communicate and support this in every possible way.

Consumers today are faced with nearly infinite options. Marketing’s job is to cut through the clutter — and to convince your customers that your product or service is exactly what they need.

There is a tendency in the business world to try to be everything to everyone. However, a focused message will help you reach today’s over-stimulated and overwhelmed consumers far more effectively. This message should communicate exactly what you stand for and show your audience why they should buy from you. You need to express what you stand for in the market that is different from your competitors.

Many companies talk about being “great” in a generic way. The fact is, your brand promise will be far more memorable — and much more believable — once you discover how you are different at the core of your company’s DNA.

This process is known as discovering your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your USP is the unique reason your product or service is superior to that of the competition, and it falls into one of three categories: price, experience, or innovation. Sometimes business owners will tell me, “Well, we do all three of those things – I guess we’re the best!” This misses the point. To fully occupy a space in the minds of your audience, you have to focus on one differentiator.

Three ways to corner a customer’s mind.

When you look deeply into your company’s core experience, you can find the area in which you are the most memorable to consumers. Eventually, you can combine aspects from two or more categories, but for now we will keep it simple. Is your company known because of price, experience, or innovation?

Price. If you are going to compete on the dimension of price then you need to make sure that everything you do is targeted towards lowering the price of a good or a service that you’re producing, and that you’re better than anyone in your competitive set at doing that. Take Walmart for example. This company has reinforced its “low-price leader” message so effectively that most people — if you stopped them on the street — would be able to quote Walmart’s “Everyday low prices” USP. It is actually the rare company that can compete on price, and the next two dimensions are often far more valuable in terms of long-term sustainable profitability for a company.

Experience. Here I am referring to the the experience your consumers receive in the realm of customer service. Can you provide a better experience than anyone else that you’re competing with and can you actually do it profitably? Can you truly bring forth an experience that’s truly unique and memorable? Online retailer Zappos has outdone itself in the customer service realm. Zappos boasts unlimited free returns and an exemplary call center – as well as excellent customer service reviews.

Innovation. If you are going to compete along the lines of innovation, ask yourself: Do you have the process, the people and the technology to compete and win in your space by coming up with new products and services? Do you have the expertise, and the budget, and the talent? With a tagline of “Innovating technology for a changing world,” 3M set the precedent for valuing innovation. Today, the company boasts 22,800 patents and a product line 50,000 deep and constantly growing. In fact, employees are encouraged to dedicate 15% of their time to brainstorming the next great product.

In large part by focusing on a core unique selling proposition, these companies have become household names — and brands that are the envy of their respective markets.
Finding the most effective USP.

The value of developing the right unique selling proposition is illustrated by an example given by Bryan Eisenberg, noted author and experienced marketer. In an effort to improve a test company’s conversion rate, one of his clients hired a writer to draft several unique value propositions. These were then tested with clients to determine the most appropriate and impactful option.

After implementing the chosen value proposition, the client saw a whopping 33.8% increase in conversion rate. This new USP, which benefitted from feedback from actual customers, has opened new doors for them. The right USP can do the same for you.

Start by going back to the basics.

In order to find your most effective USP, ask yourself these basic exploratory questions:

  • How do your clients benefit, specifically, from the services or products that you provide?
  • What intrinsic quality or attribute makes you stand out most from the competition?
  • Where does your company’s core expertise lie?

Using your answers to these questions, formulate a USP that will truly resonate. You can then distill your USP into a short, catchy tagline which will give you a successful new marketing campaign to implement.

When looking for inspiration, consider the following successful examples:

  • Avis: “We’re number two. We try harder.” As the second-largest rental car company, Avis recognized that its USP lay in its greater effort and dedication to delivering an excellent experience.
  • FedEx: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” This FedEx slogan (although since replaced) communicates the company’s reliability and ability to ship items quickly which was its innovation.
  • DeBeers: “A diamond is forever.” In use since 1948, this famous slogan communicates the durability of DeBeers’ jewelry and the lifelong experience of owning a DeBeers diamond.
  • Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” Domino’s former slogan tells it like it is – customers know what to expect in a practical way, and it is highly appealing in terms of its reference to price.

Once the words are in place, however, you must extend the use of your USP to action. You need to get your team on board and deliver on your USP. The differentiator you arrive at should be reflected across all of your marketing messaging, in order to best communicate what differentiates you from the competition. You need to broadcast this unique selling proposition both internally and externally.

Talking the talk — and walking the walk.

To truly hammer home your USP, you need to support and prove it in everyday practice. You need to lead by action, not just words. If you publicize the fact that your company provides exceptional service, you must then impress customers who contact your customer service staff. If your primary differentiator is price, then your entire operation should be aligned with that mission – from comparing prices before purchasing raw materials to turning off lights to save money on the electric bill. If your key message is contradicted by consumers’ experience with your company, you will quickly lose credibility — and the value of having a unique selling proposition will be wasted, and actually hurt a lot more than it will help.

This means your whole company must be aligned with the key message of your USP. Employees must be aware of and excited about your unique selling proposition and fully understand their roles in carrying it out. Major company decisions must also be made with that differentiator in mind.

Unleash your USP in every possible way.

Once you’ve broadcasted your message internally, focus on hammering home your USP to prospects and customers. It should guide your every communication with clients, permeate your marketing and PR materials, and be emphasized across all marketing channels. Imagine if your USP were communicated in every single way, at every touchpoint, so that your customer understood what their experience was going to be with you?

Executed correctly, this intense emphasis on your USP will show consumers exactly who you are, what you do, what you value, and what you can offer them to meet their pain points. In return, they will appreciate your clarity and commitment, building a sense of trust and value that will make you top-of-mind for consumers in your niche.