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7 Tips for Developing Your USP

2009 | Dec 9 in Home Page News , Marketing

By E-Myth Business Coach,

More Than a Slogan

The ubiquitous business slogan, or tagline, is familiar to everyone. From Nike’s “Just Do It.” to the classic “got milk?” of the California Milk Processor Board, we all carry these phrases around in our heads along with commercial jingles and corporate logos. But the USP, when the concept was originally developed back in the 1940s, was specifically intended to communicate a distinct and unique proposition to the consumer, a proposition so compelling that it can draw customers to your brand.

From the E-Myth perspective, the USP accomplishes this by communicating what it is about your business service or product that brings emotional gratification to the customers in your target market. The genius of the famous tagline, “got milk?” is that it speaks directly to the fact that consumers intensely disliked finding that they were out of milk. By leveraging that emotional reality, the ad agency launched a highly successful series of print and TV ads that impacted millions of consumers over the years.

But over the decades the usage and understanding of the USP has morphed somewhat. Purists in the marketing world lament that what passes for Unique Selling Propositions are often little more than clever or innocuous slogans.

Consider a Unique Selling Proposition for Bob’s Backyard Barbeques such as this: “We Build Barbeques.”  Aside from stating the obvious, the phrase says nothing that stirs the emotions or speaks to any need for gratification. And it certainly isn’t communicating anything unique in its proposition. On the other hand, Bob might come up with a USP that reads: “We Build Backyard Escapes” or “Exotic Vacations At Home.” The imagery and emotional appeal is vastly different and the power of the USP has been harnessed more effectively.

Tapping the Unconscious Mind of Your Customer

The foundation for your USP must come from a real understanding of your customer. In our Mastery Impact! coaching programs we work through the Marketing process with our clients to make sure that before a USP is developed, there's a solid understanding of the target market. Here are a couple of ways we suggest you develop that understanding..

  • Think like your customer. Step outside of your day-to-day role as the owner and think about what your customers really want from your product or service. What is it that makes them come back again and again, instead of going to your competition? It might be the quality or convenience. Perhaps it is your friendliness, exceptional customer service, or reliability. Remember that people do not patronize your business solely for price alone. Hopefully there are qualities that attract and appeal to your customer base.
  • Learn what motivates your customer’s buying decisions. You need to know what drives and motivates your customers. Having some knowledge of the demographics of your target market is essential, but just as importantly, you must learn how they tend to derive gratification in life and what their purchase preferences are. People buy products and services primarily based on their desires, not on their needs. Knowing these desires and motivations will help inform your true unique selling proposition.
  • Know the real reasons customers come to you instead of your competition. How do you do that? Ask your best source of information: your customers. This can be done in a wide variety of ways from face-to-face conversations to surveys to focus groups. Every business lends itself to certain methods of deriving this information, but the fundamental truth is that you can never know too much about your customers!

The last step here is to be as objective as possible in determining what features of your business stand out as something that sets you apart from the pack. What can you highlight that will move prospective customers to patronize your business? And how can you position everything you do in your business to embody that USP?

Bringing Your Unique Selling Proposition to Life

So what should an effective USP look like? There are several schools of thought on this topic and much has changed since the concept of the Unique Selling Proposition was first developed back in the 1940s. However, most successful USPs share some common characteristics.

The real power of your USP comes from its connection to the unconscious mind. Once you have dedicated some careful thought to understanding the collective minds of your target market, you can then concentrate that understanding into how you need to position your business. The way to craft a powerful USP is to make sure it ties into the most emotionally stimulating elements of your customers’ experience with your business. So how do you capture this in a short phrase that touches on emotional gratification promised by your product or service? By following these seven guidelines:

  1. Make it short – a phrase, not a sentence.
  2. Keep it vague enough to leave room for the imagination of your reader.
  3. Try to convey a positive feeling.
  4. Give it impact and emotion.
  5. Avoid defining your business as a commodity.
  6. Focus on the promise of emotional gratification – the result or benefit – not the work or features you offer.
  7. Make it consistent with the general perception of your business and what you have learned of your customer’s gratification mode and purchase preferences.

Don’t feel that you have to be “married” to your initial efforts. Businesses often develop new USPs as they grow and evolve. And the more you learn about your customers and what constitutes your promise of emotional gratification, the clearer your understanding of what an effective Unique Selling Proposition will be. Ultimately, the real acid test is to ask yourself, “What emotion am I selling?”

Share Your Story

What's your USP? Got one you're proud of? Post a comment and share it with the E-Myth Community.

Comments

  1. .Lane S. says:

    Great article. A good USP can literally transform a business, my favorite example is that of Domino's Pizza. You can read the story here:

    http://yoursuccess.ca/64/marketing-tip-from-the-pizza-industry/

    Submitted Dec 9, 2009 11:43 AM

  2. .Tim C. says:

    I like mine "Don't go Crazy, Call Cray Plumbing" I am probably biased

    Submitted Dec 9, 2009 1:17 PM

  3. .Waz B. says:

    'Pick up the Phone, not the Computer' from our local pc fixit guy. Like it a lot!

    Submitted Dec 9, 2009 1:57 PM

  4. .JOHN W. says:

    Don't Drive Naked! (TM) soon to be ® 

    dontdrivenaked.net

    We do Vehicle Graphics, many of which are fully wrapped vans and trucks.  Target audience is male, owner of an in-home-service company, like electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. and they market to home owners which means they need massive visibility.

    Submitted Dec 9, 2009 2:30 PM

  5. .Jonathan E. says:

    Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Just right! ... was a highly effective descriptor that we used at Outlast Technologies in relation to a temperature regulating fabric we developed, marketed and sold to top sports brands.

    Submitted Dec 9, 2009 2:38 PM

  6. .Stephen C. says:

    I build backyard retreats, ideally with a water feature as a focal point.

    The emotional connection is relief to be free from the daily grind and  to reconnect with yourself at a deeper level. Self rememberance.

    Peace grows where water flows

    Submitted Dec 9, 2009 3:16 PM

  7. .Tammi M. says:

    Great USPs here! My USP is still a work in progress. I'm a copywriter who focuses on web-based writing, particularly website copywriting and website promotional services (article marketing, press release marketing, etc.). Many clients come to my business, The Write Associate, with stale, boring web copy and I work with them to freshen their websites so they can become more engaging to their target market, leading to higher sales. So, with that being said, my current USP is:

    Rejuvenate your website!

    I think it might need some work, though, to more clearly state the benefits to clients. Will be brainstorming that with the help of the tips in this article - thanks!

    Submitted Dec 10, 2009 5:40 AM

  8. .Alan L. says:

    "Consider a Unique Selling Proposition for Bob’s Backyard Barbeques such as this: “We Build Barbeques.”  Aside from stating the obvious, the phrase says nothing that stirs the emotions or speaks to any need for gratification. And it certainly isn’t communicating anything unique in its proposition."

    Indeed!

    "On the other hand, Bob might come up with a USP that reads: “We Build Backyard Escapes” or “Exotic Vacations At Home.” The imagery and emotional appeal is vastly different and the power of the USP has been harnessed more effectively."

    Kind of.

    When I first started learning about business back in 2002, I was told that USP stands for "Unique Selling Point" - which is subtly different from "Unique Selling Proposition".

    "Exotic Vacations at Home" is a Unique Selling Proposition because it promotes Bob's barbeques in a novel and inspirational way.

    But it is not a Unique Selling Point - because once the consumer has heard BBQs described in this way... well that covers all BBQs, doesn't it? (Whether they're made by Bob or not).

    Now, if Bob sold BBQs but also provided a customised Patio-integration service and no-one else did - THAT would be a Unique Selling Point.

    What's more effective? Selling a product or service that others are selling but with more impact and emotion? Or selling a product or service that no-one else is selling - something that, of itself, is unique?

    Submitted Dec 10, 2009 5:40 AM

  9. .Ken M. says:

    Well this whole subject can be phrased another way as well. "What do I sell - what do I really sell!" You have to define that. Parenthetically, it ain't BBQ.

    Submitted Dec 10, 2009 6:24 AM

  10. .Dave M. says:

    When you need a Guardian Angel... Give us a Call!

    This is for my homecare/cleaning company called Guardian Angel Total Homecare which I shorten to just Guardian Angel when I talk to people.

    Submitted Dec 10, 2009 9:07 AM

  11. .Prakash T. says:

    I used to work in advertising and we thought a lot about these questions back then.

    If you can get a product / service with features that no-one can copy within a matter of days or weeks, then of course you are unique in the marketplace and your USP will probably reflect that.

    However, these days, "brand parity" is a reality that we have to face, and that's why the USP became what we call "positioning' - the space your brand occupies in your customer's mind.

    "Just do it" doesn't say anything about the product - it's more about attitude, a psychological position that may be attractive to the targeted consumer, and thus sticks in her mind: " I'd like to be independant, self-ruling - here's a brand that's like that, and if I associate myself with it, I'll get a rub-on effect."
    Or even better: "That's me!"

    In fact, nowadays positioning is said by some to be the 5th P of marketing - the classic four of course being Product, Placement, Pricing and Promotion.

    This positioning is important because if it is effective - which might involve some heavy advertising spend - it can achieve what is called "Top of Mind" recall. For example, When I need a BBQ, Bob's Backyard Barbeque is among the first one or two I think of. Once you've got that, you're in the "consideration set" and the rest of the way is a lot easier. Not a sale yet, but the first big hurdle past.

    Hope that's helpful and not too theoretical... :-) ...

    Submitted Dec 10, 2009 11:42 AM

  12. .giuseppe d. says:

    All great responses!

    Whatever your USP is make sure you can live up to it. Letting your customer down will appear gimmicky and reduce customer Trust, Loayalty and Value.

    Submitted Dec 11, 2009 9:16 PM

  13. .heidi m. says:

    I had a personal joke usp just with myself (not the public!) for my service:

    If you want it done half-a*sed, do it yourself!

    But seriously, what do people think of using references to another popular usp? Like taking Got Milk? and applying it to say, Got Dirt? if you had a cleaning business? (My business partner loves these but I always think we should come up with something original.) Or the example above where the reference was to the Goldilocks story many people grew up with.

    Submitted Dec 13, 2009 11:32 AM

  14. .Hani G. says:

    Hi,

    We created "fish&dips®" a fast food restaurant chain serving mainly the seafood lover target customer whom would like to eat seafood frequently, but don't have the time or can afford the high cost of Seafood full service restaurants.

    We caracterized our target customer as:

    1. Usually above 20 years old.
    2. Health concious. (We fry in Sunflower Oil instead of Shortening)
    3. Likes Seafood of course.

    Please share your thoughts on our initial two years old USP; "Your Finest Choice"

    Thank you,

    Hani A. Gazzaz

    CEO, Target Int’l. Restaurants

    E-mail ceo@tirestaurants.com

    Submitted Dec 18, 2009 12:51 AM

  15. .nkasi O. says:

    Great topic! just like Tammi .M. says...... its still work in progress.

    Thanks Guys!

    Submitted Dec 18, 2009 3:01 AM

  16. .jack p. says:

    Instead of

    Rejuvenate your website!

    how about

    "Is your business dying?  Give your website CPR"

    or something along those lines


    Submitted Dec 19, 2009 3:37 PM

  17. .Jewell S. says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article and great advice from the many comments on here.  I've been struggling with coming up with a great USP that connotes the diversity of my products, but is simple enough to speak to the customer.

    Right now, it's a little long:  "Unique and Distinctive Wedding Favors For Couples With Distinctive Taste"

    My business provides not just wedding favors, but favors for other special occasions, in addition to accessories for the ceremony and reception (i.e. guest books, flower girl baskets, etc.).  I'm open to ideas.

    Best,

    Jewell S.

    Email:  jewell@rememberourdayfavors.com

    Remember Our Day Inc. - http://www.RememberOurDayFavors.com

    Submitted Dec 23, 2009 4:52 PM

  18. .Mary Ann L. says:

    I am a business bookkeeper, QuickBooks expert. Most of my clients are too busy bringing in revenue to stay on top of their daily nut (what you spend on operating expenses before you make a dime). So one of my tag line is "I mind your money like it's mine!". The other is "I make bookkeeping pain free!' Finally- "think of me as your number therapist!"...........I welcome feedback or suggestions.

    Submitted Dec 26, 2009 7:46 PM

  19. .E-Myth Business Coach says:

    To Jewell S:

    The heart of your USP is probably couched in the phrase you are currently using. Perhaps the essence of your promise might look something like this: "Distinctive Favors for Distinctive Tastes". The idea, ulitmately, is to stir an emotion and the essence of a promise without spelling it all out in one phrase. When a prospective client sees your USP in association with your business name it can be quite apparent to them what is meant by the USP, even if it is somewhat vague on its own. Consider something like, "Make Your Day ( or Event, Moment, Occasion...) Memorable (or Distinctive) - Just Like You!" The real key is to have fun with it and be open to future versions as you and your business grows and evolves.

    Submitted Dec 28, 2009 8:36 AM

  20. .Dawn D. says:

    My biggest problem with coming up with a USP is that I have two totally different sets of customers. I own an entertainment company. I need to appeal to two groups, bar owners (who hire and pay us) and their patrons (who we market our specialized trivia game to) So I have two different USPs and I'm constantly changing and trying new things.

    Submitted Jan 14, 2010 8:50 PM

  21. .George G. says:

    somebody help me... I run an employee benefit firm , also sale life insurance and critical illness that type of financial products.

    Freedom 55 was a cool USP ...

    help anyone?

    Submitted Jan 15, 2010 10:32 PM

  22. .Uma G. says:

    Perfect Match: Right Student with the Right University for the Right Reasons.

    We do college counseling.

    Any opinions on the USP?

    Submitted Jan 19, 2010 2:27 AM

  23. .Debbie T. says:

    We need help. Our young property maintenance business is very diverse...cleaning, all handy man repairs and services, odd jobs and rubbish removal, landscaping, smoke alarm compliance, lawn mowing and gardening.

    Some of our ideas are "We buy you time"  "We love the jobs you don't" 

    "So much to do, so little time?" "We're the one stop property maintenance shop"

    Submitted Jul 17, 2011 4:38 PM


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