How To Determine Your Unique Selling Proposition

Offering your prospects a unique selling proposition, otherwise known as your USP, helps you separate your business from your competitors. A USP is what makes your business stand out from the crowd.

Without a fresh selling proposition, you won’t be able to differentiate yourself and you can’t create a special place for your company in your customers’ minds. Once you have one, however, you can use it to inform everything from your digital advertising campaigns through to your social media.

By deciding to incorporate a USP into your strategy, you have already taken your first step to success. Moving forward, everything you do will be easier: customer acquisition will be easier, your dedicated clients will tell the world how much they adore your brand and your bottom line will receive a boost.

Here are the five ways to determine your unique selling proposition:

Use Your Firm’s Personality

Creating a unique personality for your business is one way to determine your USP. Customers are people, and people respond to a personality that resonates with their own.

Your personality should be one that echoes your target customer persona, his (or her) wants, needs and desires. When your personality is injected into the various elements of your business, it’s pretty impossible for anyone to directly compete with you.

Believe it or not, there are lots of companies that don’t leverage this option. Instead, they try to take advantage of the “Superstar Effect,” which means they try to be “the best” instead of being different. This suggests that you’re maintaining the status quo and refusing to disrupt your industry.

Sometimes being the “best (blank) in town” isn’t as good as “the place to go for (blank).”

Here are a few tips for using your company’s personality as your USP:

  • Your Voice: the voice of your brand must be scrutinized. The words you personally use, the style of copywriting you approve, the way you answer the phone and the promises you make can make your business unique.
  • Your Style: much like your brand’s voice, the style must also be analyzed. Colors, logos, typefaces and overall graphic styles can enhance your USP.
  • Your Personality: sometimes it’s all about the person behind the brand, according to Greg Ciotti (@GregoryCiotti) from HelpScout. Your down-to-earth personality can resonate with your customers and be the embodiment of the customer you’re selling to. You, personally, can be an integral aspect to your USP. Think about George Zimmer of Men’s Warehouse, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett or Dos Equis pitchman “The Most Interesting Man the World.” These are three men who have been essential to their respective brand’s success.

You can also showcase your personality through these mediums:

  • Record YouTube videos, podcasts and webinars.
  • Establish a blog that is written and updated by people a part of the company.
  • On your website, be clear about the fact that “real” people run the company and concede you won’t have all of the answers.
  • Publish high-quality photos of individuals running and working for the business.

Narrow Your Topic

Too often, businesses are able only to maintain continuity in the marketplace rather than changing it. Instead of specializing in an array of niches, you can specialize in and hone one specific part of your niche.

Here are some examples of niche specializations:

  • A generic furniture mover can move furniture—and clean the living quarters afterwards.
  • A law firm can target a specific industry as opposed to just anything business-related.
  • A mortgage brokerage firm can go above and beyond for low-income communities.

Anyone can sell products. Anyone can move furniture. Anyone can provide legal advice. So why should prospective clients come to you and not the company down the street? It’s because you specialize in offering something that the other business doesn’t!

An often-cited example of this comes from the late Charles Revson, founder of Revlon. He famously used to say he sold hope, not makeup. Along the same lines, some airlines sell friendly service, while others sell on-time service. Neiman Marcus sells luxury, while Wal-Mart sells bargains.

Find (and Condense) Your Target Audience

Along with narrowing your topic, you can also fine-tune your target market. In other words, you simply find and condense your primary audience. You can select a target audience that has never had a business like yours cater specifically to them. For instance:

  • Mortgage Brokers for Millennials
  • Legal Advice for Startups, or
  • Furniture Movers for Seniors

Accomplish this by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you were a young entrepreneur who needed advice about law or taxes, then you’d be a lot more likely to opt for a law firm or tax specialist that specializes in entrepreneurs, correct?

Moreover, targeting a narrower market segment helps to simplify your marketing and promotion activities. Since you know your target audience then you can easily find them online, at conferences, in certain areas of the city and so on.

Remember, just one specific customer can lead to a flood of additional customers in the same field. They will tell their friends and those friends will tell others and so it will go on. Before you know it, your brand could be the most popular in that niche.

Explore the Merging of Ideas

Some of the best concepts transpire when there is a “merging” of ideas. You might ask yourself: “what is left to create?” but the answer is obvious: plenty, because many ideas haven’t been combined before!

Take the case study of Groupon, for example: it combined the collective purchasing power with the power of social media. Or what about The Piano Guys? This YouTube sensation merged classical music with some of the most popular music of the last 50 years. It introduced young people to the works of J.S. Bach, Felix Mendelssohn or Sergei Rachmaninoff by combining their works with movie soundtracks, classic rock, pop singers of today, television show theme songs and more.

Unsure how to start? Well, take a step back and think about the industry you’re in and what topic your business is about. Next, mull over what you could insert into the mix to make it seem a lot more interesting and unique. Indeed, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel or create sliced bread, but just combine two things you already have a strong acumen for.

It can be a tremendous help if your business has a characteristic that is worth remembering. The intersection of ideas is one of those traits that can help the general public remember.

Promotion is a Small Aspect of Marketing

There is no doubt that promotion is a big part of building the right audience to target. However, at the same time, promotion can’t salvage a mediocre product, a less-than-stellar service or a poor USP. Let’s face it: promotion is just a tiny part of marketing strategy.

A successful business depends upon your vantage point, how you provide service for your customers, your approach and the view you hold of the industry—or even the world. These aspects extend into your business, inventory, customer service and, finally, your promotion strategy.

Coming up with ways to attract customers isn’t accomplished through the means of gimmicks, “punny” social media posts or fancy marketing promotions. Attracting customers is achieved at every single stage of your business. But here’s the kicker: your USP is the very first stage, according to Vincent Ng (@vincentng) of MCNG Marketing.

Final Take-Aways

#1: Don’t be unique just for the sake of being unique.

#2: No one will ever argue that being unique is imperative to a successful marketing strategy. But your rivals and prospects will see right through you when you’re being unique for its own sake. Owning the only business in the arctic to sell ice or bathing suits may make you unique, but it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a market for your product or service.

#3: Determining your USP doesn’t have to equate to defining a brand new market by experimenting with unproven demand. Your USP will work when you’re simply identifying a fraction of the marketplace’s demand.

#4: Your USP needs clarity and simplicity. Even if your USP is unique, if it takes a long time to disseminate then it won’t be as effective as you want.

#5: At the end of the day, your USP needs to be clear, concise and to the point. Only then will it deliver measurable marketing results you can count on.

Most important of all is you should never get discouraged. Rome wasn’t built in a day. A successful business is about making your product stand out, even in a market consumed by similar companies and products.


Picture of Todd Mumford

Todd Mumford