What Is Your USP?
A Unique Selling Proposition Is The Foundation To Effective Marketing.
The marketing term USP or Unique Selling Proposition has been around a long time, but I would wager most business people don’t have a clue as to what it is, or its fundamental importance to marketing.
In my 30+ years in helping aviation businesses develop successful marketing campaigns, the issue clients immediately want to discuss involves marketing tactics – what are the best marketing tools to reach more potential customers? (Usually followed by “how much will it cost us?”)
Marketing tactics and budget are indeed important considerations, but not the most important. Before fretting about what marketing tactics to use, you need to first determine what message needs to be conveyed and why. Your sales message is at the heart of your marketing strategy and determines whether you win a distinct place in your customers’ hearts and minds.
Marketing starts with understanding your target customer, what they want or need and what you offer to meets those needs. Unfortunately, that’s not always enough. Your competitors may offer the similar products or services with the same essential benefit. It requires thinking creatively about your business, and the differences that sets your business and its offerings apart from your competitors – in other words, what will be your competitive positioning in the marketplace?
One way to find clarity around your competitive positioning is to employ a concept called the Unique Selling Proposition, or USP for short.
What is a Unique Selling Proposition
As mentioned, the term Unique Selling Proposition has been around for years. Rosser Reeves, one of most influential figures in advertising during the last century, defined a USP as the ability to communicate a distinct and unique benefit a product or service offers a consumer, which only that specific product or service can provide. Reeves asserted that every successful marketing campaign contained these four key elements:
- It makes a specific proposition to the customer: “buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.”
- The proposition must be unique or “perceived unique” by your customers – something your competitors don’t have, or offer and would they could not easily imitate.
- It should be compelling and relevant to your customers so as to entice them to try your product or service because it addresses their needs, fears, frustrations or desires.
- It must be simple and easy to articulate and communicate, so your customers quickly understand why you’re better or different from competitors, and offers them unique benefit.
Although the Unique Selling Proposition concept was created decades ago, it is still very relevant in marketing today. In fact, the USP Reeves created for M&M Candy, “It melts in your mouth, not in you hand,” is still used today.
Why Do Companies Overlook a USP in Their Marketing?
Business owners often wrongly assume customers will understand what makes their business different or better from their competitors, and overlook developing a USP. However, when carefully nurtured, a USP will provide your company a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.
A strong USP (or lack thereof) can be the driving force behind the success and failure in business. Is that really something you want to leave up to an assumption? To occur haphazardly? Or, will you take a proactive, deliberate and thoughtful approach in developing your competitive positioning to ensure your successful marketing.
An excellent example of an effective USP is the famous “Got Milk” campaign that ran a few years ago. The campaign repositioned milk, which had been maligned as an unhealthy, antibiotic filled food to avoid, to just the opposite – as a nutritional drink appropriate at anytime. It depicted celebrities with milk mustaches and funny scenarios of people running out of milk. The campaign stuck in the customer’s minds and milk consumption rose dramatically. Genius!
The fact that the campaign fostered numerous copycats, such as Got Fish? Got Fleas? Got Freud? only added to effectiveness of the original USP. Even President Obama’s campaign slogan of “Got Hope” mimics the original campaign.
Here is a link to a funny Got Milk TV Commercial
Starbucks – Different and Better
Focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else does. That is what Howard Schultz; the founder of Starbucks Coffee did.
He didn’t create just another coffee shop that sold sandwiches or donuts, he focused on providing premium coffees brewed cup by cup and customized to the whim of the discriminating coffee drinker.
He took coffee to another level and charges for a cup of Starbuck’s java what a typical coffee shop charged for a complete breakfast. His diligent focus on branding helped to make Starbucks a franchising homerun and created a company worth billions of dollars.
Finding Your USP – Don’t Try To Be Better… Instead, Try To Be Different!
In order to arrive at your own USP, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What are the things that irritate, upset, cause extra work or inconvenience, or just plain drive customers up a wall – and what can your business do about it? Here are some questions to help jumpstart your thinking on developing an effective USP for your business:
- Are there specific issues our customers face when researching, purchasing or using our product or service?
- Do we have a competitive advantage? What is the one thing we can deliver that our competitors cannot?
- What does our business offer that consumers want or need and why?
- Do we make a promise to our customers that our company consistently delivers?
- How can we improve on our primary benefit? What new capabilities or services can we add that will make a noticeable impact?
- Does our business provide additional value beyond its primary benefit? What unique approach, philosophy or point of view can we tout?
- Can we speak to the emotional, as well as logical reasons our customers should do business with us?
Somewhere In Those Answers Lies The Essence Of Your USP.
First, list as many possibilities as you can and then winnow the list down to the most distinctive and promising options that provide the greatest value for your customers.
The goal is to identify just one good reason they should buy from you, rather than a slew of reasons. Keep the focus on the one superior advantage or promise, which provides the greatest value and most unique benefit for your “key” customers.
Once you have decided on your USP, create a competitive positioning statement that articulates your USP and refer to it when developing your marketing campaign and tactics.
Develop Your USP Tagline
The final step of your brand’s positioning is not absolutely necessary, although you may find value in distilling your brand statement into a simple tagline that can be used in advertising and marketing to quickly communicate your USP’s competitive positioning. Here are some famous examples:
- Nike – Just Do It
- BMW – The Ultimate Driving Machine
- State Farm – Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There
- The U.S. Marine Corps – The Few. The Proud. The Marines
- Dunkin’ Donuts – America Runs on Dunkin
Remember when creating your USP – don’t try to be better… Instead, try to be different!