Tips for Creating Your Unique Selling Proposition


“USP” stands for unique selling proposition, a term coined by famous ad man Rosser Reeves. A USP is that one unique, identifiable difference that sets your business apart from everyone else. What is distinct about your business, why is that important, and what does that mean to potential customers? That is what is supposed to be contained in your USP.

If you think about those businesses that have a very identifiable USP, you’ll notice that it is, in fact, a large part of their success. The USP is a reason for consumers to frequent a business, a catchphrase, and a distinctive hook for the business to hang their hat on, all rolled into one:

  • “You’re in good hands with Allstate”
  • “Avis: We Try Harder”
  • “Federal Express: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

Interestingly (surprisingly, even) most small businesses don’t have a USP. They’re just out there, doing their thing, selling their stuff, and never really distinguishing themselves in the marketplace. Maybe they succeed or maybe they don’t. But if they do, it might be because they have a good location, or the owner has some great contacts, or some other factor, but often it’s not because they offer something unique and distinct to the consumer.

That’s a shame, because in this overly-crowded marketplace, without offering potential customers something different and distinctive, without letting them know you can solve their problem, you will fail to stand out, and if you don’t stand out, success is very hard to come by.

You begin to create a USP by looking at the market and finding a need that either you successfully fulfill already, or which is unfilled but can be fulfilled by your business. What needy niche can you stake claim to? Can you be the “All-Night Donut Shop” or the “Rock-Bottom Price Car Stereo Store”?

To create a dynamite USP, consider these questions:

  • What characteristics of your business are unique?
  • Of these, which are most important to your customers and potential customers?
  • What gaps are there in the marketplace that your business is uniquely qualified to fill?
  • Of all of these, which can be most easily communicated?

Once you’ve decided which traits make your business unique and what the market is looking for, boil the idea down to a paragraph or two. This won’t be easy, but that’s ok. Write it and rewrite it. Edit, edit, edit. Take the idea down to its core. If you can’t state what it is about your business that is unique and different, how do you expect your customers to ever know it? To be truly effective, your USP must create value in the mind of customers.

Think about FedEx again. Its USP combines what it does with what customers needed. That’s the gold standard.

What you’re looking for is a unique selling proposition that a customer can immediately grasp, understand, and appreciate. If you can boil it down to a single sentence, that’s even better. Then, if you want to be like the great businesses, you’ll begin to build all future marketing and advertising efforts around this core idea, you’ll teach it to your employees, and you’ll all begin to live it.

If you see that there’s a need for a discount wedding photographer in your area, and that’s something you can and want to do, your USP might be “If you find a cheaper wedding photographer in Springfield, I will shoot your wedding for free!” If there’s a need for an office furniture superstore, your USP might be, “Largest selection of office furniture in Springfield. Guaranteed.”

By re-focusing your business on your USP, you can inject it with new life and energy. You know what the customer wants, and you’ve positioned yourself to uniquely fill that need. You won’t appeal to everyone, but to those that need what your USP offers, you should appear indispensable.

Indispensable — It has a nice ring, doesn’t it?


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