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Your USP: The Make-Break Point

Your USP (Universal Selling Proposition) will make or break your business. Let me put this differently. With a great USP, success is nearly assured. Without one, you will be at best, just an also-ran, someone struggling to remain in the race.

You need a USP for the business itself, and one for each product being sold. If you are selling products produced by others, the sales literature available may already include a great USP. If it does not, however, one needs to be created.

There is lots of debate about what a great USP is. I have no intention of seeking to end it. But I must point out lots of people have it wrong.

Differences Of Opinion About The USP

Some believe it is a statement that explains how your company or product differs from others. Something that makes it unique, and thus better.

Since all is about selling benefits, some believe the USP is a statement about the greatest benefit offered by your company or product. A benefit that sets you apart from others. One others can not claim.

I don't agree with either or related views.

To side step debate as possible, let's ignore the marketing strategies used offline. Let's focus on those that work online. This allows me to state without reservation that such positions won't work on a website.

The Key Is To Focus On Behavior

Your visitors don't give a hoot about you, your product, or how hard you have worked to make it available. The simple fact is, they don't think about you at all. They have only one question when they hit your site: What's in this for me? You have only seconds in which to provide an appropriate answer.

Talk of you, your company, or your product, regardless of uniqueness, will only bring a click on the Back button. Soul-searched words about the benefits your company or product offers will also bring immediate exit.

What's required is a USP that provides your Perfect Customer with a PERCEIVED benefit that sets you apart from and above others. Note it matters not at all whether this benefit is your strongest, best, or whatever. It doesn't even matter if it's so. It only matters that your Perfect Customer perceives it as such.

Further, to the degree possible, you want your Perfect Customer to grasp this in a glance, even to shout out loud, "Hey! This is it. This is what I need!"

USPs And The Big Boys

For examples of great USPs that have proved to be winners, check out some books on marketing. Here's one: Coca Cola - The original.

Pepsi has been trying to beat this for some time. And they have put millions and millions of dollars into the effort. But Coca Cola remains the first and original cola, a position that can not be taken from them. (It is unlikely a new Web Business can establish such a position.)

The story of the ferocious marketing efforts of these two competitors makes fascinating reading. For example, Coca Cola has tried a number of alternatives to, "The original." Pepsi seemed to have a winner in, "For the new generation." But they, too, have been experimenting. And both continue to spend great gobs of money in hopes of gaining an edge over the other.

Years back, Avis strongly challenged Hertz in car rentals with, "We're second, so we try harder." This captures attention. While many cheer the underdog, most go for the favorite when they reach for their wallet. But this worked for Avis. That they tried harder implied to many that Avis would thus make life easier for them.

Over many years this proved to be an extremely effective position. As in the cola battle, Avis came off this now and then to an alternative, only to watch sales plummet. They recovered quickly with a return to this position.

USPs For The Rest Of Us

Whether or not you already have a business, nothing matters more than discovering a great USP for both your company and products. Your USP will be your company's greatest asset.

A small business does not have the money to launch large institutional branding campaigns to popularize a USP. However, you can be just as effective as the big boys are in building a great one. Take the time to get this right.

Using Your USP

Incorporate your USP into a small logo and include it on every page of your site. Include it in some way in every communication sent out about your company or product, particularly in sales literature. Use it in a signature file that is automatically appended to every email message sent by your company.

No, you're not going to beat Coca Cola this way. But people will come to associate you and your product with your USP and logo. While not a megabuck branding campaign, this can be remarkably effective.

Tag Lines Are Great

A tag line is a three to five word statement that captures or at least reminds of the essence of your USP. For Avis, "We try harder" works. Staples gets attention with, "Yeah, we've got that." This implies they can fulfill all needs. "The quicker picker upper" suggests Bounty paper towels to many.

Use your tag line wherever you lack the room to state your complete USP. Done properly, a tag line tends to add a aura of superiority, something that can never be claimed directly.

As suggested, a good USP and tag line can mean the difference between success and failure in a small business. And in building these, you are on equal footing with the big boys. So take advantage of this opportunity, and get it right.

. . .

Abstracted from "Your Path To Success" by Bob McElwain

The following tips by Kevin Donlin, author, Guaranteed Marketing, should help you with the development of your own USP.
Your unique selling proposition (USP) is your proprietary competitive edge. Think of it as the answer to this question: "Why should I buy from you and not the other guys?"

Every business must have one to succeed. Most businesses don't. Not surprisingly, most businesses fail. Without a USP, you make it hard for people to choose your business over another.

Your USP is right under your nose. All you have to do is take the time to look around your business and find it.

How to Create a USP
Here are four traits about your business you can look at to help you create a unique selling proposition (USP):
  1. Price. Do you offer the lowest price in your industry? Although it's almost always a bad idea to compete on price, this may work for some businesses. Perhaps you have the HIGHEST price, like L'Oreal hair color?

  2. Convenience. Is it easier to buy from you than from your competitors? Are you open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? Do you deliver free?

  3. Service. Will you make the purchase worry free by coming out to fix or repair products at no charge? In the middle of the night? 100 miles away? Do you service all brands? Be specific.

  4. -EST. Are you the oldEST, fastEST, largEST, hippEST or funnEST in your industry? Everyone loves to find the ultimate in anything. That's why the Guinness Book of World Records is a perennial best seller. Can this help your business stand out?

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