How to Formulate a Unique Selling Proposition (And Why Your Business Needs One)
If you own a business, at some point, you’ll need to learn exactly what a unique selling proposition is and why it’s so essential if you hope to elevate your business to the next level.
The official definition from Economic Times defines the term USP below:
Having an accurate description of this term, though, is just the start; after all, what does it mean, and how can it help your business?
The definition itself doesn’t offer guidance on how to use this to your advantage. You can understand the idea behind a concept on paper, but that doesn’t mean you’ll ever be able to grasp it in practice truly.
So, how can we take this definition and mold it into an actionable ideal that can help you propel your business forward?
The True Definition of a Unique Selling Proposition
A unique selling proposition (USP) is the very thing that your business stands for; the ideals and practices that set you apart from your competition.
So, rather than striving to be all things to all people, a business with a strong USP stands for something specific, and this becomes the identifying feature of that business.
Many start-ups make the misstep of trying to stand for everything in the early stages of the business to reach a larger cross-section of customers.
For example, let’s say that you run an electronics website, and your goal is to be known for your expertise in high-quality electronics. The temptation is often overwhelming to stock everything from televisions and smart speakers to surround sounds and computers.
But always remember, if you’re trying to be known for everything, you don’t become known for anything.
Below, we’ll explore a typical scenario as an example.
In Trying to be Known for Everything, You Don’t Become Known for Anything
Your electronics business offers televisions, surround sounds, speakers, appliances, and a vast cross-section of similar products.
Conversely, one of your competitors offers state-of-the-art televisions and accessories too, but they stop short of providing such a vast range of products.
Let’s think about an electronics customer persona: Steve is a 35-year-old homeowner interested in sports and films. He’s looking for a top-of-the-line high-def television to watch his sports and movies; he becomes aware of both your company and your competitor when researching products.
When he comes across your site, he immediately thinks of you as a general electronics business, not a specialist. This is because he’s seen the sheer array of products you have on offer.
However, when he sees your competitor, he recognizes them to be highly knowledgeable about televisions and related accessories after exploring their website and hand-selected product range.
When the time comes to selecting his preferred product, he’ll likely opt for your competitor because they’ve positioned themselves as that specialist he’s been looking for.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. A business can act as a jack of all trades and be highly successful at doing so – Amazon is a fantastic example because it’s able to fulfill the needs of consumers thanks to its worldwide appeal and huge product range.
However, as a smaller business looking to make a mark and gain some market share, you’re far better at standing for something more niche rather than trying to be all things to all people.
Always bear in mind that to develop a unique selling proposition, your business needs to offer something specific which will eventually become your trademark.
So, what businesses can genuinely boast a highly effective USP?
Example #1: Dollar Shave Club
Transforming an Ordinary Product into an Extraordinary Experience
Dollar Shave Club is an example of a unique selling proposition that stands out in a crowded market.
This company took the bold step of moving into a centuries-old industry and was able to offer something that no one else had thought of.
Dollar Shave Club offers its customers a uniquely personalized experience by delivering razors and personal grooming accessories in the mail.
By doing this, they’ve been able to transform a reasonably ordinary product into an extraordinary experience for their customers. While other companies have since tried to replicate this model, Dollar Shave Club was the first to push this idea.
On top of this unique customer experience, the products are cheap and high-quality, without relying on the bells and whistles of so many modern cosmetic products.
Example #2: Head & Shoulders
A USP Made that Made a Company
Although the idea of anti-dandruff shampoo is not exactly a new one, Head & Shoulders staked their reputation on a clear USP: clinically proven to reduce dandruff. It’s a simple concept that promises to alleviate a common problem.
The company did so well at defining its unique selling proposition that it’s hard to think about anti-dandruff products without immediately thinking of Head & Shoulders. This tells us just how powerful a unique selling proposition can be in the right hands.
What makes their USP so potent is the assurance that their statements are based on social proof and statistics.
Example #3: Death Wish Coffee
Making the Most of a Largely Untapped Market
If you think of any high-quality coffee roasters, you’ll almost certainly see words laying claim to the idea of the “smoothest” and “richest” cup of coffee going. However, Death Wish Coffee chose instead to cater to those customers who like an extra kick in their morning joe by marketing the most robust coffee in the world.
Death Wish Coffee is a fantastic example of a business developing a product based on a unique selling proposition that tapped into a relatively untouched region of the already crowded coffee market.
Of course, this kind of coffee won’t immediately appeal to every coffee lover. Still, it indeed remains steadfast to a particular segment of the market – which is exactly what we covered earlier about standing for something unique, rather than trying to appeal to everyone.
Death Wish Coffee also backs up their claim too. In addition to advertising the fact on their website and packaging and explaining to customers how it’s made, they offer refunds to anyone who claims that a cup of Death Wish wasn’t the most robust cup they’d ever tried.
Example #4: Airbnb
Evolving an Existing Idea
When Airbnb first began making waves in the hospitality industry, it needed to appeal to two audience segments: guests who wanted a place to stay and hosts who wished to rent out their spaces to that group. Thus, their initial value proposition was that travelers could benefit from an exceptional local experience, and the hosts could benefit from additional income.
When the founders set out to create Airbnb, they sought to create an ecosystem where anyone could go, even to the most unusual places, offering a balance of regional, genuine, varied, and inclusive.
The locations have more intrigue and character than a standard hotel, and they’re located anywhere from country locations to busy tourist destinations and everything in between.
However, as a business, Airbnb has grown considerably in the past few years, and they’ve been successful at evolving their USP along with it. Once marketed as a cheaper alternative to a hotel room, Airbnb has now developed into a company that innovates the idea of holiday experiences to a more mainstream tourist audience.
Example #5: Robinhood
A Pioneering Idea
Although the idea of commission-free trading is now widespread, the mobile app Robin Hood was the first to offer this service, becoming their lead USP through the years. Their website and marketing literature has always highlighted precisely what makes them different.
Robinhood led the way for commission-free investing. This is a widespread practice; the company has been able to pivot its USP by highlighting that investing is simple, accessible, and open to all.
How a Unique Selling Proposition Benefit my Business?
It’s becoming difficult to make a splash in this increasingly crowded world, which is why it’s more crucial than ever to stand head and shoulders above your competition wherever possible. Offering something unique that the competition can’t, or better yet, hasn’t thought of, you can ensure that your brand can stand for something truly special.
Think carefully about the traits, principles, and qualities that may give you an edge compared to your competitors. Is there anything that you can offer that others can’t? How can you show that you’re better than those offering something similar?
If you find yourself stumped, then why not ask around? Your customers, employees, management teams, and your salespeople might well be in a better position to unearth these gems than you.
To create a unique selling proposition, it’s important to remember you can’t attempt or expect to be known for everything. It’s essential to make a stand for something more specific. Carefully choose what your business stands for and what you want to be known for.
By deciding to stand for something to make your business unique, you’ll be in a fantastic position to implement unique quality throughout your entire business.
So, what will your business stand for?
Ben Harper is a sales and marketing specialist and the founder and CEO of meethugo.com.