There’s a lot of noise out there. Getting noticed by the right people is hard. The first step to making it easier is to find your unique selling proposition and use it to promote your brand.

So what’s a unique selling proposition (USP) anyway?

It’s simple really. It’s the thing that makes you different from everyone else that does what you do. It’s why your core consumers choose you above everyone else. USP isn’t a new concept. It’s been around Rosser Reeves coined the term in the 60s to describe what worked in some very successful ads from the 40s. We’re still using it today because it works. But using your USP won’t work if you don’t know what it is.

While the concept of a USP is simple, it can be difficult to find yours. Take a look below at a few points to consider while trying to work out what makes you stand out in your market.

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Why does your customer really buy your product?

So I’m just going to assume that your product is the best on the market. It’s high quality and it’s the best price available. But now it’s time to step inside your customer’s shoes and find out why they really buy your product.

Here’s an example: I like to go to Panera Bread a lot. I go with my laptop and work for hours. I end up buying a meal or two and a few drinks. But there are lots of places I can do that. Starbucks, the library, etc. Why do I choose Panera? Starbucks doesn’t really want you hanging out, which is why most of them don’t have that many places to sit and few outlets. They tend to get really busy and it feels like you’re holding up business by taking up the few precious seats they do have. The library has plenty of work space and won’t let you eat, drink, or speak. Panera is a combination of the two. I can make calls there or cowork with a friend without feeling like I’m doing something wrong. It promotes itself as a “meeting place.” That’s exactly what I’m looking for.

Remember that it’s about their problems.

Ok so you figured out why your customers buy your product. Now turn that into a benefit. Remember that customers don’t care what you do. They only care what you do for them. So whatever reason the reason your customers choose you over the others, understand it’s about them. If you’re the cheapest product on the market, that’s about you. If you’re the product that leaves their wallets full of cash, it’s about them.

Lean into your reputation.

One of the biggest mistake you can do in your unique selling proposition is try to convince the consumer that you are not what they think you are. If everyone says that you’re the smallest in your market, don’t try to convince them you’re big. Tell them all the ways that being small is a benefit for them. If you’re a coffee shop known for taking longer to make your drinks, don’t try to convince everyone that you’re on par with something like Dunkin Donuts. Tell them all the reasons that you taking your time crafting your drinks by hand is something they should want.

One particularly famous campaign is by the car rental company AVis. It was well known that they were second in the market to Enterprise rental cars. You checked with Enterprise and if they didn’t have what you wanted, you thought “Oh well what about Avis?” They could have tried to convince the market that they were the number one choice but there was no way anyone would buy that. So instead, Avis focuses their marketing campaign around the fact that they were number 2, so they try harder to impress their customers.

You have to choose something and let something go.

When you form a USP, you are telling your consumer exactly what you are. That can be scary. Your first instinct is to be all things to all people. That’s why when you got to the place on your business plan where it asked who your target consumers was, you were tempted to say “Everyone.”

But even if you think everyone would enjoy your brand, you can’t target everyone. Ok let’s talk about Tiffany & Co, the high end jewelry company. Everyone would like a nice fat diamond, but not everyone shops at Tiffany. Why is that? Because it knows that its target consumer is someone who either has a lot of money to spend or wants to seem that way. So Tiffany is never going to get the budget shopper. Marketing to that group is a waste of time.

Make it a promise.

Once you have a good handle on who your target audience is, what they want, and how you give it to them in a way that’s different from your competitors, it’s time to craft the USP. You want to phrase it in a way that offers a promise to your consumers. When Fedex used the USP “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” it was promising that its overnight delivery service wouldn’t let you down.

Whole Foods is another company that made that choice successfully. It only stocks certain type of foods. If you’re looking for organic kale, Whole Foods can help you. If you want anything with red dye number 7 in it, you’ll get it elsewhere. Do their customers still sometimes buy that type of stuff? I’m sure they do. But when it’s time for the organic kale, who comes to mind? Whole Foods.

Just remember that consumers take promises seriously. Don’t let your USP write a check your brand can’t cash.

Photo by maclauren70

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