To succeed in a highly competitive market, you need to position your business and solution in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd.
A unique selling proposition (USP) does just that. Get it right, and you’ll differentiate and gain a competitive advantage. Get it wrong and you’ll fade into the crowd.
In this article, we’ll look at what a unique selling proposition is and how to create your own, along with four great USP examples that you can glean insights from.
A unique selling proposition (also referred to as a unique selling point) describes what sets your company or product apart from the competition, summarized in one sentence.
USPs are often used in the early stages of a business to confirm a new product’s potential market share and whether the business model is viable. If you’re a business owner trying to attract investors, differentiating yourself from competitors and showing that your business brings something unique to the table is essential.
As your successful business develops, you can use your USP in sales conversations and to inform your marketing strategy. In both cases, it works to give potential customers a compelling reason to choose you over the competition.
It might sound like a USP’s meaning is the same as a value proposition, but that isn’t the case. While a value proposition is a statement designed to convey a product or service’s key benefits to the customer, the USP is primarily used internally to clarify the solution’s unique benefits.
Many companies could have the same value proposition, but your USP should be, as the name suggests, unique to your business. A company can also have more than one USP, but it will normally have only one all-encompassing value proposition.
While your USP may very well inform your value proposition, they don’t have to be the same. Likewise, while a USP may also be an effective tagline on a company website, that doesn’t mean all taglines are necessarily USPs.
For example, Disney Plus’s USP is their exclusive catalog. If you want to stream the latest Disney, Pixar, Star Wars or Marvel blockbusters, you’ll need to use Disney Plus. This is highlighted in the online search results, where they declare that they’re the exclusive home to some of the most-loved franchises.
Their value proposition is a more generalized statement: Bringing audiences the best entertainment “wherever and whenever they choose”.
Then they use a different tagline on their website, highlighting the wide variety of movies and shows on offer: “Stories you’d expect + Stories you wouldn’t”.
You can use your USP as a basis for all of your marketing collateral, including:
A unique selling proposition also helps salespeople nurture prospective customers through the sales funnel. Having a clearly defined USP means you know why customers should choose you, enabling you to be more confident in your sales pitch.
A good USP can also help salespeople with prospecting, especially when it singles out a specific target market that will get the best results from your product or service.
To get the full benefit of your USP, it should be used and understood across all levels of the organization, from the founder through to the customer-facing teams. This will encourage consistent messaging that is more likely to make an impression on the customer.
Best practice is to nail down a USP while building a new business or product. This way, you’re crystal clear on who your offering is for, how and why it differentiates, and how to stand out in a crowded market.
That said, you might find yourself in a situation where you’re trying to sell an existing solution without a clearly defined USP.
If you’re trying to find your competitive advantage, follow these steps to clarify what makes your offer unique and how to refine that into a highly-effective sales and marketing tool.
While your product and competitors are obviously important factors (as we’ll see in the next steps), understanding your customers and what they’re looking for is a prerequisite.
Who are your ideal customers? Use your buyer personas to go beyond simple demographics and understand what’s most important to them. You should be able to answer questions such as:
What are their goals and objectives?
What obstacles are stopping them from achieving those goals?
What other challenges are they facing?
Instead of assuming you know the answers, schedule a call with new customers who match these profiles and ask them directly. Talk to them about what problems they’re trying to solve with your solution and why they chose you over the competition, so you can confirm what really matters most to your customers.
Once you understand your customers, it’s easier to see how your product could help them.
A good way to start is by listing all of your features. Don’t worry about whether they’re unique or not at this point – just get them down in writing. Along with product features, this can also include other aspects, such as the quality of service, pricing and endorsements.
For example, Canva is known for its user-friendly, drag-and-drop design tool. The company understands its audience may not have the time, desire, or need to learn a more advanced platform like Adobe, and cleverly stand out with its USP: “Design for everyone”.
In the subheader, the company calls attention to “creating professional designs with premium features”, implying that the average person or team can build professional-looking assets.
It’s memorable, speaks directly to its audience and emphasizes benefits over features.
Now that you know your selling points, carry out a competitor analysis to see which of these are unique.
Start by identifying your main competitors. These could be direct competitors who offer a similar solution (for example, Coca-Cola and Pepsi). However, you should also include your indirect competitors, where customers use a completely different type of solution to achieve a similar result.
This is especially important when you’re working with new technology and assume that there are no competitors. For example, a ground-breaking VR training platform may not have any direct competitors (at least yet), but they are still competing with traditional training methods.
To identify these indirect competitors, go back to your customer interviews and pay attention to how they’re currently solving their problems.
Once you’ve identified your main competitors, identify how they differ. Ask questions like:
What are their strengths?
What are their weaknesses?
What gaps are they missing?
Social media, as well as review sites like G2 or Capterra, can be particularly useful for finding opportunities for meaningful differentiation. For example, if a lot of reviews complain about waiting weeks for the product to arrive, next-day delivery could be a great USP.
While it makes sense to focus on areas where your product is stronger than the competition, don’t immediately discount any apparent weaknesses.
For 50 years, car-rental company Avis played on being the second most popular car rental company with their “We Try Harder” marketing campaign. Similarly, positioning yourself as a plucky underdog that provides a superior service compared to the massive conglomerate can make for a strong USP.
Having put your customers, your product and your competitors under the microscope, you can now use what you’ve learned to create a shortlist of potential USPs. Simply look at where your solution meets a pressing customer need that your competitors aren’t.
Take your list of potential selling points and identify your top USP. Remember, you can theoretically have more than one USP, but focusing on your strongest and most compelling USP can help your digital marketing and sales messaging to be more consistent and memorable.
If you’re spoilt for choice, test your USP with prospects and customers to see which one resonates the most. Potential testing methods include:
Using a dedicated testing platform, such as Wynter or UserTesting, where you can see how your target audience responds to different USPs
Running PPC campaigns that highlight different USPs and seeing which generates the biggest click-through rate
Posting content relating to the USP on social media and measuring the response
Using website analytics to see what pages relating to your USPs visitors spend the most time on
Once you’ve pinpointed your most impressive USP, work on how you convey the message. Practice saying it aloud and consider questions like the following:
Does it roll off the tongue, or does it sound forced?
Is it easily understood, or is it vague and confusing?
While it may never be explicitly stated in the copywriting on your website or in your sales calls, your team should be able to easily grasp what your USP is in a sentence or two.
For example, here’s Pipedrive’s current USP:
In two short sentences, you can instantly see what makes Pipedrive different from other CRMs, in a way that also highlights the target market that will benefit the most from the solution.
By following these steps, you should now have a clear and concise USP. However, when attempting to design a strong unique selling proposition, certain mistakes come up regularly.
“We’re the best [solution]”
Being the best is subjective. For example, the best accounting software for enterprise clients is unlikely to be the best for a small business. The best shoe for running isn’t going to be the best for playing tennis.
It also lacks detail, which can raise doubts in the prospect’s mind. What does being the best actually mean? To resolve this, look for ways to make your USP more specific. Explain what makes your solution the best and who will benefit the most from this distinction.
“We’re the cheapest [solution]”
There will always be people looking for a bargain and there’s nothing wrong with offering a budget-friendly solution. However, if you’re basing your USP on the fact that you’re cheaper than everyone else, this could come back to haunt you. Trying to compete on price quickly leads to a race to the bottom, and if you’re not careful could end up compromising the quality of your service.
“Built on [specific technology]”
When you’re closely involved with a product, it’s easy to place too much emphasis on how the product is made. However, this can lead to a USP that’s focused exclusively on your product, without taking into account the customer’s priorities.
In certain cases, the technology will be an important feature that should be a part of your USP. However, you still need to consider the benefits and outcomes. Instead of talking exclusively about how you’re the only one to use your patented technology, talk about what that technology makes possible for the customer.
Even when you have a step-by-step process for defining a USP, it can still feel challenging to develop a distinct USP for your company. To get you started, here are some unique selling proposition examples from B2B businesses that have successfully differentiated themselves from the competition.
USP: Google Workspaces is the best way for teams of all sizes to connect and collaborate.
As the number of remote workers has dramatically increased, effectively working together – even when you’re on opposite sides of the planet – is a priority for many businesses.
Google Workspace makes it clear that it’s the ideal collaboration tool for companies of all sizes. Even the headline showcases the experience of different people working together in a Google document.
Formerly G Suite, Google rebranded to Workspace to represent its product vision for a more integrated experience across “communication and collaboration tools”. Google’s USP is clearly based on its vision for the future of work (something else they call out on the homepage), where collaboration is more important than ever.
Compare this with one of their biggest competitors, Microsoft Office. While the tagline on their homepage mentions collaboration, that’s the only time it’s mentioned on the whole page.
Instead, the focus appears to be on the suite of available apps.
Google Workspace’s USP is reflected in every aspect of the marketing, including the design. Both the header and call to action (CTA) have been presented in a way that visually highlights the potential for collaboration, reinforcing the USP.
USP: Slack is faster, better organized and more secure than email.
Many companies pretend that their competition doesn’t exist. Slack does the opposite and uses its USP to call out its biggest competition: email.
Although this isn’t specifically mentioned on Slack’s homepage, it becomes clear through social media, blog articles and feature pages that it’s working hard to differentiate itself from email.
For example, Slack dedicates a page to explaining exactly why Slack is a superior choice to email, calling out specific features such as improved transparency, flexibility and security.
The messaging tool then overcomes a potential sales objection by showing how to easily switch from email to Slack.
As shown by this example, a good USP helps you take on even the biggest competitors. In addition, Slack does a great job of backing up its USP. Rather than simply saying that it’s a better solution, it goes into specific details about why it’s better, convincing prospects and then helping them take action.
USP: A video conferencing solution so simple that anyone can use it.
At the start of 2020, not many people had heard about Zoom. That all changed when, practically overnight, lockdown restrictions left people looking for a way to keep in touch. From family calls and online quizzes to team meetings and virtual events, everyone knew about Zoom.
However, Zoom wasn’t the only video conferencing software available. There were plenty of competitors, some who’d been around longer and had the backing of giants like Google and Microsoft. Why was Zoom so much more popular?
While there are several possible reasons, one big selling point was the software’s simplicity. People who were generally unfamiliar with technology were able to use video conferencing software for the very first time. Companies scrambling to move staff from traditional offices to remote work could use Zoom without worrying about integration issues.
Back in 2017, Zoom’s founder Eric Yuan reported that he had spent a lot of time talking to customers. As a result, he wanted to make a solution that worked with whatever device you were using, whether that was a mobile device, desktop or dedicated conference room.
Zoom’s website emphasizes this specific benefit, with the homepage calling out the seamless nature of the software and the about page describing Zoom as a “frictionless communication platform”.
This is also reflected in several of the testimonials featured on the homepage.
Zoom’s example shows why it’s essential to talk to your customers and get a thorough understanding of the problems they face.
USP: The only complete business performance platform that combines KPI visualization, gamification and coaching tools in one single, powerful solution.
Plecto categorically states that they’re the only solution in their field that combines three specific features. As a result, prospects can see exactly what they’re getting with Plecto and make an informed decision.
If someone searches online for Plecto, the results include the USP.
Then, if you click through to the website, the USP is also used as the tagline, appearing above the fold on the homepage.
While the USP seemingly focuses on the platform, it’s also tailored to the customer’s needs. Concepts such as the “best” or “simplest” business performance platform might be difficult to grasp, but customers in the market for this kind of solution are likely already familiar with the benefits of visualization, gamification and coaching tools. In turn, having those features combined in one platform is an appealing proposition.
If your product offers features that customers are specifically looking for, don’t hesitate to spell them out.
Defining your USP helps your salespeople and marketers understand and appreciate the unique ways you’re able to help customers. In turn, this leads to more focused and effective messaging.
By researching your customers, analyzing your solution and evaluating your competitors, you’ll know what selling points to highlight in your sales and marketing efforts. Once you’re able to express your USP clearly and concisely, customers will know exactly why they should choose you over the competition.
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