How to write and use a unique selling proposition
When customers have a choice between two offerings, they need something that drives them to choose one option over another. That thing is a unique selling proposition (USP).
Whether customers realize it or not, they use unique selling propositions to decide what to buy and who to buy from. When shopping for a new laptop, someone who values price may choose a more affordable option over a high-performance, high-price product. Or, a health-conscious customer shopping for new makeup may choose a brand that is all-natural versus a brand that uses chemicals in its products.
Customers use unique selling propositions to decide what to buy, so brands must use USPs to show customers why they should buy from them.
Let’s look deeper into what USPs are, why they are important and how to write a unique selling proposition that will attract and keep customers.
What is a unique selling proposition?
A unique selling proposition is something that makes a business or offering different from its competitors. It refers to the features and/or benefits a business offers that its competitors do not.
A unique selling proposition explains:
- How a brand is different from competitors
- The specific and unique benefits of choosing one brand over another
- Why customers should care about those benefits
Related: How to re-evaluate and update your business plan
Why you need a USP
Customers have a lot of choices. There are a variety of options of brands, products and services in almost every industry.
If your brand doesn’t have a unique selling proposition that makes it stand out, you risk blending into all of the other options and failing to attract attention and customers.
When you have a strong unique selling proposition, you can:
- Develop a strong, recognizable brand. A unique selling proposition builds character for your brand. It defines what your brand stands for and helps customers understand who you are, what you believe and why you are right for them. (For tips on brand building, check out: A beginner’s guide to branding your business.)
- Stand out from competitors. Without a unique selling proposition, there is nothing separating you from your competitors. When given the choice between two options, customers will have no reason to choose you over another brand.
- Avoid low price being a key differentiator. If you don’t have a USP that shows why you are different from competitors, customers will look at the price to decide what to buy. They will choose the cheapest option. This puts your brand in a pricing fight where you may need to keep lowering your price to compete.
- Build trust and affinity. Customers don’t love generic brands. They love brands that stand out and proudly promote what makes them different. The unique qualities of your brand or offering can attract customers and form long-lasting brand trust and affinity.
- Improve customer targeting. When you are clear about what makes your brand or offerings different, you can better understand who would be drawn to you. You can conduct better customer targeting by focusing on the audience most likely to be interested in your unique selling proposition.
- Create stronger, more consistent marketing messages. Having a unique selling proposition gives you a consistent angle for your marketing messages. You can use the benefits of your USP to promote your product or services across all of your marketing channels.
Customers consider unique selling propositions in just about every buying decision they make. If you haven’t identified your USPs, you’re missing opportunities to reach customers and drive more interest in your brand and sales for your business.
Let’s look at how you can craft a useful unique selling proposition for your brand, product, or service.
How to write a unique selling proposition
Before we dive into directions on how to write a unique selling proposition, let’s consider a few best practices that will help you have the right mindset and information to create a powerful USP.
Don’t write your USP until you have done the following.
- Research your audience. Don’t make assumptions about your customers. Instead of guessing, do the work to get real answers. Survey your customers, dig into your audience insights and data and create buyer personas that help you truly understand your target audience.
- Understand why customers buy from you. Look at what current clients praise, and address feedback from negative reviews to see how those comments can give you insight into which factors customers are most interested in when confronted with choices.
- Collect data that proves your claims. Collect evidence wherever you can find it, including ratings, reviews, awards, thank-you notes and work samples.
Once you have gone through those activities, you will have the information you need to create a compelling unique selling proposition.
Now, here’s an exercise to help you learn how to write a unique selling proposition. Go through each question to get ideas for what you can use as a USP for products, services or your brand.
1. What do your customers care most about?
Consider the values, wants and needs of your target customers. How can you connect with those interests?
2. What problems can you help customers solve?
Show how you are a problem-solver. Explain how your offering or brand specifically helps customers overcome an obstacle or issue.
3. What motivates the buying decisions of current and future customers?
Look at your buyer personas and identify the specific propositions that are important to them during the buying process. Do they value:
- Delivery time/speed
- Free shipping/handling
- Service level and availability
- Breadth of options or choices
- Special access to products or services only available through one source
Get insight into how customers make buying decisions.
4. How can you help customers optimize resources?
People are always looking for shortcuts that make their life easier. Explain how you can help customers get more out of what they have or simplify their life. Can you help them save money and time or reduce reliance on other expensive or complicated solutions?
5. What unique processes, skills or traits can you highlight?
Consider the background, history and values of your company. Can you highlight any of those things to connect with customers? What is a unique element of your process or organization?
6. What concrete evidence can you produce to support your claims?
If you are going to make claims about your product outcomes or benefits, have the evidence to produce it. How can you showcase:
- Reviews on other websites
- Thank-you notes or letters from customers
- Mentions in published articles
- Professional recognition including education, certifications, memberships, and affiliations
- A recognized local figure who endorses your business
Related: How to ask for testimonials and reviews from your clients
7. What type of compensation would customers value if the claims in your unique selling proposition are not met?
A unique selling proposition could be that you backup your claims with a concrete guarantee.
You can boost consumer confidence by using USPs such as:
- Money-back guarantee
- Free return shipping
- Coupon or discount on a future purchase
- Free item
Related: How to reshape your return policies to maintain trust and customer satisfaction
8. How can you create a USP that is better than your competitors?
What USPs do your competitors have? Identify where competitors have an advantage in terms of price, service, location or quality. Figure out ways to improve upon that. Which weaknesses do your competitors have? How can you highlight your difference when it comes to those weaknesses?
9. Which negative emotions do customers experience with your competitors and industry?
What parts of your business or industry typically cause customers to feel stress, irritation or frustration? Consider the negative stereotypes in your industry and see how you can specifically address concerns in those areas. How can you be different so customers don’t experience those feelings?
Check the strength of your USP
Once you develop a unique selling proposition, double-check your work to ensure that it is a promise you can keep and value you can provide.
Look at your USP and ask yourself:
- Are you relying on a single factor (such as price) that would be easy for someone else to undercut? Beware of lowering prices in an attempt to boost sales. With so many other factors to consider, price alone should no longer be the differentiator.
- Can you substantiate what you’re claiming? Don’t say “thousands of small business owners prefer us” unless you can produce testimonials, survey results, objective reviews and numerical evidence.
- Is your claim too generic? Highly generic and replaceable terms aren’t meaningful. Saying you are the leading or the best doesn’t necessarily convey real information about your advantage—unless you really did receive a “best of” award.
- Can many others make the same claim? When everyone makes the same claim or promise, its value is diluted and eventually meaningless.
- Are you sure that your USP is a benefit to your target customers? Beware of touting a benefit that doesn’t matter to customers. If your claim doesn’t appeal to what concerns your customers, it’s not making a difference in their buying decision.
- Is your USP too broad and vague? Avoid claiming an “empty” benefit and trying to appeal to everyone. Don’t just say “we’re the best choice for individuals and small- to medium-sized businesses or nonprofits.” Narrow down your audience of ideal clients, then appeal to them—and only them.
Asking these questions will point out weak spots in your unique selling propositions and give you ideas for how you can improve it to make it even more compelling to customers.
How to use a unique selling proposition
Just having a unique selling proposition isn’t enough to do anything for your brand. To get the most out of your USP, you need to actively use it in many parts of your business.
Here are a few ways to put your USP to use.
Highlight it in your brand guide and workspaces
Don’t create your USP and slip it into a drawer to never be seen again. Highlight your unique selling proposition in places where you will be reminded of it often. Include it in your brand guide that explains and outlines your positioning. Also, consider placing signage in your office to keep your USP top of mind with your team.
Include it in your sales and employee training
It’s important for your entire team to be familiar with your unique selling proposition. Employees won’t be able to accurately talk about your brand if they don’t understand what makes you unique and different from others. Include training on your USP in employee onboarding. Also, place a large emphasis on USP training with your sales team as they need to know the language to use to sell your products, services and brand.
Use it across all marketing materials
Consistently promoting your USP helps it resonate with customers. The more times people see it, the more they will remember it and associate it with your brand. Use it across multiple platforms in your marketing messaging such as on your website, in your social profiles and even in your physical marketing materials.
Feature it prominently on your website
Display your unique selling proposition where customers will see it on your website.
- Feature it in your headings
- Optimize copy around words and phrases used
- Incorporate it into the About page
- Create a separate Why Choose Us page with narrative and details
Related: How to create an About page for your eCommerce shop
Use it in ad copy and the associated landing pages
When running paid ads, put your USP front and center. Use it in the primary messages of your ad as well as on the landing page where you are driving website traffic. Highlighting your USP will catch attention and also build awareness about what makes you different.
Sprinkle your USP into promotional social media posts
When creating promotional posts about your brand on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, consider how you can tie your posts back to your USP. For example, don’t just post a generic testimonial. Share one that uses language that highlights your USP.
Include it on print collateral
Adding your unique selling proposition to all print materials such as business cards, brochures, print ads and even on giveaway items and your email signature.
Start putting your USP to work
A business can’t overlook the value of having a strong unique selling proposition.
By working through these steps to develop a unique selling proposition, you’ll be well on your way to doing more than just setting your business apart from the competition—you’ll nail down the compelling reason that potential customers must choose you over all others.
Now that you know how to write a unique selling proposition and put it to work for your business, get busy. Craft your USP, add it to your website, and update your marketing materials to spread awareness about what makes your business unique and special. Use GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing to get started.
Image by: Olia Gozha on Unsplash
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