How to Construct Your
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
How Do You Think Of Your Business?
Remember when your business just started? Maybe you operated out of your garage or an extra bedroom, like so many other great companies did in their beginnings. You probably had more passion, excitement, and pent up potential for your business then than at any other time in your company’s history.
When you were starting your business, you had a deep understanding of why you’d be better at helping your customers than any other business could. You knew what was special about you that would make your business a success. Since then these advantages may have moved to the back burner in your awareness, but they’re still as important as ever in giving your customers a great experience.
In these questions we want to bring your unique advantage as the business owner to the forefront, and determine if they will be the basis for a killer USP. Take notes!
1. How are you more qualified than your competitors to deliver your product or service? Do you have the experience, expertise, or credentials to prove it?
2. Has your time in business allowed you to become best at production, delivery, product quality, pricing, or given you the widest product line? What did you do to develop that advantage?
3. Do you have a guarantee that puts the risk of doing business on you instead of your customer? Is it promoted at the forefront of all marketing and sales?
4. Do you provide any special service — such as free consultations, more customer education, customer bonuses or incentives, better customer relationships, or any other part of the customer experience — that is significantly better than the competitors’?
How Do Your Employees Think of Your Business?
Sometimes your employees know more about what your customers are really buying than you do — especially your most successful sales people, observant customer service people, and employees who deal with customers on a daily basis. If your business is a sole proprietorship or you are an independent consultant, you will need to ask yourself these questions. But if you have a staff of any size — from 2 to 2,000 to 200,000 — you should conduct a staff meeting or survey, or find another way to get the majority of your staff to weigh in with answers to these questions.
Many staff members will have many ideas about what the right answers to these questions are. I’m not going to lie and say they’re all good ideas — but there’s a catch here. During the meeting, while your staff has momentum and is answering the questions, you need to treat every answer like a good answer. Get everyone’s opinion on the table. Make sure everyone who wants to speak is heard. Then — and only then, when you have all the answers at your disposal and the meetings are over — you can move forward and decide which answers are relevant answers to developing your USP, and which you can ignore for now.
Oh, by the way, some of your answers weren’t so great either, so don’t get all full of yourself. :) As for deciding which answers will be helpful as you create your USP, I’ll have more advice below.
So the goal of this section is to identify any unique understandings your staff have of how your business serves your customers. There is some overlap with the previous set of questions — that is intentional and you may be surprised by the different answers you’ll get. So take notes.
1. Is there anything our business does that benefits the customer in the area of production, delivery, product quality, pricing, or extent of product line? How was that developed?
2. Are there any unique abilities among our staff that provide the customer with a unique benefit?
3. What has been our major marketing message to date? Is there a specific, compelling reason the customer should choose us? Is this front and center in every marketing and sales presentation?
4. Does our business have a unique advantage in any of these areas:
- Price? Are we lower than higher than our competitors? Why?
- Quality? Is our quality higher than our competitors? Why?
- Selection? Do we have the best selection? Be specific: is our selection better in brands, types, colors, styles, quantity, etc.?
5. Do we have a guarantee that puts the risk of doing business on us instead of on the competitor? Do we feature that in our sales and marketing?
6. Does our company make it easier for the customer to do business than the competition? How? What about within these areas:
- More customer education and teaching?
- Free consultations?
- Better terms?
- Longer hours?
- More convenient locations?
- Better customer service and follow-up?
- Preferred treatment for preferred customers such as frequent buyer’s clubs, etc.?
- Better guarantee or return policy?
7. Is our customer service better than the competition’s? How? What about within these areas:
- More value-added service?
- Volume discount pricing?
- Unique system for resolving customer complaints?
- More education and more long-term relationships with customers?
8. Do we do anything special to continue delivering value to our customers independent of their recent purchases?
How Do Your Customers Think About Your Business?
Your customers have a unique perspective on your business that you will never get from being an insider. They also have experience being a prospect of your business — they know what it is like to choose to do business with you instead of your competitors. If you truly care about their well being and in that spirit you contact them and ask for and listen to their opinion, they will love to give it. In addition to the beneficial knowledge you’ll receive, they’ll feel validated as a customer and will likely come back to do more business with you.
The key to conducting these interviews with your customers is to truly care about what they have to say. And not be calling to sell them something. You need to just be getting their opinion — because ultimately that will be hundreds of times more valuable than any sale you could make with them with this one contact. Take notes — their answers are valuable.
To do this you’ll want to call or otherwise contact 15 to 30 of your current customers. Also call 10 to 15 of your past customers who are no longer doing business with you. Here’s what to say to them:
“Hi, this is ______ from _______ company. This isn’t a sales call. I was actually hoping you could help me out today. I’m calling to get your opinion about my business. I have six quick questions that should take less than five minutes to answer. Would you be willing to give me your honest opinion?”
1. Are you satisfied with the service you have received from us?
2. Is there anything you would like to see us adjust or change to serve you better?
3. What was it that caused you to choose us?
4. Have you patronized any other businesses in this industry? If yes, why?
5. Do you have any crucial or obvious needs that are overlooked and not being taken care of by anyone in this business?
6. What would you say is unique or that separates us from other such businesses?
“That’s it. Thank you again for your opinion today. And thank you for your business.”
How Does What Your Competitors Are Doing
Compare to Your Business?
Here is where you get to start deciding which ideas are good and which are bad. And you’re not going to do it based on which ones you like! What you’re looking for is consistency…
By this time you should notice some themes running through the notes you’ve been taking. You should notice that your customers are saying the same things as your staff, who are saying the same thing as you about what makes your business unique. That’s good. But is that really your competitive advantage — is that really unique to you in your industry?
This last section looks at your competitors — specifically if what you’ve found out about your business makes you unique compared to them. It’s natural to find that a lot of what you do well, they also do well. Most industries have about 90% overlap between businesses. The products and services are roughly alike, and so is the marketing. You’re looking for what’s important in that 10% of difference. That’s what you’ll use to drive a wedge between your business and theirs, and leverage yours to the top.
What you need to do is shop your competitors’ businesses, follow their advertising, read their websites, read all their brochures or company promotion pieces, and talk to their customers. Some of this will need to be undercover. And you don’t have to be scientific — you just need to know if the ideas you’re getting about your USP are truly unique and a compelling reason to do business with you instead of them.
And if you’re not trying to narrow it down — if you already are 99% certain of what your compelling USP is — you can just focus on this aspect of your competitors’ business to make sure this is a true difference in your industry.
If you’re not sure yet which thing it is about your business that makes it truly unique, focus on these factors to compare to your notes:
- … Plus any other relevant factor to your industry.
Take notes on every major competitor, so you can sit down afterwards to sort it all out.
Now let’s write our Unique Selling Proposition!
Wow. You’re getting close. Can you feel the excitement? I can. By this time you should really have a good idea about what makes your business unique and why customers should do business with you instead of any other option available to them in the marketplace.
In this part, you get to finish filtering out the ideas that won’t work to differentiate your business. It’s like panning for gold — you wash away pan after pan of dirt to get a few gold flakes — but they’re worth it!
Look in your notes for the top three factors that are reasons why customers should do business with you instead of with your competitors. This should be the top three recurring themes in your notes — or something you and your staff may have thought of a little, but that a large percentage of your customers said was very important.
You don’t want more than three because it dilutes the power of each one. Even three can tell a customer that you don’t really know why they should buy — you’re saying, “here’s a few reasons and we’ll see if one sticks.”
One is best if you can narrow it down. Here’s how…
Look at your notes on your competition — are they already selling based on the factors you’ve chosen? For any of the three, strike those off the list. If it’s all three, you’re going to have to dig deeper. But it’s likely that there’s at least one out of your top three that is not being emphasized by your competition.
If it’s one, perfect. Two, that’s good too. Three — make sure you’ve looked at your competition hard enough — then pick the top two, maximum.
Take these top factors, and try to express them in as few of words as possible. Try one sentence each to begin with. Tell the advantage — then tell why that’s important, from the customer’s perspective. Be specific.
As you do this, remember the three F’s and the three D’s — fears, frustrations, and failures plus dreams, desires, and destiny. Use these to tell customers why the benefits of your product are important to them. Quantify the benefits if possible — explain what it means to them in numbers they can understand.
Include your guarantee.
This description should be 90 words or less.
Read through it a few times. Make sure it stands up to the “So What?” and “Bullshit!” tests. Does it tell your customers exactly what they can expect from you and why that’s better? If it does, you’re doing good.
One more thing… simplify!
Now that you have a description that’s 90 words or less, including either one or two major promises of what you’ll do for the customer and why that’s different than your competition, it’s time to simplify it. Make it shorter. More direct. Give it punch.
Think of a prospect who doesn’t know who you are — but you know who they are. In fact, you know that they are your perfect prospect.
You just got on a busy elevator with them, and have as little as 10 seconds of their attention — if you can even hold it for that long. You need to tell them what you do and why they should be interested in knowing more — in 10 seconds or less. That’s much less time than it takes to say 90 words, no matter how fast you say them. Plus, you have to be compelling.
So it’s time to condense the core message of those 90 words or less into about 30 syllables — 10-15 words. Cut down to the core of what you do and why it benefits them — if you have to cut down to one promise only, that’s okay. Use action words. Show the movement from action — getting your product — to result — experiencing the benefits.
Here’s an example from my marketing consulting business. If I had up to 90 words to describe my services, I’d say that, “I’ll help you increase profits 25 to 100% in as little as 60 days without spending more money on advertising — guaranteed. I use a unique system that leverages marketing assets you already have hidden in your business to increase sales without you having to make a lot of changes to the way you operate your business.”
Sure, that’s much less than 90 words. But it’s even too long to use as the first introduction in conversation. Even the first sentence.
So here’s how I shorten it: “I help businesses increase profits without spending more on advertising.”
Simple, straightforward, and benefits-driven. They get more profits without spending more. And if they want to know more, I have my longer description ready, and can describe my business even further if they want.
But by then the USP has done its job. It’s firmly positioned your company in their mind, telling them why they should do business with you.
And now… integrate!
You now have your USP in two forms. One, super-short for a quick introduction. And the other, slightly longer for more captive audiences, or for when the shorter version has hooked your prospect’s attention.
But it’s absolutely worthless. That is, it’s worthless unless you use it in all your sales, marketing, and customer service efforts.
Every time you contact a customer, they should be reminded of your USP. Every time they contact you, they should be reminded of your USP. Every staff member should know it by heart. And it should be integrated in all your sales scripts, marketing materials, and more.
So first sit down with a paper and a pen, and write down every point of customer contact in your company. Write down a list of all the scenarios when a sales person contacts a customer. When a customer contacts customer service or support. And when a customer is presented with your marketing message.
This could be a cold call. Warm call. Referral follow up. Referral request. Sending a quote. Following up on a quote. Up selling. Cross selling. Emails. Voice mail. Recorded message when customers call you. Customer complaint. Refund request. Support email. Email signature. Response to any request for information. Invoices. Collection letters. Post cards. Sales letters. Newspaper ads. Telemarketing scripts. Television ads. Radio ads. Trade show fliers. Trade show booth. Product packaging. Internet ads. The sign on the front of your store. Business cards. The store window. Yellow page ads. Coupons. Everything!
Your list will go on…
Find a way to express your USP in each of these areas. Decide for each if you should use the short version or the long version. But do it! And couple it with your web address, phone number, or other contact information so people know where to go to learn more.
This is where true branding and positioning takes place. This will have an impact on your sales and profits — and if you did your research right and didn’t take any shortcuts, the impact you notice will be positive, and it will be big.
So now that you’ve read this tutorial and learned how to do it, it’s time to put it in practice. Start your research today. Create your USP using this approach. Integrate it into everything you do.
You’ll notice that it’s easier than ever to attract prospects and convert them into customers. It’ll be easier to convince past customers to do business with you again. Customers will likely even start spending more per purchase. You’ll watch your sales and profits rise steadily, from this one relatively small effort!