Unique Selling Proposition

The Starting Point for All Your Marketing

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••• Image (c) Dave Mcleod


The Unique Selling Proposition (USP for short) is what sets your products and/or services apart from your competitors.

Expressed as a single sentence that summarizes the essence of your business, the Unique Selling Proposition serves as the theme of your marketing.

The question the USP answers for your customers is, "Why buy yours instead of the others?"

The catch is that the answer the Unique Selling Proposition provides must offer your potential customers a specific benefit that they see as attractive.

It's not enough to say (however many times you say it) that your product or service is "better" or has "more value". Vague-speak doesn't cut it with customers, who will want to know how and how that particular benefit will apply to them.

That's why developing a USP before you bring a product or service to market is a good way to determine in advance if it will sell.  If there's nothing that sets your product or service apart from the competition, why will anyone want to buy it? And even if there is something that makes your product or service stand out, is it something that consumers will see as valuable? If both of these conditions are not met, why spend time or money on developing a product offering that's not viable in the marketplace?

A Unique Selling Proposition is an especially critical marketing tool for small businesses who are forced to compete with both other small businesses and larger retail chains.

Your business may have superior service or product offerings, but unless you can get the message out to potential customers they will have no reason to choose your business over a competitor.

History of the USP

The Unique Selling Proposition concept was created by American advertising executive Rosser Reeves (1910 to 1984).

He believed that the only purpose of advertising was to communicate a particular company's slogan for their product or service and that this slogan should remain unchanged.

How Do You Create a Unique Selling Proposition?

1) Start by reviewing your business offerings from the perspective of the target market, which may be segmented by factors such as gender, age, income level, race, religion, education, etc.  What does your typical customer really want? Is it lower price, better customer service, location (convenience), home delivery, etc?

2) Ask yourself, "What is it that my product or service offers that my competitors' products or services don’t offer?" Then ask yourself what specific benefit this provides your customers. If you can't give exact answers to these questions in a few sentences you are probably not doing enough to differentiate your business offerings from your competitors in the marketplace.

3) Now put it all together in one sentence memorable enough to use as an advertising slogan. For example, "We serve the best gluten-free pizza in the city", or "Complete auto service that you can trust", or "Top quality furniture at an affordable price".

4) Then use it - in your advertising, in your emails to customers, on your website, in social media postings on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest,  and on all other marketing and promotional materials - wherever it might get the attention of potential customers.

Speak to your existing customers regularly and get feedback on how you can improve your product or service offerings to give them more reason to choose your business rather than the competition.

Some Famous Unique Selling Proposition Examples:

Hallmark: When you care enough to send the very best.

Subway: Subs with under 6 grams of fat.

The Men's Wearhouse (George Zimmer): You're going to like the way you look - I guarantee it.

FedEx Corporation: When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.

One of the most famous Unique Selling Propositions that Rosser Reeves created was for M&Ms; "The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand."

Also Known As: Selling Proposition, USP.