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How To Create A Unique Selling Proposition

Sunday, January 14, 2024

How To Create A Unique Selling Proposition

“Why should I, your perfect prospect, choose to do business with you… Over every other option available in the marketplace… Including doing it myself, going with a competitor, or doing nothing at all?”

This is one question you should have seared into your brain if you want to identify your Unique Selling Proposition.

I invented this question to help businesspeople “get” USP and to use it as a crowbar to pry ideas out of their heads, to dig out the makings of a good USP.

If you can’t answer the question, you won’t get a USP, but you also have bigger problems; typically, it means that you’ve been getting your customers only because of the cheapest price, a convenient location, your charisma, or the good fortune of being the only provider, and all of these leave you very, very vulnerable to new competition.

You need a USP.

Crafting Your USP

Crafting Your USP

Your USP should be a specific attribute or benefit that addresses your customer’s needs or concerns in a way that competitors do not. It can either be related to product features, quality, price, or any other factor that provides a competitive edge.

My book called “The Ultimate Marketing Plan” will equip you with the tools you need to find your own USP for all products, services, or businesses of any kind.

It’s also been updated to include new marketing techniques because – let’s face it, the business world today is nothing like it was ten years ago. If you want the ultimate and updated, no-nonsense guide to crafting the best USP possible, I highly suggest you give my book a try.

Going back to the topic, any marketer worth their salt should know how crucial it is for a business to understand and communicate its Unique Selling Proposition.

It’s the reason why people will do business with you and not someone else; the winning difference that sets you apart and makes you the only real and good choice.

Without a USP, or if your USP is weak, you’ll be seen as a commodity provider – a business just competing based on price. Standardized, undifferentiated, and cheap. Surely, this isn’t what you want for yourself or your business.

If you’re without a USP and now want to create one then you should know that there are some specific rules you should follow.

The best USPs are always, at least in part, driven by the target market that has been selected to receive them. What they want and how they want it.

An example that I’ve been using for years is the original Domino’s USP, which built Domino’s from one failing pizza joint to a major player in that industry:

“Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.”

These ten words brilliantly incorporate two product benefits with the meaningful specificity of delivery within thirty minutes–not quick, fast, or soon, but precisely thirty minutes–and a guarantee.

It’s significant that all of the early Domino’s locations, including the first one, were in college towns, which were basically adjacent to college campuses.

This meant buildings full of people smoking the same illegal substances, and that had the side effect of needing large quantities of carbohydrates in a hurry that did not necessarily have to taste good or better than anybody else’s carbohydrates.

The main issue was speed, and most people who needed them were not in a state or position to go get them. That’s why Domino’s USP didn’t have anything about the pizza’s recipe, or how it’s better than anything else. All that mattered to their targets was speed.

And so, you see that the best USPs are at least in part considerate of a target market.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that USPs are NOT slogans.


A lot of people think they’ve got a USP, but it’s just a slogan. A catchphrase. You see it in a lot of big corporations or businesses that are unwilling to have a point of differentiation.

So their slogans are big, broad, fuzzy, warm feeling, and therefore meaningless. I like to call these vague generalities rather than meaningful specifics.

Slogans are almost always product-driven, not market-driven. It’s all about who they are and what they’ve got.

Things like “We’re the oldest”, “We’re the best”, “We’re the smartest”, and so on. Hertz’s slogan for years was “We’re number one”, and it doesn’t say anything particularly meaningful to the market.

Though some customers would prefer to deal with whoever number one is, the vast majority don’t care, because there’s no benefit in that. There’s no consumer promise, or anything really interesting about it. To a certain degree, it might even turn a number of people off.

Now, let’s discuss some pathways.

Pathways To Creating Your USP

Pathways To Creating Your USP

1. Positioning

What you do or sell differently than everybody else in that category positions it.

One of the greatest, most ironic, and funny examples of our time is what Subway did.

They somehow managed to convince people that a foot-long loaf of bread cut in half with processed lunch meat and a few vegetables, is weight-loss food. And so they managed to morph and change their position, transitioning from another fast food alternative to a weight loss program.

Very recently Taco Bell tried it, yet had far less success. Whereas Subway has done it for decades, and it hasn’t even fully gone away with their recent celebrity spokespeople.

2. Speed

​Another pathway is speed.

Domino's had that, the speed proposition. It’s when you promise that a certain service will act faster than the rest. For example, same-day dentures or same-day implants in dentistry.

The guarantee pathway offers a try-before-you-buy, kind of promise.

I have some mattress friends from Gardner’s Mattress who created what they call their dream room. They knew that some people were reluctant to test out mattresses in full view of everyone in the store, so they created a dream room where for an hour or so you could do whatever you wanted in it.

It’s a private room similar to a hotel. You pick the bed, they move the bed in there, and there’s also a TV, and suddenly you’ve experienced the mattress in a real environment for a long enough period of time to prove that it’s legit.

3. Personal Relevance

​Personal relevance is another pathway, which is essentially a message-to-market match.

Let’s say there’s a category of products – like vitamins, maybe 30 varieties of vitamin formulations to help protect or improve your vision.

And then let’s say there’s one specific company that has a product positioned to protect and improve the vision of airline pilots. The way they’ll market it will be simple, all they have to do is target only airline pilots via media that is read by airline pilots, both commercial and recreational.

So, those are some of the pathways.

I know some of you people reading this are probably thinking, “Well, my business is different. This is not going to work for me.”

You’re wondering how you could possibly apply all these as a butcher, a candlestick maker, or maybe something else that is too niche to even be mentioned in a general discussion.

Another possible objection is that your business is too ordinary and mundane to have a USP, and well – so far we’ve named a pizza place, dentists, mattresses, and vitamins. How much more mundane do you want to get?

The very point of getting to a compelling message, a message that cannot be ignored, is taking an ordinary business and finding a way to position it so that it is extraordinary and of exceptional interest to someone.

So if you’re sitting there thinking you can’t do this because you sell something ordinary – that’s the point. That’s why you should do this.

I’ll give you an example of an ordinary product that’s been made out to be something extraordinary: coffee.

We have Dunkin’ Donuts, Denny’s, a coffee pot machine, and so many more that I won’t care to name right now.

The point is that everything I’ve mentioned so far has its own customers and said customers all want the same thing, which is coffee. And yet, some customers prefer to buy their coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, some at Denny’s, and now a growing number of people want to have good coffee accessible in their own homes. All this for brown water.

If there are multiple businesses out there managing to effectively market the same brown water in different ways, then you can do the same for your own ordinary product.

But if you’re someone that’s thinking this all isn’t necessary to your business, then I would say that you’re being kind of lazy in your thinking.

Why is this important? How does this change the business?

Well, if you get it right then it can allow you to sell coffee for $6 a cup. It can give you a price and profitability advantage in a world that’s all about price suppression, to the point of bankruptcy.

Category after category, we see price suppression these days. In 2002, my seminar for chiropractors was $2,495 a person to attend. Now most marketers of seminars to chiropractors are priced under $1,000. A good USP can help with price suppression.

It can also help you with customer attraction by being profound for certain people rather than being sort of for everyone, which means you’re sort of not sure.

Think of Costco. You might go to Costco, I might go to Costco, but do you know who’s the real Costco customer? Large families and modest incomes – because I’m not gonna buy 55 gallons of peanut butter, and I don’t really want to buy 12 jars of mustard either. This is not for me.

But if you have five kids who are all growing and eating, then Costco is perfect.

A USP allows you to be perfect for someone rather than to be for everybody, which largely places you in the world of being sort of for nobody. It allows for more interesting marketing because you have a better message.

Maybe your first USP isn’t particularly spectacular, but it’s better than having no USP at all.

As you concentrate more on developing a new USP for your business, you should be aware of the USPs of other businesses. You can learn from their examples.

Personal Relevance

To hone your marketing mind, you need to become USP-sensitive and ask these questions about every business, product, and service you encounter in your daily activities:

  • Does this business have a USP?
  • If not, can I think of one for it?
  • If so, is there a way I can think of to improve it?
  • Is there any idea here that I can “steal” for my use?

One of the mistakes people make when developing their marketing strategies is focusing too much on the product, as opposed to the outcome of benefits that the buyer is going to get.

What you want to do is to show the outcome and then work your way backward, so that the benefits stay fresh in people’s minds.

Dermatologists, for example. All of them can go on and on about the training programs they have for employees, the tax grants they’ve got, the new blue and red lasers, what they have and what they don’t have, and how much they charge for, and this is all horribly premature because what most customers want to hear first is the outcome.

If someone wants to look ten years younger or wants all their acne scars gone, they won’t really care how you do it, at least until they know you can do it.

Most people don’t get that. Most business people don’t get that because they’re not focused on their customers and what those customers want.

And then, you should be conscious of your USP. You need to know when to use it, where to use it, and who to best use it on.

Once, over a lengthy lunch, I listened to a client, Ned Allen, president of Florida Communities and Intercoastal Communities, two retirement-community firms, reminisce about his starting the famous Steak and Ale restaurants smack in the middle of a national recession.

He had started the first restaurant with just $2,000.00, made it successful, and committed to the construction and opening of seven new restaurants just as the recession hit.

​Ned said: “We had to quickly change our thinking to match the timing we had to work with. We developed new, lower-cost, higher-perceived-value menu items, and by offering the look, feel, atmosphere, and taste of a gourmet steakhouse at a surprisingly low price, we had the right product at just the right time.”

​At that time, Ned was not alone in predicting another three to four-year recession, and he was again busy creating just the right product for it.

In this case, the product was a new type of manufactured home for his companies’ communities — this one with several hundred square feet less than any other home and, therefore, a substantially lower cost, but with an interior design that made it seem much, much bigger than it was. The home also had lots of nifty “gingerbread” touches that added to its perceived value.

Ned turned his $2,000.00 investment in Steak and Ale into millions when he sold out to Green Giant Foods.

​He’s since made another fortune with his new “Land Yacht” mini-retirement home and his inventive approach to low-cost retirement living in Florida.

Of course, it’s no secret that timing is a business success factor.

But matching a USP with the right timing can dramatically multiply success. This means monitoring market trends, customer feedback, and being prepared to adjust your USP if needed to stay relevant and competitive.

A USP That Expresses Your Values

A USP That Expresses Your Values

Lastly, at the end of this long journey to figure out your USP, you need to make sure that you’re being authentic.

Ensuring that your USP aligns with your brand’s values and promises builds trust with your customers. And trust is another way to stand out from your competitors.

One of my first mentors in business often said: “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” Just about anything — a recession, new competition — can topple a business devoid of values.

Although there are many great success stories in the fast-food industry, none stand above McDonald’s.

The McDonald’s empire was built on Ray Kroc’s unwavering, some would say fanatical, commitment to consistency; the idea that the food items at a McDonald’s in Iowa are identical to those found under the arches in California. Try to find anything close to this kind of consistency in any other national restaurant chain.

In my opinion, the Holiday Inn chain has lost all touch with its founders’ values, but back when I started hitting the road as a frequent business traveler I preferred Holiday Inn for that same reason – consistency. Kemmons Wilson was determined that travelers could depend on Holiday Inns for the basics: clean rooms, safety, and courteous service.

Here’s another example of a company succeeding through a commitment to values: Federal Express. FedEx invented, built, and dominated the industry because of a commitment to on-time, as-promised delivery. There are many classic stories of FedEx employees going to extraordinary extremes to keep faith with this fundamental value.

I would suggest, incidentally, that a defined quality appropriate to your business be one of your values.

In Search of Excellence, author Tom Peters jokes about the retail executive who became aggravated at Peters’s criticism of his business in a seminar and cried out: “We are no worse than anybody else!”

Tom Peters had a graphic artist design a company logo with that slogan in it: We are no worse than anybody else. Unfortunately, many business leaders settle for just this approach but, fortunately, you should know better now.

Over the years, the nature and details of my business interests have gone through quite a number of changes.

However, I’ve always kept them linked to one mission: to be responsible for getting how-to-succeed education into the hands of more people than any other individual or enterprise.

Before, the implementation of that mission was limited to the mail-order marketing of books, cassettes, and courses. Soon it expanded to include speaking and seminars. Then, television. And before I knew it I was developing products for other publishers, consulting with publishers, direct marketers, and even multi-level marketing companies.

And finally, now, through a network of consultants and marketing advisors, I get success education and marketing systems into the hands of more than 1 million business owners every year.

I’m not necessarily saying that you have to have some hidden, ulterior motive or some saintly charitable motive behind your business activities. And I’m not one who feels any guilt about making large amounts of money.

But I do find that business owners who are at least as enthusiastic about the values and mission and processes of their businesses as they are about their bank balances do best.

Now, with all that being said, this is where you should start.

Keeping in mind everything we’ve discussed, it’s time to put together the fact, feature, benefit, promise, and idea into one statement. Do your best to prioritize the items, in order of their importance to your customers and their contribution to differentiating you from your competition. Through this, you could come up with the best possible USP for your business.

However, if you feel like even this isn’t enough, I highly recommend you to register for our NO B.S Newsletter, where you’ll gain access to timeless business principles, and countless other goldmines for knowledge and exponential growth.

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