How to Create a USP in 7 Steps11 min read

Creating a compelling, converting USP is absolutely essential to explain to others – and yourself – why your product or service is different from the rest. This blog will teach you how to create a USP that works for your business. Let’s dive in!

rosser reeves

The term “unique selling proposition” was first developed by the advertising agency Ted Bates & Company in the 1940s. Its Chief Creative Officer and advertising legend, Rosser Reeves, wrote in his 1961 book Reality in Advertising that there are three components to a USP, and these rules still hold true today:

A product or service must make a proposition to the consumer. Each advertisement must say to each reader: “buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit”.

You may think that your USP is obvious through the product itself, but you must be able to answer every single time, in all of your marketing communications, this question: how will your customer’s life be improved by your product?

“The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique.”

So, unique? Is that all it takes? Well you tell us, mac and cheese flavoured chewing gum is certainly unique, and there’s probably nothing like that on the market… but we’d really like to know who exactly is going to buy it. Which brings us to the third point…

“The proposition must be so strong that it can move the masse[s].”

You must be unique and be able to attract a number of profitable customers.

“Any business across all industries wants the same thing: a highly profitable product or service that consumers want to buy.”

Before we go any further, let’s first establish the proper definition of a USP:

A unique selling proposition is a brief statement from your business that neatly states the reason why your product or service is different from (and better than!) the competition.

Alrighty then, now that we’ve cleared that up, you might be thinking, “Why do I need to care about this?” You may even think that USPs are just another term that marketers like to throw around.

Well, let’s get this straight: without your USP, you have no way of explaining to others, or yourself, why your product or service is different from the rest.

USP infographic

“Your USP is the marriage of what you do well and what consumers or clients want.”

This point is best illustrated through examples of USPs.

Types of USPs

Today, consumers have way, way too many choices—for just about anything. Looking to buy hair ties? A pair of scissors? What about dinner… even if you’re specifically in the mood for Chinese, you probably have (at least) five options to choose from.

chinese food

A USP cuts through the noise and will tell you exactly what makes your brand different from the rest. It’s simple, but highly effective.

Your USP will aid you in creating compelling content that will boost your brand’s exposure and increase your revenue.

Toms Shoes

One great example of a USP comes from a shoe brand. How many shoe brands in the world do you think there are? Does the world really need another?

toms shoes

Well, when Toms Shoes came onto the market, they took the industry by storm with their USP: one pair of shoes bought equals one pair of shoes given to a person in need. 

Wow. Now that is certainly unique. And it’s been incredibly successful in setting the brand apart from the hundreds of other shoes out there. But what exact problem are they solving? When you buy a pair of Toms, you’re purchasing a material item that you know for a fact is making a difference for another human being out there.

toms usp

Rather than trying to build their business on beautiful design or comfort, Toms Shoes offers something invaluable to a customer: a purchase they can actually feel good about.

Not only is their USP charitable, it’s been so powerful because it gives the buyer instant gratification that they’ve done something good. As soon as the register closes, a pair of shoes has been allocated to someone who needs them. It’s not an abstract sense of wellbeing; it’s tangible.

Mailchimp

Has anyone ever been excited about emails? Mailchimp has. And that’s what’s made them unique and helped them build a great example of a USP.

Mailchimp's USP

A lot of B2B service providers are so tied up in the functional benefits of their company that they can lack personality… which makes them forgettable. Their customers often see them as a necessary evil that they have to deal with as part of their job. They can also be extremely technical and boring… but Mailchimp has changed that all up and become a leader in its industry.

mailchimp benefits

Mailchimp’s USP is a highly interactive and fun email marketing platform. They have set themselves apart with their user experience, or UX. By solving their customers’ problem of dealing with dry, dull online services, Mailchimp draws in customers with their bright colors and fun design.

Function of Beauty

Beauty products… how about natural beauty products? How about natural shampoo? A decade or so ago, this may have been a compelling USP. But today, a substantial amount of the population has come to expect their beauty products to be cruelty-free, sulphate-free, organic, or otherwise.

function of beauty usp

Function of Beauty has completely shaken up the market, by offering customizable natural haircare. Simply by taking a quiz on their website, you can get a shampoo and conditioner based on your hair’s needs and your own personal preferences of colour and scent.

function of beauty quiz

Is your hair thick, oily, curly and bleached?

Rather than having to spend a ton of money buying separate products to meet the requirements of your hair, Function of Beauty’s USP is that you can get a bottle “as unique as you are”. Each bottle is made “specifically” for each user. Talk about a game changer!  Customizable products and services are very popular today, and understanding this, Function of Beauty has turned it into a USP worth promoting.

Build Your USP in 7 Steps

So, in case you haven’t already realized… your brand’s USP isn’t really about you. The best USPs are the ones that focus on your customer’s needs. In fact, a USP that hits the nail on the head is very specific and solution focused.

So now that you know what a USP is, let’s go through the 7 necessary steps to create a strong, converting USP for your own brand.

Laptop computer

Before we continue, let’s dispel a few doubts that you may have.

Maybe you’re thinking that your business model or what you’re offering is too simple or straightforward to have anything special about it. Maybe you’re working in a commodity market, and your industry is absolutely saturated with more and more of the same.

Let’s just stop right there. Every single business has something unique about it, you just need to get into the right mindset.

#1 Identify your target market

If you haven’t already, it’s time to identify your target market. Your USP is meant to provide something your customers want, so it’s imperative to know who your customers are.

It’s easy to know their demographics, like age, gender, income, or education levels, but what you really want to know are their psychographics.  While psychographic elements are more challenging to uncover, they give you a deeper insight in terms of really understanding the human being you’re trying to appeal to.

#2 Focus on your strengths

Something we really want to hammer home is that you can’t be everything to everyone. Do you think that Saks Fifth Avenue could provide the same shopping experience if they were selling at Walmart prices?

saks shoppers

McDonalds and Starbucks both successfully sell coffee to a huge loyal audience, yet their brands are entirely different from each other. Don’t make the rookie mistake of spreading yourself too thin and not specializing in anything. Find your strengths and build on them.

#3 Get an outside perspective

When you’re in the business day in and day out, sometimes you can get caught up in your daily operations, and be so familiar with your brand, that you may completely miss what makes you different from the rest.

A strong USP is meant to appeal to your target audience, so get some insight from them!

You can conduct surveys either in-person or through your email campaigns.

Be sure that some of the questions that you ask them include “Why do you do business with us?” “What do you wish we could do more of?” “What do you dislike about this industry?” even something like “What would make you leave us for a competitor?”

#4 Watch your competitors

As you’re gaining valuable information from your customers, make sure you’re keeping a careful eye on your competitors too!

What makes them unique? What’s their USP? Knowing your competition will ensure you create an exceptionally unique USP.

#5 Think bigger

Think back to our Toms Shoes example. They’ve gone beyond their product to create their USP. This step is especially important if you’re operating in a commodity market.

If you’re a pizzeria, the primary ‘problem’ you’re solving is going to be pretty much the same as every other pizzeria—you’re solving hunger with pizza.

But think bigger than that. Your USP doesn’t necessarily have to be focused on the product itself. You can be solving a secondary problem as well.

pizza usp

How many times have you ordered a pizza only to have it take over an hour and show up at your doorstep ice-cold? Well, this is exactly the problem that Domino’s Pizza decided to solve! Their USP is “fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or your money back”.

Rather than trying to differentiate on the taste of their pizza, they’ve focused on their delivery service—a promise to deliver within a half hour.

#6 Refine Your USP

Maybe now you’ve got a list of things that make you unique, next, it’s time to narrow it down to one sentence or phrase that you can use every time someone asks you about your business.

#7 Test Your USP

Remember, you’re still forming your brand. The USP that you’ve created during this process doesn’t need to be the end-all be-all. You want to test, test and test all elements of your brand during this phase!

You can test casually, when speaking with prospective clients or anyone who asks what you do. When you see ears perk up or you’re getting a lot more follow-up questions, this means you’ve struck something valuable.

A more formal way to test your USP is to do A/B testing with your ads to see which gets more clicks. Or you could conduct formal surveys with your target audience.

There you go! The 7 steps to creating your unique selling proposition. When you create a strong USP, not only are you creating something truly valuable for your customers, you’re also giving a reason for investors to pay attention to you.

When investors see that you have carved out a true niche in the market and that you’re able to aptly define it, you will give them a concrete reason to listen and invest in your business, which will give you the resources you need to grow and expand!

A Final Word

working at computers

If you’ve enjoyed this article and want to learn more about how to build a profitable and sustainable brand that converts, connects, and lasts, check out Adversent’s Branding Mastery Course, where you can learn step-by-step how to create a profitable brand from the ground up.

Adversent is a digital marketing education community that provides business owners and budding entrepreneurs a place to learn the real methods of how to build a successful business in the digital landscape.

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