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Unique selling point (USP) - What is a USP?

A Unique Selling Point (USP) is an aspect of your business or product that sets it apart from competitors in your market

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Typically, a unique selling point (also referred to as ‘unique selling proposition’) can be summed up in one sentence. It is something specific that explains why a potential customer should purchase from you instead of from another business.

Do you need a unique selling point?

If you’re a small business competing with either other small businesses or larger ones, the short answer is: yes. Being able to communicate how what you offer is more desirable than an equivalent experience with a competitor can set your business up for success.

Does your business provide the solution to a problem? Is your product vastly superior to that of your competitors? These can be used for developing a USP, however, a USP should always be as specific as possible. In other words, just saying ‘Our product is better’ isn’t so convincing.

The origins of the USP

Although it sounds like a trendy new marketing term, the concept of the USP has been around since the mid 1900s. Advertising executive Rosser Reeves presented it tied closely with a company’s slogan.

It focused on the need for businesses to market a specific aspect that set them apart from other businesses in the industry - a key element of a good marketing strategy.

How to develop a USP

If you’re not quite sure where to start when it comes to defining and creating your own USP, you can start with a few easy steps. Keep in mind that your USP doesn’t necessarily have to be about your products - if your team is the fastest or has the best attitude, for example, these can also be contributors to your USP.

In any case, the following steps can help your business to determine a clear USP.

1. Defining your audience

If you haven’t already undertaken this step when conducting market research either before launching a business or new product/service, it is worthwhile to sit down and do so. By understanding what your target demographic is, you can cater your marketing (and USP) to appeal better to that audience.

While it might be wondering why you wouldn’t aim for an approach that would appeal to everyone...well that’s just not possible. Plus, by defining your audience, you gain a better understanding of your market and more potential to optimise your sales.

Once you know your audience, you’ll have an easier time determining what they want - and catering your USP to appeal to their needs.

2. Know your competitors

Part of the market research should involve competitor research. Is there something that you are proud of that you can say you do better than your competitors? By understanding how they work and their products or service through doing some research, you’re in a better position to know the strengths (and weaknesses) of your own business.

When you’ve found a couple of things that your business just does better - do you put more time into each product? Do you provide a different angle? Does your business fulfill orders faster? If you make a list, it can be helpful for the next step.

3. Make it into a sentence

Now you can get a little creative. Depending on your industry and your target audience, you can even be a bit cheeky or play on words. But the idea is to take one of the things that you do better than your competitors and put it into one sentence.

It should be clear what the advantage of doing business with you will be - from that sentence. It might seem like a daunting task, but by following the above steps, and with a little creativity, you’re on your way to creating a USP for your business.

4. Include it in your marketing

The next step is likely obvious - get the word out about your USP. Use it in your marketing, in your communication with customers, in your email signature, wherever it works. This is your chance to make an impression on current and potential customers so using your USP can help them to associate that positive trait to your business.