Unique Selling Point – Why Customers Should Buy From You?

by Paul Simister on August 10, 2011

Your unique selling point (also known as unique selling proposition and often shortened to USP) answers the big question:

Why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?

I was reading a book about branding and marketing earlier today which said that the USP is dead.

I don’t agree.

The idea of the USP is still very much alive and kicking and it should be an essential part of your business.

I’ve written before about the origins of the USP and Rosser Reeves and recently reviewed his book Reality In Advertising.

What I hadn’t realised until I checked the Google statistics was there is an English versus American language problem with the abbreviation USP.

In the UK, USP is much more commonly known as the Unique Selling Point, in the United States it is the original Unique Selling Proposition.

Unique Selling Point & Marketing Slogans

There’s some overlap with marketing or advertising slogans and while slogans can emphasise the USP of the business, they are often meaningless platitudes.

I can’t stop myself from sniggering when I hear Lloyds TSB tell me that they are “for the journey.”

They’re my bank and I have no conscious loyalty to them whatsoever. It’s only customer inertia and the lack of a stronger offer which has retained my custom for the last 30 years.

What Is A Unique Selling Point?

Your Unique Selling Point is intended to be a short statement or idea which sums up why your business is special and different.

It summarises your key factors of difference and may also include more general key success factors. This is a slight change from the way Rosser Reeves explains Unique Selling Proposition which is based on taking one big idea away from a marketing message which is a benefit to customers, is unique and which is strong enough to sell.

Unique Selling Point

Your unique selling point should be the solution to a problem or pain that the customer is experiencing.

Your USP becomes the foundation stone for your marketing and indeed for your business.

It’s the few ideas, concepts, features and benefits that you want your target audience to associate with you when they hear your name or think about your products and services.

From the research I’ve done I’m the only business coach in the UK who specialises in helping small business clients to profit from  differentiating their businesses. If somebody copies me, I’ll have to emphasise that I am the first and best!

I invite you to get a copy of my free report The Profit Tipping Point and the mp3 of the 7 Big Questions of Business Success which explain the main dimensions for differentiating your business. Some combination of these factors will form your Unique Selling Point which you can include in your promotions.

The Classic Unique Selling Point

The classic example of an extremely successful Unique Selling Point or positioning statement is Domino’s Pizza which was so powerful, a business started to pay university fees became a huge international business.

“Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less… or it’s free.”

It’s not used any more because of allegations of reckless driving to beat the time limit but it doesn’t reduce the marketing genius of the statement.

It’s the solution to the problem that you or your family are hungry and you’re too tired or too busy to cook.

Using Domino’s USP To Model Your Own Unique Selling Point

You can model this statement in various ways and use it as a USP formula to create your own Unique Selling Point.

A Unique Selling Point Formula From the 7 Big Questions

Using my 7 Big Questions approach,  the Unique Selling Point formula based on Domino’s is…

What [fresh, hot pizza] where [delivered to your door] when [in 30 minutes or less] what guarantee [or it’s free]

A Copywriter’s Version Of A USP Formula Using Features & Benefits

A copywriter might model it as a different formula…

Benefit [fresh], Benefit [hot] pizza Benefit [delivered to your door] Benefit [in 30 minutes or less] Guarantee [or it’s free].

Others may argue that it should be

Feature [fresh], Feature [hot] pizza Feature [delivered to your door] Feature [in 30 minutes or less] Guarantee [or it’s free].

Sometimes features are so clear that they don’t need to be translated into benefits e.g. hot is the feature, the benefit is that it’s ready to eat as soon as you get it because you don’t need to reheat it, saving you effort, energy and you can satisfy your hunger immediately.

The beauty of this Domino’s USP is that it is very specific. It doesn’t leave you in any doubt what you’re getting for your money. There is a clear customer return on investment.

Whichever way you choose to work, the Domino’s Unique Selling Point is an extremely powerful statement with a lot of credibility packed into a few words.

The Unique Selling Point Trap

You need to be careful when creating your Unique Selling Point.

You don’t want to fall into the trap of having a shallow marketing promise that you can’t deliver consistently and reliably. To really differentiate your business, you need to make sure that your business systems, processes and staff are aligned with the promise.

Other pizza companies could have imitated the Domino’s USP but if they didn’t have the systems designed for speed, they would have failed – and because of the guarantee, failure would have been very expensive.

Yes, competitors will copy eventually if they really want to but it takes a big, bold decision (which doesn’t offer any advantage since it’s only neutralising a disadvantage) and time to get all the internal resources lined up.

Rosser Reeves makes the point that while competitors can copy a USP, it is much more difficult to take away ownership of the idea in people’s minds. If the Domino’s USP had the big idea of “pizza fast” then competitors advertising pizza in 30 minutes or even 25 minutes may in effect be advertising for Domino’s – ouch!

The Problem With Creating Your Own Unique Selling Point

The idea of the USP is to communicate what’s special, unique, different about your business to your customers and your target audience.

But often you can’t see these special factors yourself. You’re too immersed in your business.

There may be a big bold Unique Selling Point hidden away that you can use or you may need to work on the differentiation factors before you can find your winning USP.

The idea of the Unique Selling Point is very much alive and is the foundation of your marketing and business.

What Do You Think About The Unique Selling Point Concept?

Do you think it’s dead or do you agree with me, that the idea of clearly communicating your differentiation is more important than ever?

Let me know by leaving a comment.

Paul Simister is the business strategy coach who helps business owners to differentiate their businesses and develop winning strategies. Get your free copy of the ebook The Six Steps Profit Formula.

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{ 4 comments }

Paul Simister August 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm

My friend Lee Duncan has written an interesting article on Unique Selling Points and he’s looked at how to differentiate milk and cheese.
http://www.leeduncan.com/blog/unique-selling-point-usp/

Lee Duncan April 15, 2012 at 9:53 am

Paul,

Great blog post, really gets under the skin of the unique selling point, love it. Thanks also for your reference to my article on differentiation, which uses the commodity dairy industry to illustrate how innovation and creative thinking based on delivering what customers really want (rather than what you think they want!) can drive USP creation.

One of my favourite USP approaches recently comes from the highly personalised service you can buy online from some major, and not so major brands.

For example, a few years ago, Nike introduced an online store that allows you to order trainers that are made to your specification – styling, colours, even monogrammed!

Another site, iTailor.com, offers suits and shirts in a similar vein. A friend recently bought a tailored shirt from them for £30 – the same price you’d pay for a reasonable off-the-shelf shirt at M&S.

But what makes both of these interesting is that their USP is effectively “tailored and styled just for you, at the same price as buying from the high street”.

What makes this even more interesting is the potential for disruption to the marketplace through bespoke services like these.

I think we’ll see some big names having to either follow suit, or becoming increasingly irrelevant as our shopping habits evolve to take advantage of bespoke services. There’s a huge opportunity for a lot of smaller businesses to build a brand on the back of this shift. I think we’ll see some new titans of retail emerge from this route.

Cheers,

Lee

Paul Simister April 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Thanks Lee for your comment on Unique selling points.

If you’re not familiar with Lee, he’s recently had a very good published called Double Your Business which you can get from Amazon.

I reviewed it on another blog.
http://businesscoaching.typepad.com/business_books/2012/04/double-your-business-by-lee-duncan.html

Tom December 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

Thank you, you gave me new ideas for my blog. I hope this doesn’t bother you that I take up this subject in my next article.Sincerely, Tom

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