What will make qualified customers stop in their tracks to pay attention to what you are offering?
This is the purpose of a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP.
It’s intended to answer the question, “Why should I buy what you are offering from you instead of from your competitors or doing nothing?”
The first characteristic is “unique.” What distinguishes your business or your offering from anything else in the marketplace?
The second characteristic is “selling.” What about your business or your offering appeals to a desire of the customer?
The third characteristic is “proposition.” This is a description of what you are offering that the customer must respond to.
An early example is a campaign created by advertising legend Claude Hopkins for Schlitz beer. Hopkins visited the Schlitz factory and was fascinated by the process of how beer is made. By sharing romanced parts of the story in advertisements, he persuaded the public that Schlitz beer was special. For example, he talked about how the bottles were “cleaned with live steam” and the beer was made from pure water from artesian wells. Every beer was made the same way, but Schlitz beer told the story first, and dominated its market for many years.
Another classic USP is Federal Express’s “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” It communicates a clear benefit to the customer. Customers were willing to pay a premium to assure their deliveries were made the next day.
Domino’s Pizza built its business on its USP, “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or it’s free.” This promise initially appealed to college students who ordered pizza when they were studying late at night. Notice there is no promise of delicious pizza made from an old family recipe! (Domino’s had to discontinue the campaign because its drivers were having automobile accidents when rushing to deliver pizzas to customers.)
It’s nice to talk about these examples, but developing USP ideas isn’t easy. Some products and services seem to be commodities – like everyone else’s. How can you create a USP to distinguish a “commodity” product or service?
- Say the product or service is “for” a particular group. For example, “Time management training especially for surgeons.” Surgeons believe the time pressures of their profession are unique. By slanting a time management system to them in their language and their job description, such a course should appeal to them, and demand a fee premium compared to generic time management systems.
- Create a unique offer that others in your industry don’t offer. “Send no money now. Only pay when you see the service works.” “Just make a $100 deposit now and then additional deposits of $500 for three months.” “No surprises! Your fee is stated when you hire us.”
- State an extraordinary guarantee not commonly stated or offered. “Your satisfaction is guaranteed. Return within 90 days for a full refund.” “Lifetime guarantee. Even your grandchildren can return the product for a full refund with no questions asked.” “If you aren’t delighted with the product, return it for a refund of double your money back with no questions asked.” “Try our beauty cream. If your friends don’t ask you if you’ve had cosmetic surgery, return the empty jar for a full refund.”
- Research for an interesting story. How is the product made? Where did the ingredients come from? How was it developed/invented? What is the history of the people involved? Was the product or service created to solve the problem of an inventor, family member or friend?
- Find an interesting personality associated with the product. Although Jared Fogle later got in trouble, his story of losing weight when eating Subway sandwiches had a great appeal and moved Subway into the weight loss market. An owner or spokesperson can become a celebrity by authoring books and making public appearances. Is there an interesting story in their background? Were they an adventurer, mercenary or scientist? Hiring a celebrity as a spokesperson can create an appeal for your product, just be sure it’s your product and not the celebrity spokesperson that customers are impressed with.
- Promote performance standards that address a key frustration. “Your appliance will be delivered within 30 minutes of the scheduled time, or you will receive a $100 prepaid VISA card.” “When we repair your bathroom sink, we will leave your bathroom as clean or cleaner as when we arrived, or we will waive the charges for the service call.” “Unless there is an emergency, a doctor will see you within 15 minutes of your scheduled appointment, or you’ll receive a $100 gift certificate for Maxim’s restaurant.”
As you develop your USP, remember your customer, client or patient doesn’t care about you or your product or service. They care about solving their problems and improving the lives of themselves and their loved ones. A good question to ask about your USP is, “Who cares?” If the only person who cares is you, it won’t sell. Try another one.
A USP can also focus a company’s employees to deliver on their company’s promises. Remember the Domino’s delivery persons rushing to meet the 30 minute delivery promise. Don’t you think Federal Express employees moved just a little faster because customers were expecting their deliveries “absolutely, positively overnight?”
The USP also functions as a mission for the company – a statement of the company’s position in the marketplace, so it’s essential that the promises of the USP be delivered. With social media these days, customers will find out almost instantly if they aren’t and it can be very expensive to repair the reputation of a company that has broken the public’s trust.
As you can see, this is serious business that requires serious thought. How confident are you about what you sell? Do you have an organization that can deliver outstanding customer service? Do your employees have the resources, training and scripts that they need? Are your promises impressive and realistic?
Would you like help developing a USP for your business? Send an email to email@example.com to schedule an initial consultation.
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(c) 2019 by Michael Gray