Create Your Unique Selling Proposition in Just Seven Steps
There’s a common misconception that you have to have a unique product in order for your business to be successful. That isn’t necessarily true.
Think about it––so many companies out there are selling the same things.
Veja, AllBirds, and Toms all sell sustainable sneakers. Banana Republic, Gap, and Burberry all sell trench coats.
But when you think of those brands individually, they each evoke a different feeling within us. There is something about their brand story, or positioning, that would ultimately make you choose one sneaker over the others, one trench coat over the next.
This rings true even for online businesses. How many times have you come across a program teaching you how to start your own business or how to market your services? Yet each of these entrepreneurs have managed to carve out their own space in a crowded online marketplace.
What these business owners have is a unique selling proposition (USP), and they expertly communicate it throughout their messaging.
In this blog post, you’ll learn what a USP is, see examples of successful USPs, and learn how to craft your own in seven simple steps.
So, what is a unique selling proposition, anyway?
A unique selling proposition, or USP, is a clear, concise statement declaring what makes you different from your competitors. It tells potential customers, and specifically, your ideal customers, why they should choose you.
Your USP communicates the who, what, and how of your business: who you serve; what you serve them (your offering); and how you do it.
It highlights any distinct benefits or unique features that your brand offers.
Once you’ve settled on your USP, it should serve as the compass for all of your messaging. And, when done successfully, customers presented with your USP will quickly identify why you’re their best choice.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at a few successful USPs.
Southwest Airlines: Cheap, friendly, flights for the fuss-free flier.
Southwest airlines has always prided itself on being America’s most down-to-earth airline. You can easily see this in their low fares, open seating, unlimited peanuts and pretzels for your in-flight pleasure, social media posts, and joke-cracking flight attendants.
Southwest’s friendly, laid back, “airline of the people” vibe is so ingrained in their culture that when challenged for using the motto “Just Plane Smart” by Stevens Aviation, the two CEOs staged an arm wrestling match to decide who would keep it, with the loser donating $5000 to the winner’s charity of choice.
You’ll also notice Southwest’s customer-centric unique selling proposition clearly in their policies, too, with promises like no change fees and free cancellation up to 10 minutes before a flight’s departure.
Everything about the company’s branding communicates what they do, who they do it for, and how they do it.
In one sentence, their USP might look like this: Southwest Airlines flies fuss-free, budget-minded travelers inexpensively from point A to point B and while having a lot of fun along the way.
Talking Shrimp by Laura Belgray––“Get paid to be you” by learning “clear, effervescent,” personality-driven copywriting.
This is the woman who makes over a million dollars a year writing emails.
The reason her emails are so successful?
Well, for one, according to Laura, they’re the “only emails anyone likes anymore… *According to an unscientific but totes accurate study.”
That snippet demonstrates some of the personality that goes into overdrive as you continue to peruse the Talking Shrimp website.
In Laura’s own words: “I’m here to help you make your business––through your website copy, your sales pages, your Instagram captions, your signature stories, your newsletter emails, your blog posts, your lower-back tattoo, and anywhere else you put words and ideas—a 100% expression of your sparkling personality and a gushing firehose of ‘come ‘n’ get it’ for your ideal buyers.”
Laura’s USP in one sentence: She teaches entrepreneurs how to grow their business through strong, personality-driven copywriting.
A more traditional business owner may not be interested in such colorful copywriting and might move on at the mention of “your lower-back tattoo,” whether they have one or not.
But a business owner who is dying to inject more of their personality into their copy will be drawn in by the cheeky specificity in that statement, and that is what sets her apart.
Saddleback Leather: Rugged leather goods of such high quality that your great-grandchild’s inherited bag will still be under warranty.
So, they sell leather bags. Big whoop. How many companies can you think of right now that sell leather bags?
But the second you stumble onto Saddleback Leather’s website, you know exactly who their leather bags are for. Their unique selling proposition is right at the top of their site:
“They’ll Fight Over It When You’re Dead
100 Year Warranty. No Breakable Parts. Over-Engineered”
Saddleback Leather’s bags are for the Indiana Jones in you. The rugged, on-the-go adventurer with stories (and style) for days.
In this one, 15-word statement, they highlight their quality twice with the “100 Year Warranty” and claim of being “Over-Engineered.” And when their ICA is off adventuring, they can toss these bags around, as their durability is highlighted with the phrase, “No Breakable Parts.”
The real kicker is, they look so timeless and classic that, upon your death, your heir’s first thought will be to stake their claim…then get on to the emotional business of mourning.
This messaging is front and center on every part of their website including their about page (where Dave, the CEO, writes of adventures that include bullfighting and a “crooked Federale”) and product page videos (which include demonstrations of a built-in secret compartment for hiding valuables from active thieves).
Saddleback’s Who, What, and How in a nutshell: They satisfy the discerning adventurer’s travel needs by creating stylish, classic, exceptionally high quality leather goods.
Now that you’ve seen examples of three top-of-the-line USPs from three different industries, let’s move on to how you can successfully craft your own.
Craft Your Unique Selling Proposition in 7 Simple Steps
Step One – Get General
First, you are just going to identify the basic who, what, and how of your business. No worries about being fancy yet. We’ll go deeper in the steps to come. For now, answer these simple questions:
- Who do you serve?
- What do you serve them (what is your offering)?
- How do you do it?
For example, Saddleback Leather may write:
- We serve people who like to go on spontaneous adventures.
- We create great looking, top quality leather goods.
- We do it by selling directly to the customer through our online store, and providing a 100 year warranty on all goods purchased.
Step Two — Get Specific by Learning Your Ideal Customer
If you don’t already, you really need to know who your ideal customer is so you can “speak their language.” We discussed how to create an Ideal Customer Avatar in a recent blog post, but here’s a quick recap if you need it:
At its simplest, your Ideal Customer Avatar, or ICA, is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It’s a character that you create with all of the demographic and psychographic characteristics that the customer you’d most like to work with, and who would most like to work with you, possess.
This is important because without clarity on who you’re trying to reach with your messaging, you run the risk of being generic, which is ultimately ineffective. When you have an ICA, you’re able to craft your message intentionally and specifically, with your audience in mind–just like the examples we’ve laid out above.
Southwest Airlines knows they are speaking to the cost-conscious, no-frills traveler who values friendly customer service above fancy options.
Laura Belgray knows she is speaking to the fun, oversharing entrepreneur who loves to dish on the latest news and learn how to do the same in their marketing emails.
Saddleback Leather knows they are speaking to the would-be Indiana Joneses of the world.
And that’s what makes marketing fun!
Imagine if the above companies just spoke generically to any human that wanted a leather bag, or to learn how to write emails, or needed a flight? Do you think they would stand out? Probably not.
So, how do you get this specific? A good place to start is by identifying your ideal customer’s psychographic traits. These are traits based on psychological factors, like values and aspirations.
Here are two questions to begin to nail down the psychographic traits of your ICA.
1. What does your ideal customer value?
Go beyond the general, obvious stuff like “world peace” and think specifically about what your ideal customer really wants from your brand.
For Southwest Airlines customers, this may be a good deal. Friendliness. Good natured humor. Lack of fuss.
For Saddleback Leather, this may be durability and quality, adventure, the ability to get up and go with little thought.
For Talking Shrimp, maybe it’s fun, connection, and authenticity. Being themselves above all else.
2. What does your customer fear?
What stresses your customer out? What keeps them up at night? Think about more than just FOMO for this one (although FOMO is a pretty powerful motivator). Here are a couple of examples to get you started:
The Southwest customer may actually fear flying, which is why the airline’s kindness, friendliness, and good-natured humor appeals to them. It puts them at ease.
The Talking Shrimp audience may dread running their business and feeling like they have to be someone or something else to truly be successful.
Step Three – Identify Your Customer’s Problem
So now it’s time to pinpoint what your customer truly needs. What problem can you help your customers solve?
To get to the meat of this problem, go back to your customer’s fears.
Let’s take Talking Shrimp with Laura Belgray, for example. In our example, above, we see that Laura’s ICA may despise or even be afraid of running their business. They may not see how their company is unique or different, and they may not know how to make it so. Because of this, they hate marketing…especially email marketing. They can’t imagine why someone would want to receive an email from a company like theirs.
So, in this example, they fear that they won’t enjoy running their business, because they don’t see how what they do is any different from anyone else. Because of this, they avoid putting effort into building their business, and they avoid marketing all together.
Their problem? They need to recognize something that makes their business unique and special, and to lean on that when it comes to marketing.
In the next step, we solve that problem.
Step Four – Communicate How You Solve Your ICAs Problems by Stating Your Benefits and Unique Features
How does your company assuage this fear and solve this problem?
Going back to our example above, we identified that perhaps a problem that a Talking Shrimp customer might have is that they need to identify what makes their business unique and special, and to lean on that when it comes to marketing.
How does Laura solve this problem? By communicating that what makes your business unique and special is you. It’s your personality, the way you view things, your stories, your anecdotes, what you had for breakfast, even your lower back tattoo.
And she teaches you how to effectively weave that throughout your marketing, and especially throughout your newsletter.
Her promise: “You’ll be as close as you can in this earthly life to getting paid to be you.”
Here are some questions that can help you identify the special and distinctive benefits and features you may offer.
- What are one or two outstanding benefits that customers are highly unlikely to get somewhere else? (Something along the lines of Saddleback Leather’s 100 year warranty or Southwest’s flexible cancellation policy.)
- What are some distinctive features of your service or product? (Think: Saddleback Leather’s hidden panels, or Laura’s promise that you can get paid to be yourself.)
- What are some of your own unique qualifications that speak directly to your ICA? (Such as Laura’s own million-dollar income from writing emails, or Saddleback Dave’s own adventurous lifestyle complete with bullfighting, and Federale evasion.)
Step Five – Dress It Up
Use adjectives and language that paint a story your ideal customer wants to read.
We see this specific language when Laura writes: “…a 100% expression of your sparkling personality and a gushing firehose of ‘come ‘n’ get it’ for your ideal buyers.”
When Southwest asks: “Wanna get more sights for the seeing?”
Or when Dave sums up the story of his company like this: “A hot wife, two fabulous kids, 14 Rwandan sons and daughters, a cool dog and a crooked Federale sent to kill me…”
In all of these snippets, we see glimpses of these companies’ USPs. We immediately get a feel for how they are positioning themselves. We know Southwest is talking to the laid-back, no-frills flier. We know Laura is speaking to the business owner who wants to inject a ton of cheeky personality into their copy. And we know that Saddleback Leather is talking to someone who believes not only in epic adventures, but in living an epic life.
Step Six – Write it
Finally, it’s time to use all the information you’ve gained to rewrite that “Who, What, and How” from step one.
Include your special, unique, and distinctive benefits, features, and qualifications, and the specific language and adjectives that will appeal to your ideal customers.
With that in mind, answer the following questions. Literally write them out.
- Who do you serve?
- What do you serve them (what is your offering)?
- How do you do it?
Step Seven – Use it!
Once you’ve written your USP to your satisfaction, use it. On your website, in your blog posts, your newsletter, social media posts, product descriptions… everywhere.
Scream from the rooftops (or, at least, the internet) why your company is the perfect choice for your customers.
So there you have it––how to create your unique selling proposition in seven simple steps.
To recap, here are the 7 steps to create your unique selling propositions:
Step One: Go general to lay out the “Who, What, and How” of your business.
Step Two: Get specific by leaning into your ICA’s values and fears.
Step Three: Identify your customer’s problem.
Step Four: Communicate how you, your company, and your products and services are the best choice to solve your ICA’s problems.
Step Five: Dress your USP up with language your ICA will recognize and flock to.
Step Six: Write out your USP.
Step Seven: Scream it from the rooftops (or, at least, use it everywhere).
Now it’s your turn.
Take these steps and create your USP today.
And once you’re ready to put your USP into major effect, webinars are an excellent way to demonstrate your personality and style of teaching, and running no-pitch webinars is also a great way to build your email list and start gathering your community.
This post was authored by Arynetta Northcutt. Arynetta is a solopreneur, content creator, and EasyWebinar contributor.