It’s Self-Evident: All USPs are NOT Created Equal

© Juliafreeman | Dreamstime.com

© Juliafreeman | Dreamstime.com

So you’ve got the message.  You know that marketing today is not about blending in to some industry norm—it’s about standing out.  You’re looking for a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition, something that will get the customers flocking your way.

Unique is important, but is unique the only thing that counts?  Are all USPs created equal?  Not by a long shot.

A USP can be based on almost anything if it makes you visible and appealing:  location, hours, price, product approach, celebrity endorsements, delivery approach, you name it.  But go back and read that IF clause.  If it doesn’t make you visible AND appealing, it may be unique, but it ain’t a USP.

So what makes for a good USP?

It matters to the customer.  Maybe yours is the only bank in town whose president is a Capricorn.  Maybe you’ve got the only rotary-dial phones in the Tri-State area.  Bully for you.  But does it make you visible?  Does it make you appealing?  If not, keep looking.  Find out what matters to your customers, and be that thing.  “Open ’til 10 p.m. on weekends” might sound like a snoozer—until you find out that’s just what your customers were waiting for.  Then it’s a USP.

It’s dramatic.  Not all USPs are dramatic, but if you can find one that is, you’re home free.  Learn what your customers hope for, yearn for, ache for—and give it to them.  The slogan “Federal Express—when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” spoke directly to the desperate hopes of sweating middle managers everywhere.  When Club Med called itself “the antidote for civilization,” countless millions sighed and reached for air margaritas.

It’s definable, explicit, and absolutely free of fluff.  I’ve never met a fluffy USP that was worth a nickel.  Say something REAL.  Say something CLEAR.  When Dominos promised “fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed,” they had themselves an explicit, clear USP that put millions of pizzas into millions of Americans.  Don’t tell me about your 24 years in the business.  Don’t bother me with “competitive rates.”  I don’t sit up nights yearning to give my business to a company with a few more years of experience or (please!) rates that are (pfft!) “competitive.”  Give me something solid and I just might bite.

Bottom line:  The best USPs solve real problems that real people have.  I remember the first time I saw an ad for a toothbrush with that ridged rubber grip on it.  Is this a real problem?  I thought.  Are people everywhere struggling with the problem of toothbrushes flying across the room in mid-stroke?  I somehow doubt it.  Listen carefully to you current clients.  Listen even more carefully to your prospective clients.  And when you find out what they really need, what they dream of, what they yearn for, you’ll have your marching orders—and you’ll have your USP.

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