by Justin Michie
One of the first steps in creating a marketing plan is developing a USP, or Unique Selling Proposition (sometimes called a Unique Selling Point or a positioning statement). A USP is an ultimate statement of benefit, or the single most compelling reason why a customer should buy from you over your competition. In a short, meaningful, specific sentence, a USP describes your primary distinguishing feature to your target market and lets them know what's in it for them if they do business with you.
According to Rosser Reeves, the author of 'Reality in Advertising' who coined the USP, the three requirements for a USP are:
- Each advertisement must make a proposition to the customer: "buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit."
- The proposition itself must be unique - something that competitors do not, or will not, offer.
- The proposition must be strong enough to pull new customers to the product.
Some of most well know USP examples are:
Domino's Pizza - "You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less."
FedEx - "Your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight"
M&M's - "The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand"
Wonder Bread - "It helps build strong bones 12 ways"
But what if such a proprietary advantage does not exist? What if your product is basically the same as your competition's, with no special distinguishing? Check this out: Once M&M established their USP: M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hand" - what could the competition do? Run an ad that said, "We also melt in your mouth, not in your hand!"? It reminds me of an example from the book Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins that has gone on to become a classic story used to describe USPs. It goes something like this:
Schlitz Beer had hired Hopkins to increase their falling market share. At the time the beer companies were frantically buying bigger and bigger advertising space to promote the word PURE. Everyone said their beer was pure, but no one bothered to explain to the public what 'pure meant' this meant.
The first thing Hopkins did was take a tour of the Schlitz Brewery. He was shown plate-glass rooms filled with filtered air where beer was dripped over pipes to cool without any impurities. He was shown huge expensive filters that were each cleaned twice daily to ensure the products purity. He notices that each bottle was sterilized four separate times before being filled with beer. He was even shown 4,000 foot deep artesian wells dug to provide the cleanest, purest water available, even though the factory was right on the shore of Lake Michigan (which at the time was not polluted and could still provide clean water).
After his tour Hopkins exclaimed, "Why don't you tell people these things?" The company responded that every beer manufacturer does it the same way. To that Hopkins replied, "But others have never told this story." And Hopkins went on to create an advertising campaign that explained to people exactly what makes Schlitz beer pure. It was highlighted with the tagline 'Schlitz beer bottles - Washed with live steam'. He told the same story any brewer could have, but he gave meaning to purity. That is what took Schlitz from 5th place to tie for 1st place in market share.
Creating a USP for Your Business
When developing the USP for your business it can be helpful to try thinking in the customer's point of view: why should they buy from you, not why you should sell to them. Your USP should state what the most important benefit is to the customer in the target market you are trying to reach. Trying to appeal to everyone will not give you an effective USP. Focus on the clients that are your greatest income makers and direct the USP to them. You want to attract the ideal client, not just any client.
Here are some questions that a USP should answer:
- What problem are you the answer to?
- What quality makes you different, better or more desirable than the competition?
- What opportunity can you present to potential customers that others can o