and Grow Rich:
The Critical Importance of a Strong USP
(Unique Selling Proposition)
By Eric Graham
50 other companies selling the same products and services as you, why
should I do business with you rather than one of your competitors?”
With the rapidly
growing number of competitors you face as an online merchant, if you
cannot answer that one question, it is only a matter of time before
you go out of business.
If you can answer
that question and answer it clearly, communicating it to your prospective
customers in everything you do, your road to eCommerce success is paved
The answer to that
most critical question is your USP or Unique Selling Proposition. If
you have been in business for very long you have probably read or heard
about the importance of having a strong, clear USP. However, you do
not have to do much surfing online to see that very few companies are
listening. Most know that they need a USP, they just don’t know
how to develop one.
The process of developing
your Unique Selling Proposition is fairly simple (note that I did not
say easy.) There are 4 basic steps.
study your competition. Search online for potential competitors. Pick
the top 5 to 10 and try to determine their USP. Most will not have a
clear USP, for these look for some of the features or services that
Now look for the
gap in their products or services. What area of the market is not being
examine you own business. Sit down and brainstorm with your staff possible
USP concepts. Don’t judge the ideas, just write them down. To
stimulate thought and ideas ask the following questions:
- What do we do
- What do we do
better than our competition?
- What awards
have we won?
- What have our
customers said about us?
- What praise
do we often get from our customers?
- What endorsements
for celebrities or well know organizations do we have? What endorsements
could we get?
- What does our
product or service do better than anyone else?
- How is our business
model different from our competition? How could it be different?
- What market
category or niche is not being served by our industry?
It is also helpful
at this stage to interview and survey your current and past customers.
Ask them why they bought from you rather than your competition? What
are they looking for in a provider of your product or service? What
is important to them when making a buying decision? What feature or
benefits do they value most or would like to see added to your product
To help you with
brainstorming USP concepts here are a few examples and suggestions of
successful Unique Selling Propositions.
I conduct intensive
on-site USP workshops for my clients around the world. While the number
of possible USPs is limited only by your imagination, I have found by
doing these workshops that most USPs fall into one of 10 main categories.
These 10 categories are:
1. Low Price
Guaranteeing the lowest price has been used as a USP for many online
merchants. Unfortunately many who have chosen this for a USP are no
longer in business. Doing business online does have some cost and overhead
advantages over off-line business and most online customers do expect
some of this savings to be passed on in the form of discounts.
profit margins too deeply is rarely healthy for a business or market.
If your company is small, you run the risk of setting off a price war
or angering the larger players in your market, who due to economies
of scale, can afford to match or beat your prices short term to force
you out of the market, long term.
There are of course
many examples of businesses that have adopted this USP and survived
or even prospered. The philosophy is low margins but high volume. The
best example of successful implementation of this USP is Wal-Mart.
USP statement is short, sweet and to the point.
Wal-Mart – “Always Low Prices. Always”
The high quality USP is based on a high margin, lower volume philosophy.
This USP is often found hand in hand with other USPs such as “Superior
Service” and “Strongest Guarantee”.
One brand that immediately
comes to mind when you think about quality is Rolex. While there are
actually watches that cost more than a Rolex, the general public immediately
recognizes a Rolex as a high quality timepiece.
Rolex also has a
short USP statement that communicates volumes.
Rolex – “Quality Takes Time”
In today’s marketplace unless you want to position yourself simply
as a “Lowest Price” commodity, you have to add value. Providing
superior customer service is a wonderful way to add value as well as
develop long-term customer loyalty.
Good customer service
should be and is expected. What I am talking about here is the “above
and beyond” type of customer service. I frequently counsel my
clients to go beyond just satisfying their customers. You have to AMAZE
A good example of
a company that has adopted “Superior Service” as their USP
Managed Hosting. In a very crowded market of “Lowest Price”
competitors, Rackspace has managed to differentiate itself very successfully
by focusing on giving extra mile service. I host several of my higher
traffic sites on Rackspace dedicated servers and have found their staff
to be knowledgeable and helpful.
Rackspace sums up
their USP statement in two words.
– “Fanatical Support”
Being the “biggest” in your market or providing the largest
selection of items in your niche can be a powerfully effective USP.
The classic example
of this is Amazon.com.
Were they the first online bookstore? While many people think that they
were, there were actually several companies selling books online before
Are they the lowest price? Nope. While their prices on books are low,
if you look around enough you can find them cheaper elsewhere online.
So what made Amazon.com
blow away other companies that entered the market sooner or had thousands
of retail stores? Selection. For years Amazon’s USP was “Earths
Even though they were not the first and today they have intense competition
from all of the “brick and mortar” stores such as Barnes
and Noble, Borders and B. Dalton, who have set up their own websites,
still leads the pack in online bookselling because they clearly differentiated
themselves early on by being “Earths Biggest Bookstore.”
This clear USP was the reason for their rapid growth and early success.
While they have
changed their current USP to be a bit diluted and broad, Amazon.com’s
original USP was clear and focused.
– “Earths Biggest Bookstore.”
The “convenience” USP is based on centering your business
around your customers needs. By removing as many obstacles to ordering,
receiving or using your product or service as possible, you are placing
the customers convenience at the center of your business model.
A good example of
the “Convenience” USP is Schwan’s. This company has
been delivering frozen food items to customer’s homes for over
50 years. They have kept up with technological changes by adding the
convenience of online ordering and multiple payment options.
statement sums up their commitment to customer ease and convenience.
Schwan’s – “Shopping should be easy. Cooking
should be fun.”
Advice, Recognized Authority
This USP works well for professionals and other skill or service based
organizations. This USP says “I am the top in my field. You can
trust my knowledge and experience.”
You have probably
seen the wild infomercials for Mathew Lesko’s “Government
Grants and Giveaways” book. Mr. Lesko, through his wild and crazy
antics has positioned himself as a leading authority on taking advantage
of government waste and special interest programs.
His USP statement
makes his claim to be the leading expert in his specialty.
Matthew Lesko – “America's Leading Expert on Free
Giving your customers more options or custom building your products
to their individual specifications works well for a USP, when compared
to you “mass market” competitors.
One company that made a name for itself by using customization as it’s
USP is Ping Golf Clubs. Ping was the first company to custom fit golf
clubs to the swing of each individual player. This was a revolutionary
concept in the 1960’s. This unique approach to club building has
made Ping one of the most recognized and respected names in golf.
statement reflects their commitment to custom fitting their products
to their customers needs.
Ping – “The leaders in custom fit, custom built golf clubs.”
The speed at which your product or service is delivered can be a powerful
USP in today’s fast paced environment. Offering Overnight or 2nd
Day Air shipping as a standard service in a niche or market that is
used to standard ground shipping can give you a strong competitive advantage.
It was not too long ago that the standard for shipping in mail order
was 4 to 6 weeks. (Remember those days?)
revolutionized the industry when it began guaranteeing overnight delivery
The FedEx USP statement
explains exactly why to use their service.
FedEx – “When It Absolutely Has To Be There Overnight.”
First in Marketplace
Sometimes your product is so new and unique that the product itself
is the USP. Unfortunately in today’s competitive environment this
type of USP is short lived. Before too long a competitor will emerge
with a knock-off or copy of your product.
However, until then
promote the newness and uniqueness of your product as the USP. When
the competition heats up, then switch your USP focus to being the “original”
or “first”. Being the original or first mover in the market
is a USP that nobody can duplicate.
An online example
of this is OilOnline.com. Since they were established in 1995 dozens
of other sites have popped up targeting the oil industry, however OilOnline.com
has maintained it’s dominant position in this market by using
its claim to being the first site to target this niche.
USP statement emphasizes their “first mover” status in their
OilOnline.com – “The Original Online Source for
the Oil Industry.”
Most customers assume that a company will stand behind their product
or service, but a clear, strong guarantee turns the assumed into the
assured. But with the level of competition out there today, you need
to make your guarantee stand out from the crowd. This is an area that
you can differentiate yourself from your competition. Make your guarantee
so strong that when compared to your competitions, your customer would
be crazy to go elsewhere.
are a prime example of this USP. Craftsman claims that, “If any
Craftsman hand tool fails to provide complete satisfaction, return it
for free repair or replacement. Period. The first Craftsman hand tool
we sold back in 1927 is still under warranty today.” Now that’s
a strong guarantee.
Like all well thought
out USPs, the Craftsman USP statement leaves no doubt what their main
Craftsman Tools – “Hand tools so tough, they're
begin to write down and crystallize your ideas. Don’t worry about
length at first, just write down the key points of your USP concept.
Focus on the benefits to your customer of each concept. Develop a list
of 5 to 10 possible USPs.
Show this list to
your staff, friends, family and current customers. Get their input and
suggestions and use these suggestions and comments to narrow your USP
concept down to a single main differentiating concept.
Once you have settled on
the most unique and compelling feature of your product or business,
begin to distill it down to one paragraph that clearly communicates
and sums up why your customers should buy from you. This paragraph can
be used on your website or in your marketing materials where you have
more room to explain the unique benefits that you bring to your customers.
However, it is still too long to be used as a tag-line or slogan.
You still need to
distill your USP down to one or two focused sentences that clearly and
concisely communicate the benefits of your USP to your customers. This
statement should leave no question in your customers mind about what
you do and how you are different than your competition.
This USP statement
will become your tagline or slogan. This process will take some time
and your USP statement may require several revisions before you are
comfortable with the final draft.
integrate your USP statement into everything you do. Put it on every
page of your website, on your letterhead, in all of your advertising
and marketing. Communicate it to your employees, managers and staff.
Let it infuse into your corporate culture. Every time you talk to your
customers, employees or suppliers you should mention this USP. You cannot
just give lip service to your USP, you have to live it and breath it!
It must become a part of you.
Every product, business
or service has (or can have) a USP that makes it stand out from the
competition. It is up to you to discover or create this element of uniqueness.
Differentiate yourself, your business and your products from your competition
and watch the sales pour in!
About the Author
Eric Graham is the owner and CEO of several successful online and offline
businesses. Recognized as one of the top authorities on eCommerce and
Internet Marketing, Eric is a sought after speaker and consultant. He
is also the publisher of the Conversion Tips newsletter. Visit www.web-site-evaluations.com
to sign up for a free subscription.
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