How to Create Your Unique Selling Proposition (AKA USP)

By Hector Cisneros


We live in a very competitive world. The business environment has undergone a sea change that has ushered in worldwide communications, international sales, instant access to unlimited product research and global reviews of anything that is sold. So how are businesses going to compete in this environment? The way I see it, all businesses have only a few choices. From a regional perspective, they can either compete globally or locally.  They also have to compete by either try to sell a product or service as a commodity, or they can move to a less competitive niche environment.

One of the weapons that all successful companies use to win this war is a unique selling proposition or unique value proposition (aka USP). Creating and using a USP is one of the major elements that help you brand your company and build your reputation.  In this blog, I will explore how to create your company's unique selling proposition. This secret weapon will be used to defend your brand and win the hearts and minds of the consuming public.

The first question you may ask is, “Why do I need a unique selling proposition?” The answer is simple, but it can make the difference between floundering and struggling or experiencing meteoric success. Having a unique selling proposition makes you different, maybe even special. When you have a unique selling proposition you are by definition selling without competition. This usually puts you in a unique niche within your industry. Competing in a niche by nature is a less competitive arena. Businesses offering some specialized product or service with a unique focus don’t have to fight as hard to win sales. Even if your company introduces a brand new product or service, you still have an uphill educational battle with the public to show that you bring value to the trenches. When we started W Squared Media Group, we worked on this for almost a year. We surveyed customers, did research, and looked at every type of complaint and issues customers and prospects were having in our industry. After digging deeper, we developed our six unique selling propositions.
Courtesy of  pixabay.com

As an example, I will provide a few of our six USPs to illustrate what we discovered for our company and walk you through the thought process and explain what our final USPs represent.

The first one is simple, everyone wants to be on page one of Google organic search, but few companies actually deliver this result. As a matter of fact, this is an area of immense fraud. Our USP simply states “we will get you on organically on page one of one of the top three search engines, including; Google, Yahoo or Bing, or you don’t pay”. Most companies we have worked with have been promised (not in writing) a page one position. Yet the reality is none of them received what they thought they paid for. They either got pay per click or page one position for keywords where no one was searching. We decided to provide a “minimal risk - no pay guarantee” in writing. The agreement actually states that “if we don’t get you one page one organically for search within a specific period of time you stop paying for that work”. On top of that, “we have to continue to work on your behalf until the agreement ends or we deliver the goods”. Very few companies in the world will do this, because they can’t bring all the elements into play that Google, Yahoo and Bing, use to score a listings high, organically. So far we have always been able to deliver the goods.

Courtesy of  pixabay.com
The second USP example is our “Flex Plans”. We discovered that clients hated buying a marketing element, only to find that it wasn’t working as promised. Our second USP is a dynamic online marketing plan that provides the ability to swap out any element of a campaign that is not working, with a new element that will. Our Flex Plans are part of our page one guarantee. We realized that if we were going to guarantee an organic page one position we had to be able to do whatever it took to achieve that result. Needless to say these two elements work well together. The USP also takes the risk out of buying any one single element, because if an element doesn’t work, it gets replaced with one that does. Our USP – We provide Flex Plans that allow you to change elements in a campaign if that element is not working, free of charge.

The third example I want to discuss is how we answered the complaints we heard over and over again in our surveys. Clients hated the fact that after they signed on the dotted line to start a campaign, they would no longer be able to get in touch with the provider to get answers to questions or to resolve complaints. We saw this as a great opportunity. Our answer was simple: Give the client want they want. We instituted a weekly conference call for all flex plan clients. These calls are usually not long, but they provide a direct route that can deal with any campaign issues. They also have a great side effect of allowing us to take advantage of opportunities that are discovered during the campaign. Our USP – We provide short weekly conference call to keep communication flowing in both directions.


Check out this video testimonial about how our USP helped Actioncoach Steve.

Once you decide what your USP is, you need to test it by asking customers what they think (do a survey if necessary). Test by asking “Does it meets the criteria of uniqueness? Does it solve a problem? Does it take the risk out of the transaction? What's in it for the customer? And, can it be described in a sentence or two. USPs can usually be stated in very short phrases. Now I told you all of this to make a point. Solving customer and prospect problems are where you find the best ammunition to create the best unique selling propositions!

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I gave you a few examples of our USPs that we developed.  Now I want to cover what is not a USP. First of all, saying you provide the best or exceptional service means nothing. Saying your product is the best, was the first, etc.… means nothing. This is not a USP! It is definitely not unique! Everyone says their stuff is the best! Also, a USP is not a slogan, catch phrase, or tag line. Your slogan may contain elements of your USP, and it is possible to create a slogan that incorporates your unique selling proposition, but generally they are not the same thing. Being the cheapest is also usually not a USP, although Walmart could make a good argument that their branded message of “Low Prices Every Day” is their USP. Walmart can pull this off because most often they offer the lowest prices for a lot of products. If you’re going to use “We are the low price leader” as your USP, you had better be the low price leader nearly every time. Some companies do this by having a price match plus a 10 percent back guarantee. Providing a guarantee takes some if not all of the risk out of the transaction. However, if you’re going to use a guarantee as part of your USP, it had better deliver or you could have a lot of disgruntled customers, not to mention a lawsuit on your hands.

So let’s get into the process of creating your USP. We have developed a series of 25 questions that we believe help you develop your unique selling proposition. Answering these questions will move you quickly toward finding your USP. If by chance you find you don’t have a unique selling proposition, it will help you develop one. So let’s get started.

Top 25 Questions a Business Needs to Ask Itself to Create a Unique Selling Proposition.


1.     What is your emotional tie to your business and why are you doing this?
a.      _______________________________________________________
2.     Where does your passion for the product or service come from?
a.      _______________________________________________________
3.     How did you get into this business – what's your story?
a.      _______________________________________________________
4.     Why should anyone buy from your company?
a.      _______________________________________________________
5.     What does your “company do” to reduce the risk of buying from your company?
a.      _______________________________________________________
6.     How does your “product or service”, reduce or take the risk out of the buying equation?
a.      _______________________________________________________
7.     List the top 3 to 5 primary benefits of your products or services.
a.      _______________________________________________________
8.     Where is the location of your target market?  (Local, regional, national, international, governmental?)
a.      _______________________________________________________
9.     Where do customers shop for these products or services?
a.      _______________________________________________________
10. What is your target market (audience's) demographic? Age, Sex, marital status, household income, household size.
a.      _______________________________________________________
11. What is your target audience psychographics? - Religion, political affiliation, favorite books, music, sports team, hobbies, and leisure time pursuits.
a.      _______________________________________________________
12. What are your value added benefits? – What do you provide on top of the manufactures promise etc.? (Special skills, certifications or patents).
a.      _______________________________________________________
13. What is your brand promise? (How do you compete?) Are you the biggest, fastest, smallest, lightest, best quality, best value, the most colorful, guaranteed lowest price?
a.      _______________________________________________________
14. What is your product or service really good at?
a.      _______________________________________________________
15. What one thing is really unique to your business, product or service?
a.      _______________________________________________________
16. What are the emotional questions that customers are asking about your product or service? What do they hate, love or really want?
a.      _______________________________________________________
17. Why should someone buy from you personally?
a.      _______________________________________________________
18. What are you personally really good at?
a.      _______________________________________________________
19. What is your personal value proposition? What do you bring that is unique?
a.      _______________________________________________________
20. What are your qualifications to do this business?
a.      ­_______________________________________________________
21. What does your team bring to the equation?
a.      _______________________________________________________
22. Provide a success story about your product or service. (Testimonials can shine a light on your USP).
a.      _______________________________________________________
23. Is there anything special about your location or the way your business is laid out?
a.      _______________________________________________________
24. Do you have exclusive or special tools or equipment that is needed to get the job done right or the best way?
a.      _______________________________________________________
25. What one short sentence expresses the USP, your business brings to the customer?
a.      _______________________________________________________

After answering these 25 questions you should be getting close to at least one unique selling proposition for your company, product or service. I have also found that taking the time to create a series of presentations, also helps with creating your USP. I suggest that you create a 30, 60 and 120 second elevator pitch for your USP. I also suggest creating 5, 10, 15 and 30 minute presentations as well. All of these exercises not only help promote and sell your products or services, they help refine your USP.  When creating your presentations make sure you have gathered all of your brochures, flyers and company, product and or service documentation to help refine your wording. Make sure you use emotional stories that help paint a clear picture of the customer’s problems and where you provide the solution via your unique selling proposition.

Once you have created your USP, make sure you put it on all your marketing materials. This includes business cards, brochures, flyers, websites, social media pages, videos and more. The back of our business cards, lists our six unique selling propositions. What good is a USP if you don’t lead with it in all of your marketing efforts?

Having a unique selling proposition, is one of the most valuable business marketing weapons you can have for your business. It is the center piece that defines why people buy from you. It is the sword that you can use to cut the competition down to size. It is the foundation that you can build your brand on. Your USP in action is what allows you to garner powerful testimonials. Without a USP you’re just another business struggling to make ends meet. Get one and you’ve taken your first step to business success.

In this article I have discussed the importance of a unique selling proposition (aka USP) and provided a series of 25 questions that any company can use to develop their USP. These questions can provide a framework to discover your own unique selling proposition that will differentiate your company from the competition, provide greater results and move you towards greater success.

See how this client describes our competitors and the differences our USP's provide.

If you want to learn even more on this subject, tune in to our “Working the Web to Win” radio show on Blog Talk Radio. You may also be interested in our article called Seven Habits of Highly Successful Internet Marketers, Internet Marketing: Lessons Learned and Best Practices Part 1 – The Big Picture and The Evolution of Internet Advertising. You can also search this site for articles on marketing or advertising by typing in your keywords in the search box at the top left of this blog.  If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, family and co-workers.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success and co-author of Working the Web to Win.”

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