- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
A USP or unique selling point/proposition is a business term originally came about in the 1940s and 50s. In a nutshell, it describes what separates a company from all of its major competitors by boiling down all of its advantages and unique aspects to a single selling point. USPs are typically rather broad and abstract instead of specific services or products, although they can be more specific depending on how crowded your industry is.
For example, many airlines feature USPs that separate them from one another. American may sell “friendly service”, while United might sell “affordability”. These USPs indicate that while the companies may sell the same raw products or services, they’re different from the competitors because of attitude, customer focus, or pricing models.
Finding a USP for your business can provide it with several actionable benefits:
- it allows you to focus on your true target audience
- it lets you tailor a marketing campaign and your production processes for more efficiency
- a USP can English yourself from the competition, making you more memorable to your customers
But utilizing your company’s USP can be tricky if you don’t know where to start. Here are the steps you should follow to determine your company’s USP.
HOW TO FIND YOUR COMPANY’S USP
Determine Your Target Audience/Customer
First and foremost, determine the target audience or customer for your company or service. For instance, if you have a shoe company, figure out the target audience for your shoes instead of just “everyone” (no business will sell the ideal product for everyone).
Maybe your company makes shoes that are incredibly affordable yet stylish. Such shoes would certainly be winners among the working class or budget-minded shoppers. Or maybe you sell luxury shoes with designs hot off the latest fashion trends. Those shoes are better for pickier but more well-off customers.
Once you figure out your target audience, you’ll be able to consider what value your brand brings to their needs and determine your USP as well.
CONSIDER YOUR COMPANY’S ADVANTAGES
After figuring out your target audience, do a detailed breakdown of your company and its offerings, and figure out what unique advantages it has compared to your direct competitors. These advantages are industry-specific, so be as detailed and specific as possible.
In the example of the shoe company, and advantage might be how efficient its manufacturing center(s) is. Or there might be an advantage in their customer service, where they get their raw materials, or in the design skills of its CEO.
The idea behind figuring out your unique advantages is that you leverage them to your greatest extent when focusing on your USP. So if the aforementioned shoe company had the best designer in the business, their USP might be something like “style that no one else can create”.
COMPARE YOUR COMPANY AGAINST INDUSTRY COMPETITORS AND TRENDS
Once you figure out the previous two aspects, now it’s time to compare your company directly against your main competitors and greater industry trends. This is very helpful when identifying where you could change your focus if you don’t have a unique advantage at this time or if your unique advantage isn’t very notable.
Let’s say you’re running a restaurant business and you’re looking at similar restaurants in the area that serve similar foods. When you compare your company against your direct competitors, you may find that your food gets generally higher ratings than others in the area, but your prices are a little higher than average.
You could potentially leverage this knowledge and refocus your restaurant as a place to get great food for customers who don’t mind a slightly higher price. The USP might be, “great tasting food, no matter what” in an area where well-made dishes are something of a rarity.
IDENTIFY A GAP
All of the above efforts are about identifying a gap industry coverage that you can exploit. Almost every industry has at least one or two gaps that aren’t being covered by businesses currently dominating. For instance, Walmart might have bargains down, but other general supermarkets and big chain stores still exist because they sell differently from the juggernaut.
Target, for example, sells “quality” in comparison to Walmart’s market-lock on price. When you identify a gap in your own industry, you’ll be able to use that gap as your own USP.
CONSIDER WHETHER YOUR USP IS MARKETABLE
Another big thing you should consider when determining your USP is whether it’s marketable or whether you can integrate it into existing marketing campaigns. Remember, one of the big benefits of identifying and leveraging a USP is that it can distinguish yourself against your competitors. If your USP isn’t very noticeable, it’s also much less valuable.
A USP like Walmart’s – being that they sell common household goods and groceries at bargain prices – is super valuable for their marketing efforts. They can emphasize what they do well instead of focusing on areas where they could become better.
You should aim to do the self with your marketing and USP. As an example, if you run a shoe company that provides footwear at bargain prices, you can leverage that USP in your marketing campaigns and make it clear to any potential customers that you sell the best bargain footwear in the entire area.
IF ALL STEPS ARE MET, PURSUE THAT USP
Once you go through all the above steps, hopefully you’ve:
- identified an appropriate USP based on your company’s unique advantages
- discovered that the USP fills in a gap in industry coverage
- determined whether the USP can be integrated into a marketing campaign
If all of the above is true, it’s time to go all-in on the USP and leverage it to the greatest extent you can. This will help your company seem like a cornerstone organization in your industry and make it incredibly hard for you to be dislodged by a competitor.
Ultimately, a USP can be a great abstract asset for a company to hold. Keep emphasizing it in your marketing and engagement content and you’ll see excellent returns.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell