By Stephen Munday
You know the story. Facebook ads are losing traction, Google cost per action (CPA) is going up, and, put simply, the world out there is just bored. Upshot? Your marketing spend is getting you less and less, and all you can think of is how you’re going to have to feed the beast more and more—running to stand still.
Does that sound familiar? There’s often a golden age for the early adopters, but as platforms mature, the returns drop and the battle for a piece of the pie becomes more of a grind. First it was banner ads, then Google AdWords; then it was Facebook, and now it’s TikTok. Who knows what’s next . . . but the cycle is the same.
With so much noise drowning out your message, how are you going to connect with your perfect prospects without cranking up your marketing spend to 11?
Come with me for a moment in your imagination. Let’s say you’re a lumberjack tasked with logging a forest. You reach for your saw (old school—not chainsaw) and see that it’s rusty and blunt.
Think about it—you have two choices. You could pick up the saw and go right to work, or you could spend some time on the blade, honing it and sharpening it until it looks bright and new. The first approach chooses brute force and sheer effort for quicker initial returns; the second sacrifices the speed out of the gate, but takes less effort overall.
Trying to solve your traction issues with more ad spend is like the brute-force approach of sheer effort and sweat to overcome the blunt saw. But then you realize there’s a better way—take time to sharpen the blade, and you’ll achieve the same goals with less effort and money spent. You can do this by writing your unique selling proposition.
A great USP will cut through any online noise
When it comes to cutting through the online noise to reach your ideal prospects, it’s your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that forms the leading edge of that thrust. If your USP is blunt and bland, you won’t get very far without a lot more oomph (money) behind it.
Sadly, most USPs are blunt” for two reasons. First of all, it’s just so hard to figure out something like this on your own. Even if you’re just starting out in business, you’re much more likely to be worrying about where and how to find new clients, and scrambling to create foundational things like your business website, instead of crafting your USP. It’s really hard to rise above this day-to-day grind and get a good view of your business as a whole.
Or perhaps you can see yourself in this second reason: When you launched your business, speed was of the essence. You needed traction fast before your cash reserves ran out, so you threw together a good-enough-for-now unique selling proposition—but then you haven’t revisited it since.
Now, unless you’re a huge corporation with monopoly power in a protected niche (like a utility company), or you have such amazing economics that you can dominate the market on price alone (Walmart, for example), then you need to revisit that USP, get your whetstone out, and start sharpening so you can clearly stand out and win the increasingly cutthroat battle for business.
How to write a unique selling proposition
To write a unique selling proposition, let’s start with the three Ws:
- What you do Well
- What the market Wants
- Where the competition is Weak
And where those three Ws intersect, that’s the sweet spot target for your USP.
For example, let’s say you run a tutoring business. Your market is the parents who want their kids’ academic performance turned around. Now, let’s imagine your service allows kids to video chat with a live Ivy League-educated teacher at any time, 24/7, for 15-minute micro-tutoring sessions. Looking around at the competition, you realize that where they are weak is that they are only available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (not 24/7), and their tutors don’t have the impressive all-Ivy League background that yours do.
Blend this together, et voilà, you have a USP: “We’re the only online tutoring solution where your kids have instant one-to-one video chat access to Ivy League subject experts 24/7.”
Here’s something else you can learn from the tutoring example: you don’t need to be totally unique in just one area—you can blend a number of different factors that become unique when taken together.
Let me show you what I mean. The tutoring USP was created from a number of different building blocks, none of which are particularly unique on their own. There are other online tutoring services. There are other tutoring services with instant video chat access. There are others that run 24/7 and, I’m sure, there are even some that have only Ivy League grad tutors. But it’s when these factors are combined together in one, single whole that the USP becomes truly unique.
You need to take this to heart, because this is where a lot of business owners fall down. They can’t grab onto any single factor that sets them apart from the rest, so they throw up their hands and give up. Don’t let this be you! There are all sorts of ways you can find a combination of factors that make your service or product stand out.
So this brings us to the question of where to go looking for these building blocks you need to construct a powerful USP. Staring at a cursor flashing on a blank screen won’t inspire you, so here are eight areas to explore that will help you in this work.
Building blocks to a powerful unique selling proposition
1. Think about your story
How did you start your company? Was there a making-of tale behind how you created your product? Put this in your USP!
2. Who are your clients?
If your product or service is for a particular narrow range of individuals or businesses, then this could be something to throw in that USP mix. What about a dentist that specializes in adult teeth straightening? Or a solar panel installer that only works with schools?
3. Do you use proprietary or special processes?
Let’s imagine you brew beer, for example, and you use a particular technique your business created that no one else uses. Write that into your unique selling proposition.
4. What about people?
Perhaps your staff are a particular kind of person. This doesn’t have to be some inherent commonality, but it could be that they all share a particular level of experience or qualification. For example, what about the law firm specializing in financial malfeasance that states all its attorneys are also licensed CPAs?
5. Does your product or service do something that others do not?
Now let’s look at function. Let’s say you have developed an agricultural robot that uses AI to automatically destroy weeds without using any chemicals. That’s a special function that cannot be matched by the competition.
6. What makes you differ from the competition?
Perhaps there are some special assurances you offer that other companies don’t. For example, if your competition has a 30-day money-back guarantee, but yours is for 60 days, this is a great point of difference.
7. How do you go against your industry flow?
Try completing this sentence:
“Unlike every other ______ you’ve dealt with, you’ll be happy to discover that we never/always ______.” If you can deliver, being a contrarian is a unique selling proposition that really stands out. Remember, the wisdom prior to the iPhone was that phones had to have physical keyboards. Now none do. Apple was contrarian and wiped out Blackberry.
8. Are there any strong traits people associate with your company?
A strong trait could be luxury (Rolls-Royce), rapidity (McDonald’s), or trustworthiness (The New York Times). You don’t need to have a strong personality, like Richard Branson or Steve Jobs, at the helm. Just imagine your business as a person, and then think about how someone would describe it.
It’s time to sit down and write your USP
I’ve listed eight different areas where you can go hunting for ideas, but don’t expect to find treasure everywhere you look. Some areas will be stronger than others, and that’s okay. You’re not writing a Ph.D. dissertation, you’re creating a USP.
Actually, in an ideal world, you want to boil down your USP to a punchy sentence that fits in a tweet. Take a few hours, get away from the day-to-day grind of your business and go through each of items. You’ll find this work has an enormous payoff.
Once you’ve come up with a great unique selling proposition, don’t just frame it and put it on the wall (although you can if you want to!). Put it to work. Use it to rebuild your ads. Rework the copy on your website. Rewrite your LinkedIn profile. Use it on your next sales call when the prospect asks why they should choose you (and how you can justify your higher fees!).
Suddenly, you’ll find you’re converting more and closing more, all without shoveling more money into the advertising furnace.
A strong USP will bring new clarity to your business
Be different. Most business owners don’t do this work . . . and they pay for it by chasing poor-fit clients who don’t pay well.
Don’t let this be you. Put in the work now and have a new clarity to your business that brings focus, more clients, and more revenue for years to come.
About the Author
Post by: Stephen Munday
Stephen Munday of Kaboom Marketing helps business owners and entrepreneurs get more clients by honing their USPs and weaving those USPs into copy that converts. He is the author of
The USP Manifesto and the creator of The Ultimate USP Discovery consulting program which uses his proprietary framework to create razor-sharp USPs. Download his book, The USP Manifesto, and take the free USP diagnostic rapid test today at the Kaboom Marketing website.