unique selling proposition

No, Really...

Marketing people talk all the time about the USP (Unique Selling Proposition). The premise is that if we could just point out something that is truly unique about our product or service, then customers will flock to us in droves, we would destroy the competition and rule the world! Sorry…got a bit carried away there, but the fact is that USP has been the holy grail for many a marketing guru. There is an interesting comment about USP on Wikipedia, “Today the term is used in other fields or just casually to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects.” I don’t know about you, but the comment seems to sum up the current view of the idea of ‘unique.’ It is just something that is different from another very similar thing. There is no sense that the differentiator needs to connect to a customer’s needs, wants or desires with any real significance. It just has to be something different.

The problem with that minimalist, or superficial, approach to differentiation is it leaves you with a, “No, really…” USP.

Your customer asks, “Well isn’t (fill in your product or service) just the same as (fill in your competitor’s product or service)?

You respond, “No, really…we are very different:

We have .0147 ghz more power than they have. We put the earphone jack on the bottom. We have more colors than they do.

Do you think that really matters to your customers? How do you know? Is it enough to move them away from your competitor? Is it enough to make them raving fans? Is it enough to start a buzz? Will it really make a difference?

Take a look at your brand promise – the place where your USP should live – and ask yourself, ‘does this really express what we do better than anyone else in our industry?’

That last phrase is so key to leveraging the power inherent in your uniqueness. What do you do better than anyone else? Does anybody know? And more importantly, does anybody care? Because, if the best you have to offer does not connect with your customer…you don’t have a future.

So next time you sit down to re-examine your USP, don’t settle for an incidental difference. Keep working and struggling and wrestling with it until you can express the essence of your uniqueness – what you do better than anyone else in your industry. Everything else is “no, really…”