What is a USP (unique selling proposition) and do you need one?

Amanda Olson - Designer behind Anchor ‹A› Digital Design Co. and the Zag Blog

Hi, there!
I’m Amanda – a designer, WordPress guru, and dreamer.

Zag is the Anchor ‹A› blog dedicated to helping you reach your biggest business goals.

Let’s jump in and talk about what a unique selling proposition is and if you really need one.

There are a lot of different names for ‘unique selling proposition’, and I’m also really curious about which one resonates with you.

USP stands for unique selling proposition. 

Some people say, “What’s your secret sauce?”. 

Some people say, “UVP”, which stands for unique value proposition. 

I like ‘unique selling points’ because it feels more like common language to me. 

Another way to say this is, “What is your brand positioning?” 

Your ‘competitive edge’ is another option.

When I polled my Facebook group, they preferred both ‘unique selling points’ and ‘secret sauce’.

Basically what it comes down to is why you’re different, why your business is different, and why people should choose you over someone else who’s providing a similar product or service.

When you think about it, when people are searching for a product or service–maybe they’re actively doing research, maybe they’re not, maybe it’s just in the back of their mind–they want to know why they should choose you over another person or business or company that’s selling a similar product or service. 

They want to know what you offer that others don’t. So they want to make sure they’re getting that extra kind of benefit, or they’re looking for a company that they can connect with on a different level.

Maybe they’re looking at products or services, and everyone feels the same. They’re looking for that company that stands out, something just feels different to them. It connects with them. They’re like, “You’re interesting. I want to buy from you. I want to do business with you.”

I found this definition, which I thought was really good, “Your USP is the one thing that makes your business different from your competitors”. 

The one thing I don’t like about this definition is I feel that there is space for everyone, because I truly believe that every business is unique and different. And because of that, we actually don’t have competition in the traditional sense. 

When we have carved our own space in the market, you’re kind of on your own playing field. You’re not competing because you’ve set yourself apart in that way. 

That’s what a really strong USP can do for you. And is why it’s so beneficial to know yours, to have to find it, to be actively promoting it.

What a USP isn’t…

I thought this was a good approach to what a USP, a unique selling proposition, isn’t. It’s super helpful to talk about what it is, but I also think it’s helpful to talk about what it isn’t. I know you’ve heard all of these and people are using these, but there are much stronger ways to come up with your USP. 

So what it isn’t:

  • It’s not a discount, like 15% off
  • It’s not a bonus, like free shipping
  • It’s not great customer service
  • And it’s not a good return policy

And why this is, is because these are really easily copied. Anyone can use these, and that makes it not a strong USP. 

I often have clients say that great customer service is a USP. And I do want to challenge them, because everyone says they have good customer service, right? It’s so common. It doesn’t stand out. Every business says that they go above and beyond for their clients. 

So you need to take it a step further and think about what are other ways that you can really set your business apart. 

Here’s a good question to tell if you have a strong USP: can other people in your market easily copy what you’re saying is your unique selling proposition?

Do you need a unique selling proposition?

This brings me to the next thing, do you need a unique selling proposition? 

If you haven’t decided this yet, the answer is yes, absolutely. The only time that you don’t need a unique selling proposition is if you have a unicorn product or service that no-one in the world can replicate or copy in any way. And, of course, we know that that’s not possible. 

It’s not possible to have something so novel that it could never be recreated in a similar way, or something like that. So the answer is, yes.

I found this quote that I thought was really good. “Whatever makes you different, shout that to the rooftops, because that’s going to get you your biggest fans. You’re going to become a magnet for people just like you. They’re looking for you”. 

I thought that perfectly stated why it’s so important. When you share why you’re different and why you’re unique, you’re going to get the exact people that you’re looking for, and the people that are looking for you too.

I want to share a few examples of companies with some great unique selling propositions. 

There’s a company called Mrs Prindables that sells the most delicious caramel and chocolate covered candy apples. And I’ve never seen another company like them. They focus on this one product. They do all sorts of assorted flavors, they do for special occasions.

The next one is a company I really love and it’s called The Giving Keys. They create jewelry and they hire people transitioning out of homelessness to create their products, which is a really unique feature about their company. It’s not something that’s easily replicated. Yes, other companies could do this, but it’s not like they can just go out today and switch out their workforce, and suddenly people are going to see them in a different way. It doesn’t quite work like that.

The last one I wanted to share is Jeni’s Ice Cream. They allow you to choose your flavors. There are other companies that sell and ship ice cream, but the way that they do it feels really unique. 

When you do have an interesting, unique selling proposition, there probably will be people who try and copy it, or do something similar. But when you claim it as your own, it’s going to be really strong because you did it first, and then you can continue to use it. And of course you can continue to evolve your business and your messaging.