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The Unique Selling Proposition

The unique selling proposition (USP) or unique selling point is a marketing concept first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. The USP states that such campaigns made unique propositions to customers which convinced them to switch brands. – Wikipedia

I know you’ve heard this a million times from gurus and business experts since the dawn of time, but it still amazes me how many businesses have a “me too” mentality to their marketing.

Back when I first set out to work for myself, like many others, I was in a crazy rush to get the word out about my services.

I had no immediate interest in trying to stand out from the crowd. I knew my services were in demand due to the heavy competition and previous jobs I had held as an employee.

In my head, it should have been easy to just show up in the crowd and offer the same as the others at a discount because I was new.

I really had no idea about the difficulty I would face breaking into a market as a “me too business” and I learned the hard way.

After months of frustration and annoyance I ended up going to a networking event which changed everything. After the initial speaker on stage had finished we were encouraged to network with each other and see who we could “connect” with.

I kept my mouth shut while listening to others pitch their services to a group of five or six people. It dawned on me that I had about 20 competitors in the room and they were all saying exactly the same thing – time and time again, to everyone.

Someone eventually screwed up my plan to remain silent and asked what I did. With a forehead covered in nervous sweat and a few droplets rolling down my back, I finally managed to open my mouth.

“I’ll help you attract and convert more ideal customers who will spend more money and buy more often, even if you think you’ve tried every trick in the book.”

I was waiting for the “so what“ look which my competitors had been receiving all night, but that one sentence had people leaning in to hear more.

That one sentence opened up a dialogue with three people all at the same time asking me:

  1. “How you do that?”
  2. “How much do you charge?”
  3. “When’s the best time to call you next week?”

That one sentence took me from considering going back to being an employee to hiring contractors to help me complete a new flurry of jobs on time.

It’s not difficult to be unique and intriguing to your ideal customers when everyone else is the same.

This book doesn’t begin with a certain media or strategy but in creating the best possible message for your customers to understand, without question, what it is you do better than your “me too” competitors. I’m going to share with you some easy ways to come up with a unique USP.

When you’re on the hunt for new customers and frantically placing your business in front of them, there is one question running through their heads which needs to be answered quickly.

“Why should I choose your business over all your competitors?”

This section can help you craft an answer to that.

USP Exercise

If you’ve spent many a sleepless night crafting and tweaking your USP then you may be able to skim or even skip this section.

This strategy was taught by a mentor called Dan Kennedy, a feared and revered direct response marketer.

Now pull out your most recent Yellow Pages or Thomson Local, a pen and a piece of paper.

What you’re going to do is open up these directories to the most appropriate section which best fits your business.

Take a second to absorb the amount of competitors in your industry. Let’s find a way for your business to stand out, build intrigue and get the phone ringing.

Feature – Benefit – Promise Tally

From the first page of these directories make a list of Features, Benefits and Promises that you see in every ad until you feel you have all of them written down.

Now go back through these ads and put a tally mark next to each Feature, Benefit and Promise.

How many times do you see the “Me Too” features and benefits splattered across the pages?

How unique is your USP looking now?

If you’re not already aware, these directories are extremely expensive to place ads in compared to other strategies that we’ll come to later.

You’re directly competing with other businesses which are all fighting to attract the attention of your ideal customer.

What is it that’s unique about your business which the others are not stating? What can you say that is going to make you stand out from the crowd?

If you’re looking to dominate your marketplace, doing the same as everyone else is not the way to go about it.

To get into the right frame of mind to build or tweak your USP, go back through the directories and become acutely aware of the USPs of other industries.

Ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. Does this business have a USP?
  2. No? Can I create one for it?
  3. Yes? Can I improve it?
  4. Is there anything I can use for myself?


Simple Selling Tactic 1

I need to paraphrase this tactic as it’s a lengthy one.

Here’s something which has quickly helped a lot of my clients come up with a USP they can hit the market with in 24 hours or less.

From the mind of the great John Carlton (the most respected copywriter and most ripped of marketing expert ever)

The secret to sales is the ability to sell. If you have a great product that will actually better someone else’s life then you’re doing them a disservice by not selling it to them.

However sales do not happen because you have a great product. They happen because you sell a great product.

I want you to tell me what you are really selling in your business.

“I Sell ………………”

A lot of business owners will come up with things like “We sell stationery,” “I sell printers.” “We sell books on personal finance,”

As much as I hate to say it, they’re wrong.

As coined by the extraordinary Perry Marshall.

“Nobody who bought a drill, wanted a drill. They wanted a hole.”

People buy from your business for the end result. They buy from you because of what you product or service enables them to do.

Build a message which instantly alerts your ideal customer to the value you can bring to their lives.

Here’s a beautifully simple way to craft your USP / Sales Message.

”We help (specific type of people)… do or get (this end result)… (better, cheaper, faster, easier)… even if (worst case believable situation)

There you have it, the USP starter kit.

It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that and by becoming aware of all the “me too” USPs out there you’re already ahead of 80% of your market.

John Carlton calls this method the “lazy man’s way to find your Unique Selling Proposition.”

If you’re a ‘me too’ business or starting a new business, follow the simple exercises outlined in this chapter, test them out in your market and see how they perform.