With so many brands online, it’s no surprise that customers are overwhelmed with options. So, how do you differentiate yourself? Knowing the best way to position your business and your products/services can be the difference between blending in and making a sale. This is why it’s crucial to create a unique selling proposition (USP) – the specific benefit that makes your business stand out from the rest – that will guide your branding and marketing choices.
But… What if the ‘unique’ part of your USP is suddenly no longer unique, with a new competitor on the scene? Or, what if your selling point becomes outdated amongst your target audience? Is a competitor’s USP proving more persuasive, and encouraging business away from you? What if a new target audience arises, which you hadn’t previously considered, which your current USP doesn’t appeal to? Or has your business offering drifted from what your USP was based on? There are many factors that could mean that it’s time to consider redefining your USP.
So, first things first…
What makes a USP?
A strong USP will make you stand out, help you with targeting customers, and, ultimately, beat your competitors in business. You need to decide what is unique, different or special about your business that will encourage customers to buy from you.
A USP has five basic components:
- Benefits (what draws people in)
- Emotive (attract customers on an emotional level)
- Key selling points (what makes your offering better than others)
- Key difference (what makes your business stand out against competitors)
- Competitive advantage (your track record and/or experience).
It’s not just your product or service that can be unique or special. For example, ask yourself:
- What do you offer that your competitors don’t?
- What can you guarantee that your competitors aren’t able to?
- What are the benefits of your product/service?
For example, your USP could be:
- a smaller version of the product
- additional functions and/or features
- a standard product in a range of colours or design
- a specific after-sales service
- a pricing structure.
Are USPs still relevant?
There are a lot of discussions online as to the purpose of USPs, and that in the digital age, it’s almost impossible to offer something completely unique. The internet provides customers with easy access to the world’s businesses, making it possible to view and compare various offerings. And let’s not forget about the power of customer reviews!
However, others are of the opinion that due to the amount of choice online, USPs help customers quickly see what makes your business special, and why it’s better than the competition. It’s also important to note here that what you sell doesn’t have to be completely unique, but more the angle and message you choose to focus on in your USP. It’s all about having a tight focus. No business does everything better than their competition, just like no one can be all things to all people.
So with this in mind, how can you redefine your USP and rediscover your competitive edge, if things are feeling a bit stale?
- Start by listing all the potential differentiators of your brand and what you’re selling. Be as specific as you can.
- Research your competitors – What are their USPs? Look for gaps where you can introduce your brand differently. Products don’t have to be completely unique to have a strong Don’t let the ‘unique’ part daunt you. Instead, look for a spot in your market that’s more or less untouched by your competition. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors (and any new competitors that have arrived on the scene since you conducted your initial competitor analysis). Look at where you can fill the gap or improve the service you offer. It’s time to get creative to dominate a corner of your niche.
- Are you clear on what your target customers value? For you to successfully target them, they need to care about your USP. Circulate a quick poll amongst current and past customers to understand what they feel are the benefits to your business, or what needs they feel aren’t being met. Are there new pain points that you can solve?
- Tap into your market data. Take a look at recent data findings in your Are any new trends emerging? Is consumer buying behaviour shifting? E.g. is the cost of living crisis impacting how your target audience spends money? Make sure your USP remains relevant.
- Test out your USP. Once you have some angles in mind, Set up a focus group, send out surveys, ask for feedback – there’s a range of customer research techniques you can use to gain insights from your customers. Select the USP that receives the most positive feedback and let it lead your branding and marketing activity.
- Think about how you can apply your new USP across your business. For example, your brand name, your About Us page, even your return policy! Weave it into your business. So that you (and your current/future team) are 100% clear, express it in a USP statement.
- For example: ‘[My brand] offers [product/service] for [target market] to [value proposition], unlike [the competition], we [key differentiator].’ This will help your business really clarify its new USP.
- Quickly answer your target customer’s immediate question. Customers ultimately want you to tell them what makes your offering better than your competitors, and why they should purchase from They won’t necessarily have the time to compare all the available options, so make it easy for them. A compelling USP should play to your strengths, be based on what makes your offering valuable. Be assertive, defensible and specific.
- Support your USP with positive storytelling. Again, what you sell doesn’t have to be unique, but the message you choose to focus on needs to be. If you establish a different angle, then your USP does the heavy lifting.
- Make a point of reviewing the effectiveness of your marketing communications to ensure it’s hitting the mark. For example, keep an eye on your Google Analytics to see how effective your marketing channels are in driving traffic to your website and completing ‘goals’ e.g. making a purchase, sending an enquiry,
- And don’t forget, see your USP through! Don’t oversell but be confident in what theme you’re choosing to champion your brand.
- In summary – find the value, find an angle, settle on your new USP, test and refine!
A smart USP in action
Stripe, an online payment processing provider, allows businesses to accept payments from their customers. Even though it operates in the same market as PayPal, its targeting of developers in its USP makes it stand out: “Payments infrastructure for the internet”. Stripe knows its target audience, and its USP reflects this. The business is able to attract suitable customers while filtering out less suitable ones.
A worthwhile exercise
Even if you feel your USP is still valid and effective, and that redefining it is an unnecessary exercise, there’s a lot of value to be had from checking back in with your audience’s values, behaviours and tastes to see if any have shifted since you last conducted research. Updating yourself on the latest market data to spot any emerging trends, taking notes on recent competitor activity and assessing new competitors on the scene could prove instrumental in ensuring your business remains current and competitive. This should be a regular exercise to nip any potential issues in the bud.
If you find during your research that you’ve drifted from your USP, this is by no means the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to better optimise your brand positioning and marketing strategy for more effective results. And as we’ve learnt in recent years more than ever, agility is everything.