You know what it is. And you know every business should have one.
Yet, despite everything everyone tells you, you still struggle to find your own unique selling proposition (USP).
You find it hard enough to find any difference between yourself and the competition – let alone a winning one.
Because there are only so many ways a business can be different.
So you accept you’ll never find that all-elusive killer USP.
After all, you don’t offer anything customers can’t get elsewhere. And you really don’t have any other way to stand apart from the crowd.
But what else can you do?
Well, quite a lot actually. All you need to do is follow the same simple strategies copywriters use to differentiate their own clients from the competition.
1. They Do Their Homework
A copywriter doesn’t just pluck copy from thin air. They always do their homework first.
So they research as much background information as possible. For example:
- Marketing material: Previous direct mail campaigns, press releases, product reviews, website copy or anything else they can lay their hands on.
- Technical information: Such as user guides, installation manuals, technical specifications, patents, market research data and official test figures.
- Competitors: From company websites, blogs and PPC ads to sales brochures and newspaper ads.
The better you know yourself and the better you know the competition, the easier it will be to find your own unique place in the market.
So make sure you do your research before anything else.
2. They Ask the Right Questions
You can always tell a great copywriter by the questions they ask. And they usually ask a lot of them.
It’s the only way to fully understand what your business is about. And what makes it different.
Here are some typical questions they might ask you:
What are your key product features? Which of those compare favourably against the competition?
What are the biggest problems your customers face? And what do your products and services do to solve them?
Do you offer any extras as standard? For example, a complimentary WordPress training DVD or free website SEO audit.
Are you a member of any trade organisation? Or do you belong to any local trader register or Buy with Confidence scheme?
Ask yourself a few basic questions like these to help you find your own USP. They may reveal something about your business you hadn’t initially considered.
3. They Play on Your Strengths
Once you’ve done your groundwork, you can then set about finding on your own individual angle.
The most obvious place to start is your strengths:
- Are you faster or more reliable?
- Do you offer any special services or features?
- Do you deliver a better brand experience?
But don’t forget:
You need to back up any claims you make in your copy. Otherwise they’ll simply have no credibility.
That doesn’t mean to say you need extensive proof or statistics. You can simply give a reason why your product or service is better. And that’s all you usually need.
4. They Exploit Competitor Weaknesses
In 1991, the Journal of Economics published the results of a groundbreaking study by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky about loss aversion.
The article suggested fear of losses plays a far more powerful role in people’s choices than the prospect of gains. Or, as Kahneman put it, Losses loom larger than gains.
So why not use this fear to exploit your competitors’ weaknesses? And highlight the pitfalls of buying their products and services.
For if customers do so they could end up making a terrible mistake. And so the only safe option is to buy your own.
5. They State the Obvious
One day, around 10 years ago, I was shopping online for a wireless router. At that time my partner had a PC and I had a Mac. So I needed to be sure the device would work with both a Mac and a Windows machine.
But there was a problem.
I checked out all the brands. Yet not a single manufacturer stated their product was compatible with both systems. Apart from one.
So naturally I bought it.
It was only later I discovered every router works with both a Mac and PC.
But not every customer knows this. And, at the time, neither did I. The brand that won my business did so because they stated the obvious. It was a winning USP.
Likewise, both you and your competitors could be offering something that’s obvious to you but not to your customers.
But if you’re the only one who actually bothers to say so, it could make a telling difference.
You can often create a USP by combining two common selling points one much scarcer one.
For example, imagine you’re a small local franchise retailer. And that most of your competitors are small local businesses too. So, in that respect, you’re all pretty much the same.
However, because you’re also a franchise owner, your business is part of a much larger chain. And there’s nothing much different about that either.
But combine the two and what have you got?
The best of both worlds.
You offer the individual service and attention you get from a small independent retailer. But, at the same time, you also offer outstanding value for money – just as you’d expect from a large retail chain.
6. They Target a Niche
Many businesses are scared of targeting a niche. They think it limits their options.
But more often than not it does exactly the opposite.
In a post last year, I explained how copywriters highlight the areas they specialise in to set themselves apart.
This positions them as the obvious choice in their specialist field. By contrast, a generalist is never the obvious choice for any type of writing at all.
But copywriters don’t just do this to differentiate themselves. They also do it to differentiate their clients. And so can you.
The following examples give you a general idea:
- Social media training for senior managers
- Healthcare copywriting services
- Gluten-free ready meals for working mums
- Dental PR consultants
- IT services for schools
And don’t forget that specialists are harder to come by. So they usually charge more.
Keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner can help you find your own niche market by giving you valuable insight into competition and demand for your target products and services.
7. They Make Promises or Guarantees
100% customer satisfaction guarantee. 7-day free trial. Double the difference price promise. Nearly every product seems to offer some kind of promise or guarantee these days.
And they work because people don’t like taking risks with their money.
So if you can come up with a compelling promise or genuinely different guarantee then you could be onto a winning USP.
You could even do what the big brands do and build your marketing slogan around it:
M&Ms: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”
Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less – or it’s free”
Ronseal: “It does exactly what it says on the tin”
But remember: If you’re a copywriter, PR consultant or any other marketing professional the one thing you can never guarantee is results. So only make promises on the things you can actually control.
8. They Create a Persona
If you are your authentic self you have no competition.
But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what marketing author, speaker and social media authority Scott Stratten has to say about it:
Now if you’ve built your business around your blog you’ll recognise this common differentiation technique. And you know it makes good sense.
But a personal brand isn’t right for everybody. Especially for anyone who has plans to sell their business on.
Because no-one will buy a business that relies so heavily on one single person.
9. They Highlight Your Credentials
Sometimes a copywriter barely has to do anything. They just let the facts speak for themselves.
Awards, accreditations, official statistics, survey results, reviews and ratings all demonstrate your credentials and help break down buyer resistance.
So if Brand Republic voted you the best internet marketing blogger in its small business category then say so.
Or if you’re the only ALA-registered vehicle locksmith in Stoke-on-Trent then consider using it as your USP.
Here are three famous advertising slogans that work on the same principle:
Whiskas (cat food): 8 out of 10 owners say their cats prefer it
Fairy Liquid (washing up detergent): Lasts 2x longer than the next best-selling brand
Cadbury Dairy Milk (chocolate): A glass and a half of full cream milk in every half pound
10. They Tell You to Adapt Your Proposition
So what happens when a copywriter has explored all the options? Yet they still can’t pinpoint a clear unique selling proposition.
Well, there’s only one thing for it. And that is to actually introduce a USP into your business.
So a good copywriter will suggest ways you can adapt your proposition to make it different.
For example, this could be:
- Better repayment terms
- A better guarantee
- Extra customisation or flexibility
- A whole new way of doing things
Now the choice is yours. You don’t have to have a fancy strapline or advertising slogan. You just need to give customers a good reason to choose you over someone else.
As these days a USP is more important than ever. Because it’s so easy to check out your competitors online.
But whatever unique selling proposition you happen to use, one thing is more important than anything else. And that is that you always deliver just what you say you do.
Have Your Say
What is your unique selling proposition? Do you have any suggestions to add to our list? Please tell us in the comment section below.
Stuff You Can Tweet:
- Good copywriters don’t pluck copy from thin air. They always do their homework first [Tweet this]
- You can always tell a great copywriter by the quality of the questions they ask [Tweet this]
- A USP is now more important than ever, as it’s so easy to check out your competitors online [Tweet this]
- You can often create a USP by combining two common selling points into one much scarcer one [Tweet this]
In our next post: Discover the marketing methods six successful UK copywriters use to attract a better-paying clients.
About the Author
Kevin Carlton is an IT copywriter and blogger based in Staffordshire in the UK. He is owner of freelance copywriting service Write Online, which helps technology companies get the most out of their online presence.