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.
This is my first time here and I’m straight from your guest post on Adrienne’s blog. What a beautiful meeting place ;)
I’m moving gradually towards getting into freelance blogging. That’s why I picked interest in your post and the 10 points are helpful.
Thanks for sharing these to contribute to my growth
Enstine Muki recently posted…15 Top Bloggers Reveal How They Make Money Blogging!
Hello again Enstine
And thanks for checking out this post.
As you’re moving into freelance blogging I guess it’s worth mentioning that the same point about businesses needing a USP applies equally to your blog.
After all there are countless similar blogs to ours out there. And how are people to make a distinction?
If you look at adriennesmith.net, it’s got a very clear identify.
With my blog, I wanted to help people get the most out of their website. And I decided on the strapline ‘Make every word work for you’ because it worked well with both my blog and my salesy static pages.
Great post, Kevin – you may write not so frequently but your posts are always full packed with practical tips! :D
I loved all the tips, great write-up. You said something along the lines but as a marketer, i wanted to jump in and emphasize once more how important it is to be picky about your clients. Copywriter or not, you must know your interests and stand by your principles – if you don’t take on projects only because they have been offered to you, you do a favor to your USP and to your image altogether. Scarcity sells along with the USP.
Keep the great posts coming :D
Diana Marinova recently posted…Value Your Time – How Much Is Your Time Worth?
What you’ve added there, Diana, complements what I’ve said perfectly.
When we start out as freelances, we all have a tendency to accept virtually any work we’re offered.
But this gives out the wrong signal to better-paying clients who actually understand the freelance market.
It is hard to break old habits and start being more picky. But, as I’ve discovered too, it certainly is worthwhile.
Like Enstine, I arrived here via your awesome guest post on Adrienne Smith’s blog.
I started freelance writing/blogging a couple months ago (using my almost-10 years blogging experience as a stepping stone), but I must admit… I’ve done a poor job marketing myself.
These are some great tips for making yourself stand out. I need to bookmark it so I can come back to it later.
Awesome “meeting” you on Adrienne’s blog. Head on over to mine, if you get the chance. I’ll be returning in the future.
Have a good one…
Kevin Duncan recently posted…How to kill engagement and stop those pesky blog comments
Hello again Kevin D
Thanks for checking out this post.
I love your call to action to head on over to yours. It’s irresistible.
I also like your Be a Better Blogger theme.
And sure, I’ll be visiting your site soon. I’ve added you to my RSS subscriptions, so I won’t forget.
I thought I stop by your personal blog after reading your guest post on Adrienne Smith’s blog. I must say that you provided a lot of value on copywriting which is something I need to work on more.
One thing I notice I’m doing that you mentioned is that you want to differentiate your audience. This took me a while to figure out but now I see the benefits of it. You get more out of targeting a specific smaller group of people as oppose to a larger group! It does only take a small group of influencers to get the word out about you!
Thanks for sharing and I hope you have a great rest of the week!
Yep, Sherman, since the arrival of the Internet niche marketing has become more important than ever.
There was once a time when many niche products and services might have struggled to attract sufficient interest.
But now our products and services are now available to the entire globe.
So if you offer something very clear, desirable and specific, sure, not everyone will want it. But those that do want it want it badly.
Many thanks for chipping in.
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Thanks to Adrienne for directly me here from his blog after reading your guest post on her blog. It’s a nice moment meeting you! I’m not a freelance blogger yet but reading through this post, I really think it’s high time I think about becoming me one. What a nice point for a beginner!
Adesanmi Adedotun recently posted…How to Manage Online Reputation in Just Few Steps
Many thanks for checking out this blog after reading Adrienne’s post.
I notice you’re currently writing a lot about tech. That already makes you distinct from the average generic blogger.
So you’ve got a good starting point to make your future freelance blogging business stand out.
Great tips. I like how you provided examples so that it is easy for anyone to apply the strategies.
That said, it’s amazing how sometimes we need simple reminders about the strategies we’ve learnt before. I mean I’ve learnt most of the strategies you pointed out here but forgotten almost as many.
Thanks for the great post and refresher.
Great to see a direct response copywriter around here.
I’m sure that, like you, most good copywriters have come across all these strategies.
But what I set out to do in this post was to compile all of them into one single place.
From what you’re saying, it sounds like it was a good idea.
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I stopped over at Adrienne’s blog and saw your contribution. That was a great read, so not visiting your blog will be incomplete because I want to learn from and know you more.
I’m new in blogging, and as a result, I find it interesting and also challenging to meet new friends and learn from them.
I’m of the opinion that my new blog ( which focusses on medical related issues) will help increase my influence and reach to potential clients.
Please, what’s your twitter handle, I would love to be a follower.
Thanks for following up on my guest post at Adrienne’s blog. I also hope you found the tips in this post (and others) useful.
I did take a look at your own blog, but I can’t say I know much about medical related issues. Mine has been going for nearly 2 years now. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn in that time.
My Twitter handle is @Write_Online. But you also can go straight to my feed just by clicking on the Twitter symbol in any of the social icon sets on my blog.
Really great and thorough article. I love the different things that you highlighted about finding a USP, especially the “target a niche” tip. That is so important when developing a USP. You have to uber specific and know exactly who you want to attract before you begin creating and marketing. Thanks for creating this awesome resource. :)
Hi there Ti
Yes, targeting a niche is real winner.
To some extent, I’ve done that myself. Instead of being a general copywriter, I decided specifically to become an SEO copywriter.
Sure worked for me. Not only that, people still also ask me to do general copywriting (for print) anyway.
Great write and thanks for sharing. For me, I can’t agree more with the keyword and research thingy. I know it takes time and some time, but I just get lazy with it.
The effect of it? Writing content that no one is reading.
Therefore, I can’t agree more with your first point. The rest are great too!
Thanks for sharing this and definitely back for more.
*PS Shared this around too. You deserve it!
Reginald, I’m sure you put loads more research into your writing than you care to admit.
And you’re dead right – keywords are another important aspect to your research too. Maybe I should amend my post and make more of a point out of that.
You offer quite an impressive laundry list, not just of proven copy writing tips specifically, but proven marketing strategies in general as well!
I’ll definitely need to read it through a few more times to really grasp the full impact!
All ten of your proven tips were spot on, but I especially liked #’s 3,4 , 7 & 9.
And it’s was extremely helpful that yo provided very useful examples as well! Thanks!
But each and every one can and should be applied to any type of business owner and or service provider. Large or small. Great job!
I had the feeling you’d quite like this post, as you are an online marketer yourself. So thanks for dropping by again and reading this.
And, yes, these are as much general marketing strategies as anything else. But as I’m fundamentally a copywriter, I think you can guess why I took this particular angle.
Hi Kevin, loved your post…found you via Carol Tice’s blog Making a Living Writing…practical help for hungry writers.
My specialty niche is real estate and my clients have a hard time coming up with their USP especially when I tell them that they cannot use “I go the extra mile”, “I put my clients first!”, “I have a passion for Real Estate”, “I’m the neighborhood expert”, statements that every real estate agent seems to use – how unique is that?
I recently worked with a mother/daughter real estate team and after some discussion on this topic – they said they’d get back to me and they did – after a long weekend retreat just the two of them to figure out exactly what their USP was…they did a great job and I was impressed with what they discovered about themselves and they were impressed with how I had helped them solve a problem they didn’t even know they had. Thanks for your post.
I hate that old cliché I have a passion for … or We’re passionate about …
You see it everywhere here in the UK: We have a passion for paint stripper, We’re passionate about bollards, Dog worming tablets are our passion. Not only are they NOT unique selling points, but they’re also ridiculously unbelievable statements.
A lot of digital marketing agencies do it. And you’d think they’d know better.
Hi Kevin; what a well written post. I followed you here from your comment on my guest post at adrienne smith’s site.
I thought it was great that you covered all the ways to promote your existing offers and if there isn’t a way to differentiate yourself then they will advise you to change your offerings.
For my first site the Midway Marketplace where I help people sell amusement equipment it is using social media at a level beyond my competitors. It also means not only allowing images and videos but encouraging people to submit multiple quality full sized media files so that their equipment shows up to its best ability. I also offer blog posts and podcasts.
And I’ll put my mailing list up against anyone because its not just carnivals and amusement parks and it is truly an international list. On the new site where I am offering coaching and public speaking I’m still finding my voice. but one thing is I share more openly than most people on the web. And I think my lack of vision helps me see things in a way I wouldn’t otherwise. not sure how to communicate that.
My primary message is about using positive attitude and taking consistent small actions to achieve a big goal with me along to encourage motivate advise and hold them accountable. Would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks for sharing this, Max
maxwell ivey recently posted…My first ebook Leading You Out of the Darkness Into the Light is finally published
I think you could be onto something with your coaching and public speaking service Maxwell.
It’s not every day you encounter people doing this who are blind. So it could be very inspirational to people.
And because you’re actually running another business, not just the coaching/public speaking thing, people will be more inclined to take notice.
Anyone with an eye for an opportunity will always look to turn a disadvantage into an advantage. So the fact that you’re blind could be a real unique selling point in this particular niche.
Awesome post, Kevin – you may compose not all that often. However your posts are constantly full stuffed with handy tips! :D
I cherished all the tips, incredible review.
You’re right, I don’t post that often do I? But I still enjoy writing them when I get the chance – as I learn something new each time.
And clearly other people do too.
Hey Kevin really impressed with the writing and tips that you gave…it’s really helpful to newbies like me thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the feedback. This post has been around for 18 months now. So it’s good to know people are still finding it useful.
It’s my first visit on your site but it seems like there is a lot of nice stuff on your blog. I appreciate your efforts. I’m very curious to learn more from you. Thanks