When it comes to running a business there are a million and one things you need to get right. Yet, even when you have all the major pieces in place like your website, accounting, customer service, and content marketing, you may find that you aren’t getting the right amount of clients or the right type of clients for your business. It can be frustrating to work so hard and then come up empty handed at the end of the day – not knowing where to focus your efforts or what changes you need to implement to start seeing better results.
Chances are if you’ve never spent a good deal of time thinking about your unique selling proposition, then you may find that spending some time thinking through the core concepts of what sets your business apart, as well as the reasons that your customers would choose you specifically, will pay off in the end.
What is a unique selling proposition?
So, first of all what is a unique selling proposition? Some people call it a USP, and some call it a value proposition. It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you have one that works for your business. In a nutshell, a unique selling proposition, or USP, is a statement about what sets you apart as a unique business. Or, in other words, why someone would choose your brand instead of someone else’s.
USPs are arguably more important than your tagline, more important than your bio, and possibly even more important than your product or service descriptions. Your USP is that memorable benefit that you provide. Your USP should make your prospects understand the value in working with you in a matter of seconds.
How does a unique selling proposition differ from a tagline?
A lot of people get unique selling propositions confused with the concept of taglines, and it’s easy to understand why. They are both short statements tied to your business and communicated to your customers in a way that should be memorable. But, that is where the similarities end. While a tagline can sometimes be similar to a USP, it’s usually the case that the USP will have a little more defining info and less flowery language. Here are the main differences between a tagline and a unique selling proposition:
- A tagline is meant to be just a few words. It will stick in your prospect’s mind and can be more clever in language than a unique selling proposition.
- A USP is supposed to be more benefit driven – what is the outcome that your clients or customers can expect from working with you? It will be descriptive and instead of playing off word choice or trying to be cute or clever, it will cut right to the heart of what it is that sets your business apart.
How to create your USP
So, now that you know you need a USP, how do you create one?
The first way to start narrowing down your USP is to make a list of all the things you do that are unique in your industry. This is brainstorming time, so don’t censor yourself – just make that list. If you’re in what you fear might be a heavily saturated industry, think about some small things you do that help you stand out. Look through your process of getting customers, engaging customers, and the post customer relationship. Is there anything you do that is unique for your industry or worth being highlighted?
How to narrow down your unique selling points
One of the best ways to narrow down what sets you apart in your industry is to ask yourself this question: What problem do I solve for my clients? For some businesses, this will be an obvious answer such as anything in the health and wellness fields. If, however, you’re involved in a business that seems to be less about a big issue, there are still ways you can help your clients.
For example, let’s say you created a game app. While your game might not solve a health concern or help them run their business, what does it do? Does playing your game increase brain power? Is it good for laughs? Can you connect with friends all over the world? Whatever the benefits are, just write them all down.
If you work in a standard service based industry like accounting, real estate, or web design, is there some piece of your process that your client would find unique? A quick note: You don’t have to be the only one doing whatever your special something is. You just need to put it out there as part of your process. What are you doing that either your competitors aren’t doing or aren’t talking about?
Ask your customers what sets you apart
If you are still struggling to figure out what sets you apart you might try asking your existing clients or customers for some feedback. If you’re new in business, you might not be able to do this just yet, but if you’ve had your business for a while and have even just a handful of happy customers, this can be a great way to figure out what you do best.
Sometimes when we’re too close to something it’s hard to pick out specific details. For example, in my own business as a writer I asked my customers what they appreciated most about what I do. While I had an idea about what made me stand out, several of them pointed out that I was great at helping them create and implement a brand voice that worked for their business. After hearing this feedback from several clients it became clear that this was part of my USP.
Finding out what clients think of you isn’t difficult at all, just reach out and ask them what it was that they enjoyed most about working with you. If you’ve already created your own list of ideas, you may find that it corresponds to what you were already thinking, or you may end up finding a few surprising things that you didn’t even realize mattered to your customers.
For example, if you are a virtual assistant you may find out after reaching out to a few clients you find that they really appreciate that you have monthly video calls with them. You might have thought it was just a normal part of running your business, but perhaps your clients see it as a big benefit because they get the best of both worlds – an assistant who is virtual, but who they also get to meet face to face.
Or maybe you’re a software company that provides an online chat service. It may be that there are lots of similar options, but what you don’t realize is that your customer service team is very quick about responding to all help desk requests. This is something that sets you apart that you might not have realized was such a benefit if you hadn’t taken the time to ask your customers or clients.
If you choose to interview clients to find out what they like best you can either do so with a quick email survey or by phone. If you choose to do the email survey ask open ended questions so they are able to tell you what they really think without being led into an answer with multiple choices or leading questions.
How to put your unique selling proposition together
Now that you know what makes you special, how do you put it all together to create your USP? There are many formulas available but they are by no means the only way to write your USP. If you prefer to do it without a formula, then go for it. If, you would like a starting point try this:
(Insert your business name) helps (insert your target market) (insert desired outcome) by (insert what makes you unique).
This exercise should take you some time and is by no means a one and done assignment. Your USP can change over time.
Once you’ve created a draft you’re happy with, test it out. Ask customers what they think, as well as people in your target market. You can ask your friends and family, but if they aren’t in your target market take their feedback with a grain of salt. If you find areas you can improve on your USP don’t be afraid to do so. Over time the exercise will get easier and you’ll be able to create a USP you can be proud of.