What makes your business different from others like it? That’s the question a unique selling proposition (USP) answers. While it’s easy to overlook this simple statement when you’re starting a business, this exercise shouldn’t be taken lightly. A unique selling proposition serves as the basis for every other marketing decision you make.
Feeling overwhelmed? Not sure where to start with a USP? Read this guide to learn:
- What a unique selling proposition is
- Why your business needs a USP
- How to write a unique selling proposition
- Best practices for writing a USP
- How to use a USP in your marketing strategy
- How and where to use a USP on your online store
- Examples of strong unique selling propositions
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What is a unique selling proposition (USP)?
A unique selling proposition, also known as a unique value proposition, describes what differentiates your brand, business, or product(s) from the competition. A USP is usually expressed in a sentence or two and explains what you do, who you do it for, the benefits your brand or products provide for your customers, and what makes you different.
It’s used internally to inform marketing efforts and externally to strengthen brand recognition. A unique selling proposition is supposed to serve as the basis for all marketing decisions at a company. While a USP is similar to a slogan, the two aren’t the same. A unique selling proposition is often longer than a slogan and can be used to help write a slogan.
Why do you need a USP?
Coming up with a unique selling proposition may seem like a small step in the bigger picture of starting a business, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Here’s why you need a USP.
Guides marketing decisions
Your business should have a unique selling proposition because this statement guides the rest of your marketing decisions, such as your branding and style guides, digital marketing campaigns, design choices, copywriting decisions, and even the types of products you sell. Every font you use, product you develop, and Instagram caption you write should tie back to and support your brand’s USP.
Strengthens brand identity
When you make every marketing decision with your unique selling proposition in mind, you strengthen your brand’s identity and make it more memorable.
Attracts your target market
A well-written USP speaks to your ideal customer. Therefore, when all marketing decisions are based on this statement, every decision helps you attract your target market.
How to write a unique selling proposition
The formula for writing a compelling unique selling proposition is: What + Who + How
What your business does
First, describe what your company, brand, or product does. Write down whatever comes to mind, then edit this statement down to a few words.
Who you do it for
Next, describe your ideal customer. Do they fit a specific demographic? What’s their common interest? What do they believe in? What do they like to do? Summarize who your customer is.
How you’re different
Finally, explain what makes your brand or product different and the value you bring to your customer. Describe the benefits your customers gain when they shop with you or use your products.
Best practices for writing a USP
After you’ve jotted down some ideas for your unique selling proposition, follow these tips to refine your statement.
- Keep it short. The more concise your USP, the more memorable it will be. Your customers should be able to recall or summarize your statement.
- Don’t be generic. Check out your competitors’ USPs. If yours sounds like theirs, change it up. The more unique your USP, the more memorable it will be.
- Keep your audience in mind. We can’t reiterate this tip enough because it’s so important for writing a compelling USP!
How to use a USP in your marketing strategy
Let your unique selling proposition serve as a guide for your marketing strategy. Here’s how your USP should impact various aspects of your marketing plan.
Your logo should visually express as much about your USP as possible. Ideally, the name of your business will hint at what you do and the design will appeal to your ideal customer.
Your USP should be taken into consideration throughout your brand guidelines, including the fonts and colors you use to represent your brand. For example, if your USP has to do with sustainability, you may choose organic-looking fonts and earth tones, like greens, blues, and browns.
In addition to visual brand guidelines, you need a style guide that conveys your brand’s voice and tone in writing. Your USP will impact this by steering you towards language that appeals to your audience.
Think of a slogan as a more concise version of your unique selling proposition. It should explain what you do in a way that appeals to your ideal customer and suggests your brand’s benefits.
Keep your USP in the forefront every time you design a new product or consider purchasing a product from a wholesaler. Will this product deliver on your brand promise? Will your target market find it useful? Will it benefit your customers? In your marketing strategy, play up the aspects of your products that relate to your USP.
Your store should be the spatial embodiment of your USP. Beyond your products and branding, which are guided by your USP, consider using decor and fixtures that also support this vision. For example, if your store specializes in frames made of recycled materials, you could build fixtures out of reclaimed or recycled materials.
eCommerce store design
The design of your ecommerce site should be influenced by your logo, brand guidelines, and style guide, which all have roots in your unique selling proposition.
Every marketing campaign you implement, and every aspect of the campaign—from email newsletters and social media posts to billboards and in-store posters—should highlight the unique benefits of your brand and products, and do so in a way that appeals to your ideal customers.
How and where to use a USP on your online store
Here’s a deeper dive into where and how to use your unique selling proposition throughout your ecommerce website.
While you don’t need to include your USP word for word on your homepage, placing at least your slogan on the first page of your website will help orient newcomers and strengthen your brand for returning customers.
“About us” page
Your “about us” page is the place to display your unique selling proposition loud and proud. Begin with this key statement, then let customers know other important details about your company.
Search engine optimization helps people find your website. Your website’s meta description briefly describes what people will find when they click onto your website from the search engine results page. It’s a good idea to use your USP as the meta description for your homepage to let people know what you’re all about and attract your ideal customer.
Examples of strong unique selling propositions
Now you know everything you need to know about how to write a unique selling proposition for your brand. If you’re still stumped, take a look at these real-world examples of effective USPs from Reformation and Nordstrom.
On sustainable womenswear brand Reformation’s “about us” page you’ll find this statement, which closely resembles a unique selling proposition:
“Today, we make effortless silhouettes that celebrate the feminine figure and pioneer sustainable practices, focusing on people and progress each step of the way.”
This statement accomplishes the three things every USP needs to do: explain what the brand does, for whom they do this, and how they do it.
The “what” is “mak[ing] effortless silhouettes.” By describing that these silhouettes celebrate the feminine figure, this statement appeals to female customers. Reformation creates this effortless silhouette for its customers by pioneering sustainable practices. That’s how they do what they do.
This USP also informs Reformation’s unforgettable slogan: “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re # 2.”
Department store Nordstrom also displays its unique selling proposition on its “about us” page:
“Nordstrom, Inc. is a leading fashion retailer offering compelling clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women and kids. Since 1901, we’ve been committed to providing our customers with the best possible service—and to improving it every day.”
This is a good example of a slightly longer USP that answers the three key questions: what does Nordstrom do? Whom does Nordstrom serve? What makes Nordstrom different?
According to the USP, Nordstrom is “a leading fashion retailer offering compelling clothing, shoes and accessories…” So, the “what” is selling garments, footwear, and accessories.
The “who” is “men, women and kids.”
And finally, what makes Nordstrom different is its commitment to “providing our customers with the best possible service.” So, if you’re a man, woman, or child who needs clothes, shoes, or accessories and wants an elevated customer service experience, Nordstrom is the retailer for you.
Wrapping up: How to write a unique selling proposition
Not only does a unique selling proposition set your business apart from other businesses like it, it also serves as the north star for all of your other marketing decisions. If you’re just getting started on your entrepreneurial journey, invest ample time into crafting your USP. If you’ve been in business for years and want to strengthen your unique selling proposition, implement our advice.
Once your USP and marketing plan are in order, Lightspeed POS and eCommerce can help you run your business efficiently and effectively. Watch a demo today.
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