Building Your Unique Selling Proposition

Today’s guest blog post was contributed by Certified Business Coach Andrew Valley of Westerfield, Ohio. With over 40 years of experience managing businesses and team, Valley has a proven track record of growing sales and profits.  The ActionCoach may be contacted at or by phone at 614 746 5969.

Don’t tell them what you do. Tell them what you do for them.

As a business owner, whether you’re a trades-based business, a restaurant, or are in professional services, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is telling others what you do. Most people are only interested if what you do fits with what they need or want; otherwise they are not interested. You must tell the listener how your product or service can benefit that person, and how you can do it better or differently than others who do what you do.

So how can you differentiate your business from others in your category? The most powerful tool you can use to stand head and shoulders above your competition is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your USP communicates the singular, unique benefit that your customers can expect to receive when they favor your business instead of your competitor’s – stated in specific, graphically illustrated terms. It will make you the obvious choice and lead prospective customers to the conclusion, “I would have to be an absolute fool to do business with anyone but you…regardless of price.”

A USP Will Raise Your Business Above The NOISE

Our communication habits spill over into marketing and advertising all the time. Show me 99% of all marketing material created and I’ll show you a huge jumble of hyperbole, fluff, platitudes, and yawnably unbelievable, black hole nothing words. Words like cheapest, professionalism, service, quality, speedy, convenient, and best. These words do absolutely nothing to communicate why you’re the best deal. Claude Hopkins, the greatest advertising man in history, summed it up: “Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatsoever.”

The concept of “USP” is credited to Rosser Reeves, chairman of the Ted Bates & Co. advertising agency in the 1950s, and his definition of what makes a USP holds true today: * All advertising must make a proposition to the customer: Buy this, and you will receive a specified benefit.

  • The proposition must be unique; something competitors cannot claim or have not chosen to emphasize in their promotions.
  • The proposition must be so compelling that it motivates individuals to act.

A unique selling proposition (USP) is a succinct, memorable message that identifies the unique benefits that are derived from using your product or service as opposed to a competitor’s. A USP should be used as a strong and consistent part of an advertising campaign. It can be painted on the company’s cars or trucks, printed on the letterhead, and used in the packaging copy. It becomes, essentially, a positioning statement—a declaration of your company’s unique standing within the marketplace as defined by your product’s benefits.

Often a USP is a quick and snappy condensation of the company’s strategy. To expect consumers to remember a continually changing or drawn-out message is a near-futile hope. It is particularly important that a USP immediately convey one of the strongest competitive advantages of using your product. Marketers should strive to create a significant perception of difference between their product and the offerings of competitors. Developing a USP that accomplishes this task is called product differentiation.

Here’s an example of an effective USP from a well-known company in an extremely competitive industry. This company became the biggest in their field entirely because of their USP. The company is Domino’s Pizza. Consider Domino’s USP: “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed!” This USP built Domino’s into a pizza empire!

Things to Consider in building your USP
Study your Competitors: research what they are using as a USP. It is difficult and expensive to challenge a competitor for a position already occupied, because of the “anchoring” phenomenon. When you know your competitors’ positions, you can choose to avoid direct challenges and instead carve out your own niche, where you can be both first and best. The easiest way into a person’s memory is to be first. Don’t be an also-ran.

Differentiate your Product or Service: Your prospects must see you as having something different, something special that sets you apart from the others in your industry. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to call you. They may call your competition, or they may decide not to call anyone at all. So, consider these questions:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • Why you’re different
  • How you can benefit your prospects – a feature may be useful but a benefit is a solution to a problem or a fulfillment of a need.

There should be a lot of difference between you and others doing the same kind of work. If there aren’t then you’re not paying close enough attention or you need to invent some unique things that others don’t do.

What else can you do?
Brainstorm with your team. Interview and survey your current and past customers. Ask them why they bought from you rather than your competition. What are they looking for in a provider of your product or service? What is important to them when making a buying decision? What feature or benefits do they value most or would like to see added to your product or service?

Once you have settled on the most unique and compelling feature of your product or business, begin to distill it down to one paragraph that clearly communicates and sums up why your customers should buy from you. This paragraph can be used on your website or in your marketing materials where you have more room to explain the unique benefits that you bring to your customers. However, it is still too long to be used as a tagline or slogan.

You still need to distill your USP down to one or two focused sentences that clearly and concisely communicate the benefits of your USP to your customers. This statement should leave no question in your customers’ mind about what you do and how you are different than your competition.
This USP statement will become your tagline or slogan. Integrate your USP statement into everything you do. Put it on every page of your website, on your letterhead, in all of your advertising and marketing. Communicate it to your employees, managers, and staff. Let it infuse into your corporate culture. Every time you talk to your customers, employees, or suppliers you should mention this USP. You cannot just give lip service to your USP, you must live it and breath it! It must become a part of you.

Every product, business or service has (or can have) a USP that makes it stand out from the competition. It is up to you to discover or create this element of uniqueness. Differentiate yourself, your business and your products from your competition and watch the sales pour in!


Blog Reading Based on Different Motivations


“There was a time when archaeology was commissioned privately by wealthy individuals,” I learned from the incredibly fascinating tome of trivia, Publications International’s The Big Book of Big Secrets. One of the most interesting chapters described the day in 1922 when, some 300 years after the death of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, a way to enter the tomb of “King Tut “was discovered. (I remember visiting the “Golden King” exhibit of these artifacts at the Children’s Museum back in 2009 right here in Indianapolis.)

From a blog marketing standpoint, I was fascinated by The Big Book authors’ insight into the differing motivations those wealthy individuals had for their ongoing efforts, spread over many years, to open the tomb. “Some of those benefactors desired to advance historical knowledge, while others simply hoped to enhance their personal collections of antiquities.” As things turned out, both types were rewarded for their efforts: Ancient plunderers raided the tomb for smaller items, making huge profits from mummies and from recovered items, while the historians were able to “catalog piles of priceless artifacts”.

Firstmondayorg, reporting on a study for the motivations of blog readership among recent college graduates, observes that readers used blogs for step-by-step instructions for hobbies, do-it-yourself household reports, and money management. ”Today, blogs mean a host of things to bloggers, blog readers, and new media researchers.”In the survey, most graduates said blogs were useful in helping them pick up skills they had not learned in college but which they now needed for their careers. Some interviewees reported that blogs provided them with essential professional tips. According to some interviewees, blogs served as niche learning resource tailored to their information problems.

At Say it For You, one valuable coaching tip we offer to blog content writers is to tailor individual blog posts – or series of posts – to different segments of the customer base (as opposed to trying to reach them all in any one post). In a way, each time you post you’re pulling out just one of those attachments on your “Swiss army knife” and offering some valuable information or advice relating to just one aspect of your business. Another day, your blog post can do the same with a different “attachment”.

Brenda Stoltz of Ariad Partners suggests accomplishing that very goal by designating “days” for different targets: Corporate accounting Mondays, Small Biz Wednesdays, or Freelance Fridays. As a variation on the concept, we’ve advised setting aside a section on the website for blog posts for certain specialty readers.

Just like the archaeologies of old, some historians, others antique dealers, blog reading is based on different motivations.


In Blogging for Business, the Operative Word Isn’t “Anyone”!

“What do you notice when you visit a model home in a new development? Often you will find wonderfully furnished and decorated rooms that anyone could live in.” So begins an article I received the other day from my realtor friend Gadi Boukai, stressing that “the operative word is ‘anyone’”. Professionals who set up a model home make it anonymous for a reason, the article goes on to explain. They want buyers to view it as their potential home, not someone else’s. Those professionals know – based on decades of experience, that this strategy helps sell houses faster and at a better price.

Interesting, because, at Say It For You, we realize that with blog content writing, the exact opposite might be the case. Your blog can’t be all things to all people, any more than your business can be all things to everybody.  The blog must be targeted towards the specific type of customers you want and who are most likely to want to do business with you.  Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.

The home viewers my friend Gadi is describing are clearly already interested in buying a home; they know what overall indoor and outdoor space and amenity needs they have, and they are looking to “match” those needs with the home they’re viewing. The “blanker’ the canvas, the easier it will be for that “match” to take place. Similarly, the only prospects who are likely to visit your blog are those searching for information on precisely what you sell, what you know, and what you know how to do.

The difference is, the blog content needs to ‘hit the spot” with visitors in a very targeted and individual way, differentiating your products or services from those offered by your competitors. With millions of other blogs out there for searchers to find, it’s only highly specific evidence that will resonate with the right visitors. Not only is having a focused topic important in each blog post, writing content with a specific audience in mind (rather than appealing to anyone) will make the difference between success and failure.

Gadi’s customers need to “see themselves” living in the home they’re touring, making their own mental and emotional “match” with those surroundings. With blog visitors, it’s the same, yet different. Your website content and blog posts can demonstrate that you’re offering all the right products and services, the ones your online visitors need. Despite that, you might still be experiencing a very high “bounce rate”, meaning that visitors to your blog are thinking to themselves “No, that’s not what I meant!” As part of their visit to your site, you have to appropriately signal to your visitor that you understand, serve, and most important, understand the situations and challenges they have faced in prior situations of  using your type of product or service.

Home buyers (at least it was that way pre-COVID-19!) are typically are left to roam the home on their own, “seeing” if this is the place for them. In contrast, with blog marketing, the content needs to put out targeted ‘prompts”. The business owner or professional practitioner is in essence telling the visitor -“To me, you’re not just anyone – I see you. I really see you!”



Guest blog post: The Buyer’s Guide to Choosing a Differentiator


Today’s blog post was contributed by networking colleague Karen Sullivan, founder of Sullivan Solutions, which helps entrepreneurial companies augment their in-house marketing. Many of the insights offered here are useful for blog content writers…

In a world of so many choices, shopping can be harrowing. Whether you are shopping for the perfect pair of athletic shoes or for the best professional service provider for your growing business, you have so many options.

The shopping experience as education

Shopping is essentially education. Of course, in the case of an afternoon at the mall or a late-night binge on Amazon, it can also be largely entertaining. It’s exhilarating to find something that we didn’t know we needed. Maybe we buy it on impulse or make a mental note to consider it in the future.

In the case of buying professional services for your business, it’s often hard to understand the differences between providers. You don’t shop for bookkeepers or web developers very often, so you may feel you need to educate yourself by interviewing several. You might be frustrated because you get a different sales pitch every time. It’s never an apples-to-apples comparison.

The buyer has the biggest role in identifying a differentiator

In the age of the internet, there’s no reason not to do your homework before you start your shopping. You’ll find a wealth of good information with a simple and thoughtful Google search. Don’t be afraid to ask even casual business colleagues for some guidance or referrals. There’s no need to start from scratch.

1. Do start with a budget.
Don’t worry, your budget can be a broad range. However, you’ll waste everyone’s time, especially your own, if you start shopping features without some budgetary guidelines.

2. Identify your 3-7 key deal breakers.
These are only the absolute must haves. Keep them simple because these are the first things you will use to qualify or disqualify candidates. Don’t forget some deal-breakers may be soft-skills like “prefers to communicate by phone rather than email”.

3. Your short list probably should be more alike than not
When you finally invite sales pitches, your candidates should look pretty similar. They should certainly all be capable of meeting your deal-breakers. If they are vastly different in features or benefits, you may not have done enough homework.

4. Transparency is two-sided, too.
Don’t come to the table with the intention of getting free consultation buried in the pitch. That may be a pleasant bonus. However, healthy relationships are built on mutual respect. Be honest and open with your expectations and your budget. At the same time, you have every right to expect the same honesty in the pitch.

5. Ask for clarification.
Proposals shouldn’t surprise you. If you receive competing proposals that look significantly different in terms of deliverables and costs, consider whether you’ve been misunderstood or simply over-sold. Regardless, if you don’t ask for clarification, you may miss your best choice and your best, unsolicited learning opportunity.

Karen Sullivan may be contacted at


Valuable Blog Marketing Lesson in a Solo Cup

target market
You know those red plastic SOLO drinking cups? Maybe you’re heard that the lines wrapped around the outside are actually measuring guides, observes Todd Hunt in his latest Hunt’s Headlines email. The line closest to the bottom measures 1 ounce of liquor, the next one 5 ounces of wine, with the line close to the top measuring 12 ounces of beer. Forget that, says parent company Dart Container Corporation, stating in no uncertain terms that the lines are designed for function only and are not measurements.

“Advertising can….introduce emotions, images, and symbols that stimulate desire, and it can show how a product or brand compares favorably to competitors,” explains.
“Reminder advertising reminds people about the need for a product or service, or the features and benefits it will provide when purchased.”

According to the Cleveland State University Writing Center, “Critical readers seek knowledge; they do not “rewrite” a work to suit their own personalities”. But are blog readers “critical” in that sense? Not likely. Sure, as stresses, “Simply put, your blog’s target audience is the group of readers who your blog can help the most.” And, when you target that very specific audience, you have a better idea about what they need and want.

Still, content writers need to be aware that readers bring their own biases to the page. Without even realizing it, blog visitors are going to be thinking about how they might use those lines on the red plastic cup to measure beer or wine (whether that was our intention or not!). And, we’ve come to realize at Say It For You, that’s OK. Blog posts are not meant to be ads, instead functioning like “advertorials”.

When you first begin blogging, admits, “there is only ‘the middle’, entailing what you do, what you offer, and what problems you solve”. Surrounding this “middle” is your potential audience and what they care about. Identifying your audience is a process that never stops, cautions Queryz founder Sean Si.

As a blog marketer, suggests, you have different ways to differentiate your product from competitors, including:

  • by size
  • by origin
  • by branding or decoration
  • by packaging
  • by adding a feature or ingredient
  • by offering a bonus

One way to engage blog readers is to share the history of your company. (The Solo Cup company, was founded in Chicago during the Great Depression, and is now 84 years old!) “How-we-did-it” stories make for very effective blog content for both business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve learned.

The lesson in the solo cup? To the blog writer, the product or service might represent one thing; to individual readers, it might represent another! It’s all good….