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 Posts Don’t Seal – They Enable

Will blog marketing “close” deals in the same way as face-to-face encounters between prospects and sales professionals? The answer is obviously “no”. This week’s Say It For You posts are devoted to the topic of blog marketing and its place in the overall sales process.

In the book Close the Deal, authors Sam Deep and Lyle Sussman suggest that a salesperson faced with a demanding prospect ask “What concession do you need from me to close the deal right now?” In blogging for business, of course, such a “bargaining” exchange would not be taking place between the business owner/practitioner and the reader/customer. On the other hand, one purpose of blog content is to persuade readers to act.

A very non-technical way I have of explaining the concept of blog marketing is this: Rather than running traditional ads for your brand of hats, vitamins, travel, or paint, you provide lots of information on the history of hats, on why vitamins are good for you, about exciting places to go on safari, and on the psychology of color. Consumers interested in your subject, but who never even knew your name, come to see you as a resource.

When blog readers follow your “calls to action” by phoning your business or practice, faxing in a request or an order, signing up for your newsletter, subscribing to your blog through an RSS feed, or proceeding to your shopping cart to buy your product or service, you know your blog marketing strategy is working Understand, though – it’s entirely possible that none of those things will happen at the first “meeting”.

Just as in traditional selling, you need to use blog content writing to “prove your case” by:

  • offering statistics about the problem your product or service helps solve
  • comparing your product or service with others on the market
  • providing testimonials from past and present customers and clients

Generally speaking, as I often stress when I offer Say It For You corporate blogging training, blog posts are not ads, and there should never be a hard-sell or boastful tone to the content. Blog posts are closer in nature to informative “advertorials”, positioning the company or practitioner as helpful, well-experienced, and knowledgeable.

Primarily, the blog post has to add value. Not just a promise of value if the reader converts to a buyer, but value right then and there in terms of information, skill enhancement, or a new way of looking at the topic. The best blog posts are never about yourself, your company, your services, or your products, but about why you see things the way you do.

Typically, a blog post doesn’t “seal” the deal, so much as it “enables” the deal.


5 Ways to Create Delicious Omelets and Blog Posts

There are four types of omelets, Course Hero explains: American style, French Style, Frittata, and Souffle. Interesting information, I thought, but Upfront Magazine’s article “Good Eggs: 5 Ways With Omelets” is a better example for my blog content writers. Why?  The Upfront piece went beyond providing information to readers, offering ways they can put that info to use.  blog post illustrations

The five “ways” (each attributed to a particular chef) include:
  1. using pizza toppings
  2. trying sweetness (tucking banana slices into the omelet, with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce)
  3. adding richness with goat cheese, meet, and herbs
  4. adding yogurt
  5. going Midwestern by adding fried kielbasa
I found a number of things in the “5 Ways” article that illustrate good practices for blog content writers:
It’s a “listicle”. 
Lists spatially organize information, helping create an easy reading experience, and by most accounts, search engines like lists as well.
It uses “chunking”.
Chunking is a way for business bloggers to offer technical information in easily digestible form, tying different pieces of advice and information into a unifying theme. The “5 Ways” article combines cooking advice (“It shouldn’t be brown or crisp” with a variety of ideas.

It uses visuals.
Visuals are one of the three “legs” of the business blog “stool”, along with information and perspective, or “slant”. Whether you use actual original photos or “clip art, visuals add interest and evoke emotion, in addition to cementing concepts in the minds of readers. “5 Ways” is headed by pictures of the 5 types of omelets being discussed.

It has an effective title
“How long?” is one question I hear a lot at corporate blogging training sessions, referring to the blog post itself, but also to the title. While the most effective length for a title is whatever it takes to signal to online searchers that “right here” is the place they want to be, titles should not be overly complicated or cumbersome.

It curates and properly attributes to sources
Quoting others in your blog adds value – you’re aggregating resources for the benefit of your readers. Then, as business blogging service providers, we need to add our own “spin” to the material based on our own business wisdom and expertise. At the same time, it’s crucial to properly attribute quotes and ideas to their sources.


Bloggership – the Art of Getting Them to Want To

Products And Services Keys Show Selling And Buying Online

Dwight D. Eisenhower had a great definition for leadership: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Is it simply a matter of selling your product or service to prospective customers? After all, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Everyone lives by selling something.” Sort of, say  co-authors Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson in 100 Ways to Motivate Others.  “Leadership means asking for what you want, being very direct with your request, and having your communication centered on requests and promises.”

“Bloggership” might well be defined the same way as leadership, I think – getting readers to want to. “Briefly,” says Jim Connolly of Jim’s Marketing Blog, “here’s how content marketing works: You build and market a website and stock it with free information that has real value to your prospective clients.”

Damon Rouse of advises business bloggers looking to sell stuff on their blog is to be careful not to be purely sales oriented. “While blogs can be used as a tool for selling, they are at their best when they are relational, conversational, and offer readers something useful that will enhance their lives in some way…Most people will not react overly positively to a blog that is just sales spin,” Rouse adds.

“If you show how individual bits of information are related in ways readers hadn’t considered, says Jim Connolly, that establishes your expertise and keeps readers’ attention long enough to you to your “ask”.

Even if “they want to”, readers may be fearful of making the wrong choice. Don’t underestimate those fears, cautions Whale Hunters’ sales trainer Barbara Weaver Smith.  You may be totally focused on the great advantages that you provide with your products and services, and forget that potential buyers are fearful of making the wrong decision. Searchers may lack experiences with the latest proce4sses or technology in your field of expertise, but they know what their own needs are.  Give them a “feel” for desired outcomes of a commitment to buy.

Bloggership – the art of getting online searchers to want to!



Selling 102 for Business Blog Content Writers

Exceptional Selling

“Your ability to constructively attract and engage a customer in relevant dialogue requires a conversational style as well as substantive content,” cautions Jeff Thrull in his book Exceptional Selling.

Thrull might have been offering advice to us blog content writers, I couldn’t help thinking.  What I like to call the “I/you conversational style” is precisely the approach most effective for business blogs.  At the same time, there is so much internet content proliferation that it’s definitely becoming a challenge to get noticed online. If the hard-sell technique ever worked, it certainly doesn’t work any longer!

Thrull describes the new reality of selling:

  • When customers are engaged, they learn.
  • When what they learn is compelling enough to make them want to change, they will buy.

In short, he’s advising – don’t push!

The good news in blog marketing is the same as the good news Thrull describes as operative in direct selling: Customers have negative stereotypes about salespeople.  That makes it easy to differentiate ourselves by acting against type. “When in doubt,” he says, “do the opposite of what a salesperson would do.”

Applying that very logic to blog copywriting, I advise using blog posts to demonstrate the business owner’s or professional practitioner’s expertise, and to offer valuable tips to readers.

The goal of each post  continues to be providing those who visit your site with a taste of what it would be like to have you working with them!