USP (unique selling point) is a term that’s used a lot in marketing and sales.
But what does it actually mean?
Simply speaking, your USP is your x-factor – what sets you apart from everyone else.
It’s why your customers should come to you instead of a competitor.
However, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what your USPs are, especially if you’re an established business.
In an ideal world, you should decide upon your USPs before your business launch, as part of your brand.
We know that’s not often the case, so we’re here to help you determine what your USPs are – these could involve tweaking your brand, or the way you conduct business, but unless you have USPs, why should your customers buy from you?
Time for a reality check: if your business doesn’t have a USP, you shouldn’t have a business.
It sounds harsh, but it’s true – if you’re not offering anything new to the market, what are you offering?
In this article, we’ll provide a few case studies of businesses with great USPs, to whet your appetite and get those creative cogs turning, along with a few questions to get you thinking about your own USPs.
In a world full of smoothies of all fruits, colours, health benefits, and flavours, innocent reigns.
But what makes them special, and sets them apart from the other smoothie makers?
Their USP is their tone of voice.
Watch the advert below, promoting one of their new flavours, and you’ll see what I mean:
Their irreverent, informal way in which they speak to their customers sets them apart from everyone else.
While others try to emulate and imitate their tone of voice, there’s no denying how well innocent does it -- it almost makes you forget that they’re 90% owned by the Coca-Cola Corporation...
Everyone knows Amazon.
They have a USP that’s a sort of chicken-and-egg situation -- their USP is that they stock everything from A to Z (hence their brand name).
With that massive marketplace comes a massive customer base, but Amazon didn’t stop with just offering every type of physical product: they had to get the services, too.
Then came Amazon Prime, with one-day delivery, access to a host of television programmes and films, eBooks with the Kindle, storage on the Amazon Drive, and exclusive deals on their massive marketplace.
There aren’t any other businesses that have as much control of so many markets as Amazon, so their USP is truly unique.
I’ve only recently come across Medium, and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it before.
Medium is an online publisher platform (like a massive blog, on any topic you like), but with a big difference -- anyone can publish on that platform, and almost anyone can make money from it.
Owing to the variety of content topics, and the range of writing abilities, as well as the capacity for skilled writers to earn money, Medium is truly unique -- those are its USPs.
TOMS is a shoe manufacturer with a USP rooted in their ethics and CSR (corporate social responsibility -- I hate that acronym!).
They give back to communities around the world:
“With every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. Through your purchases, TOMS helps provide shoes, sight, water and safer birth services to people in need.”
You read that right -- for every product you purchase.
It’s not just a throwaway “5% of profits” or random company volunteering session; this is their company, and this is how they regularly do business.
Night Sky Creative
It’s only natural to talk about our own USP.
As you probably know, NSC is a blog for small business owners, freelancers, and those working on their side hustle after the traditional 9-5 -- so are we.
We also work full-time jobs, just like our audience, and we can only work on the blog outside of our normal working hours.
We’re unique in the sense that the majority of blogs for entrepreneurs or business owners are created by companies trying to sell them their service, but that’s just not us.
Questions to ask yourself
Think of your brand as a person. What makes that person different?
Think about the most famous or popular brands in the world. What makes them popular?
What does your customer want that they can’t get elsewhere?
Where is your customer based?
Are there two contrasting elements of your business that bring in a unique audience?
What’s the last thing that you would associate with your business, product, or service?
Consider minority groups in society. Are they being represented in your field? Note: don’t exploit minority groups to succeed. You have to be filling a niche that’s needed, not just paying lip service and making a quick buck from being falsely ‘woke’.
What’s the quickest, easiest way for your customers to get your product or service?
Hints and tips
An example of a USP might be the way that you speak to your customers or the processes that you conduct your business -- these are just suggestions, not the only options.
Don’t just ‘borrow’ someone else’s USP. That’s literally in contrast with the definition of ‘unique’.
That being said, research the competition. Fill in the gaps where they can’t satisfy their customers.
If you’re unsure what to define as your USP, ask your audience what they want, and work toward that.
Find something that answers a need for a large customer base that hasn’t been properly addressed yet. I’m still looking for someone who sews pockets into women’s clothing -- whoever can do that, you can have that idea for free, just give me 50% off pockets!
Design can be a USP – if your branding, product design, or social media designs are different, that can help you get a strong footing in the massive world of small businesses. But don’t rely on just your branding -- you need something more tangible as well.