Imagine for a moment that you’re launching a premium coffee brand. (Let’s call it Bean Me Up for now.) You’ve put a lot of work into it, and you’re finally ready to share your beans with the world. There’s just one problem: the market is already saturated with coffee brands galore. How can you make sure Bean Me Up stands out from the other brands? It’s simple…by having a unique selling proposition.
What’s a Unique Selling Proposition?
A unique selling proposition, or USP, is a short statement that explains what your business is and what it stands for. This is your opportunity to pause for a moment and really zone in on the things that make your brand unique compared to other companies in your niche. For instance, maybe you want to be known for having a wide selection of roasts, or the cheapest beans, or for putting a sci-fi spin on it. These are all great selling points that could make it into your final USP statement.
As you begin to list all of your brand’s unique traits, it’s important to avoid this common mistake: don’t overload your unique selling proposition. Sure, it may be tempting to want to be the best at everything. Why shouldn’t your brand stand for the highest quality AND the most affordable. The best tasting AND the largest selection.
Here’s the problem:
If you try to be a one-size-fits-all, you end up being generic — not known for anything.
Now, it’s also important to note that your USP isn’t meant to be set in s tone. You can always make adjustments to your USP down the road. The unique selling propositions that make your business stand out today could change as the market changes or as new technology arrives.
For an example of unique selling propositions evolving over time, we can look to none-other than major tech giant, Apple. If you think back to Apple’s original slogan in the late 90’s, “Think Different,” their unique selling point at the time was that they were a better, slightly trendier alternative to IBM.
Fast forward to the release of the iPod and iPhone, where Apple began to shift their focus from the tech-advanced to the everyday consumer, or mass market. Apple’s unique selling points were still trendy, but now their main features were that they provided a reliable product with the best user experience — no technical degree required.
A Hypothetical Comparison: Beans to Beans
So, say we have two similar companies. Company number one, Bean Me Up, offers dark roasts, medium roasts, light roasts, coffee filters, carafes, syrups, sugar…the whole nine-yards. “We’ve got it ALL.” It’s advertised everywhere. You can’t miss it. Company number two, Bean There Done That, also sells dark, medium, and light roasts, but only from local roasting companies. They emphasize words like “local” and “fair trade.”
Now let’s say a potential customer — Joe, is a bean aficionado looking to support his local community. He only knows about these two companies.
When Joe comes across company one’s website, he may think of them as more of a wholesale company. He doesn’t know if they offer local products because they advertise nothing specific except a large catalog. But when he browses the website of company two, he knows right away that they specialize in local roasts.
Which brand do you think Joe is more likely to shop at? In this case, it’s going to be company number two.
To be clear, there are always exceptions to the rule. It’s never a bad thing to have a wide variety of products and selling propositions, but if you want to get your brand in front of an audience, it’s usually a better strategy to find something that helps your brand stand out.
Now, we’ll take a look at how other brands have been successful with their USP.
Best Examples of Unique Selling Propositions
One thing’s for sure — there is no shortage of messaging apps. From Microsoft to Google, everyone has their own communication platform. So you’d think a messaging app like Slack would have no chance standing out next to the big boys. But Slack was developed with several advantages that appealed specifically to the corporate lifestyle.
Simplicity…the name of their game.
Slack’s unique selling proposition is this: make users’ working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive. With it, their app focuses on ease of use and workflow integration. Slack offers the same features as any other messaging app, but they lean into their strong suits. These selling points ultimately helped them stand out in the crowd and dominate the messaging app space.
Uber changed the transportation game in a big way. With one tap of a button, we can now hop in a rideshare and go just about anywhere. From the beginning, Uber’s biggest selling proposition has always been convenience. Uber caters their messaging to highlight the ways their business is superior to taxi and public transportation services, without explicitly saying anything negative about their competition. These slices of copy found on their site do an excellent job stating their unique selling propositions:
- Smooth rides from start to finish.
- Rides on demand.
- Request a ride, hop in, and go.
Traeger disrupted the backyard barbecue industry with the world’s first pellet grill. They’re also an excellent example of having a unique selling proposition even when the market is less competitive. Sure, it may seem like an advantage to have fewer competitors, but Traeger had the added challenge of having to convince potential customers why they needed to make the switch from a traditional grill to a pellet grill.
How did they do it? Traeger’s main selling proposition is instilling user confidence. While other grill brands may boast selling propositions such as power, efficiency, or price, Traeger’s messaging is all about having a set-it-and-forget-it mentality and still having the confidence to be the master griller of your dreams.
How to Write Your Unique Selling Proposition
Now that we’ve seen some strong examples, how do you get started creating your own USP? Before you begin thinking about the qualities you’d like to highlight in your marketing efforts, you should also take into consideration your ideal customer. Answer the following questions:
- What problems can you solve for your customer?
- What does your customer want?
- What motivates them to make a purchase?
- Why do your current customers prefer you over your competitors?
As you develop your USP, think of ways to market your business in a way that shows how you meet your customers needs. When you know how you improve the lives of your ideal customer, you’ll also know how to market and communicate with them.
Nailing the Perfect Elevator Pitch
Your unique selling proposition is like an elevator pitch: you have about 15 seconds (or the length of an elevator trip) to capture their attention, introduce your business, and make it obvious why they should choose you over others.
This way, it’s easier to keep your USP statement short and sweet.
For our up and coming coffee company, we can use this simple template to determine our unique selling proposition:
- Who’s it for? [lovers of sci-fi and premium coffee]
- What’s your brand? [Bean Me Up]
- Your product + add hyperbole [the only nerd-approved, premium coffee brand]
- That does what? [delivers out-of-this-world beans for just $6.99]
- Unlike who? [those other stale coffee companies]
- Your brand + offer [Bean Me Up delivers premium coffee you’ll want to take on a spaceship with you.]
So, there we have it. The rough draft for our coffee company’s first USP statement. Pretty easy, right? It may look a little cheesy, but that’s okay. As long as it’s simple, authentic, and clear to your audience, it will serve your brand well. Try it out and see what you get.
What Sets Your Brand Apart?
In summary, play on your company’s strengths and don’t worry about trying to be known for everything. Take a stand for what resonates with you and your audience and go from there. By finding your unique value proposition, you’ll be able to work on being known for those qualities and become a brand that’s easily remembered.