How to Discover Your Hidden Remarkable Benefit

image of golden brick in wall

What if you’ve got something going for you so remarkable that it virtually guarantees your success?

What if you’re just not seeing it?

Every business needs a remarkable benefit (or USP) in order to stand out from the competition.

Identify that unique element, and you’ll know exactly what the theme of your content marketing should be, because that will be the big story of your business.

The fact is, often that extraordinary element is something you take for granted.

Let me illustrate …

The pure, refreshing taste of Schlitz beer

Back in the 1920s, Schlitz was the number five brand in the American beer market. The company hired now-legendary copywriter Claude Hopkins to do something about that unenviable position.

The first thing Claude did was tour the facility where the beer was brewed.

He was shown how the beer was cooled in a special way that eliminated impurities. He saw the expensive white-wood pulp filters. His hosts told him that every pump and pipe was cleaned twice for purity, and each bottle sterilized four times before being trusted to hold Schlitz beer. He saw the 4,000-foot well that supplied the water, despite the fact that nearby Lake Michigan would have provided an otherwise acceptable source.

When Hopkins asked why Schlitz didn’t tell their customers about all of this rigorous attention to purity and quality, the response was “Every beer company does this.”

“But others have never told this story,” Hopkins replied.

Within months of the “new” story, Schlitz went from 5th place to a tie for first in the market.

Who wants fruit cake?

Let’s face it … it’s hard to get excited about fruit cake. So when copywriter Gary Hennerberg was hired in 2002 by the Collin Street Bakery of Corsicana, Texas (just south of Dallas) to help boost sales of the seasonal treat, he discovered that taste tests proved that people enjoyed the product, but despised the name.

So Gary did some digging, and discovered that Collin Street had some bragging rights in the ingredient department. The bakery used Texas native pecans in their cakes — pecans that grew next to a river or stream on small farms — instead of commercially-grown pecans.

Gary knew he had a story, and he wanted to see if it would help Collin Street Bakery increase their sales. He keyed in on how rare the pecans are to tell a compelling tale.

From majestic pecan trees native only to a handful of Texas rivers and streams, soaring up to 150 feet in height and canopy, planted by mother nature as long ago as the Civil War.

Sales increased by an unbelievable 60%, and tired old fruit cake became Native Texas Pecan Cakes — at least when delivered by the Collin Street Bakery.

What’s your story?

These are just two examples of the dramatic difference the right story can mean to a business.

And if you’re marketing your business with quality, relevant content, it’s absolutely critical that your editorial strategy be organized around that unique story.

As content marketing becomes mainstream, the early-adopter advantage is gone. I’d argue that we’re already past that point.

But there will always be room at the top for that remarkable story. Often, all you need to do is examine what you’ve already got going for you with a fresh perspective.

So … what’s your hidden remarkable benefit?

Editor’s Note: This is a Copyblogger Classic post, originally published in May, 2006. We’ll be republishing classic content from the archives from time to time, updated — as this post has been — to be sure the advice is as relevant as ever. Copywriter Gary Hennerberg was kind enough to point us to his site, where you can check out examples of the Collin Street Bakery direct mail campaign.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger, CEO of Copyblogger Media, and Editor-in-Chief of Entreproducer. Get more from Brian on Google+.

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Reader Comments (70)

  1. says

    The great thing about blogging is it’s a low-cost environment for finding out. When you resonate with your audience, you’ll know.

  2. says

    Michael, I’m sure Abraham told the Schlitz story — it’s required knowledge among anyone seriously into copywriting (which not all of my readers are at this point).

    The second story has only been told by Gary himself (in detail), with a mention on Bob Bly’s blog.

  3. says

    Enjoyed the info.

    The Pecan story has given me some ideas for writing a few sales letters/new advertising copy for some local companies.

    I’m all about local businesses.

    I don’t agree with the early adopter status being gone. I actually think we’re not even close to it.

    The good thing about this is it doesn’t really matter. I’ll still buy you a cold sweet tea if we ever see each other !

  4. says

    Mike, all I mean by “early adopter” being over is it might not be remarkable in and of itself that you have a blog. That type of easy recognition came from the relatively small pool of early business bloggers that are now fighting to stay on top of a generic hilltop.

  5. says

    Brian you have opened some doors in my mind that I did not realize were there. I have been looking for a great resource like yours to help create conversational copy and direct my client’s on the type of copy that will help their companies.

    Thanks keep it up…!!! If you’re ever in Miami you’d make a great speaker for my networking group.

  6. says

    Brian, I’ve seen dozens of explanations of USP and none of them hit home with as much clarity and grace as your “remarkable story” approach. Thanks for writing something that made me really stop and think.

  7. raj says

    Change the tired old perspective by revealing and promoting a new one. Excellent approach. It’s what differentiates okay copywriters from excellent copywriters.

  8. Abel says

    This explains the cliche’ facts tell but stories sell. I just read the excerpt of All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin and it talks exactly the same. How people base buying decisions with a story that matches their worldview or mindset.

    It’s quite profound but the more I read examples like these, I realize that I buy a particular product if the way I perceive it (through its story) fits my biases.

  9. says

    Hmmm, I know I’ve heard the pecan story somewhere else too. Might have been on Seth’s blog? Not sure.

    Lucky Strike did the same thing with their “it’s toasted” line. All tobacco was toasted but no one else mentioned it.

    I suppose the obvious thing to do for people who unsure of their USP is to start a half dozen blogs with different stories and see which one hits… it’s certainly an affordable way to check your story.

  10. says

    Hey John. It was actually me who mentioned the pecan story before, in the last installment of the Copywriting 101 series here.

  11. says

    USP’s are discovered by knowing truly what one can offer that will benefit many.

    Understanding first how much one can be “of help to others” will make it easy for success to follow.

  12. says

    This is a great post. I can’t remember how I found you (through Successful Blogger maybe?), but you are now on my Google homepage and I love your topics andyour style. I referenced this entry in my blog entry on stories. I’m doing a little series on Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind and story is one if the “senses” he highlights as critical. Thanks for taking the time to write this blog – it’s really helpful and interesting!

  13. says

    Finding your own hidden story can be tough. In both examples, it took not only a copy writing expert, but also someone from outside to uncover the story.

    If you can’t afford to bring in an outside copywriter, try ideas out on friends, on people from other industries, and of course on your blog readers.

  14. says

    Change the tired old perspective by revealing and promoting a new one. Excellent approach. It’s what differentiates okay copywriters from excellent copywriters.

  15. says

    Great post, Brian. I think it points out how by bringing in a new person to offer a helpful viewpoint, they can help you see cool things about you (or your business) that you’ve overlooked. Thanks for the great post.

  16. says

    Thanks for tweeting this and getting me to come here and read it. The idea that the story you tell is what makes someone decide to buy is priceless in itself. The examples are something I am really going to ponder.

  17. says

    I think the value of stories is not touted enough with our marketing. And you have added another addition with it being a “remarkable” story – one that is well, not expected. I like that. Gotta do something thinking now. blessings, Amy

  18. says

    Not only is the ‘preemptive’ marketing strategy of the USP very useful, but it also cements your entire marketing plan around one, simgle theme.

    The beauty of what Hopkins (and now the World) did was to take those things that really benefit the customer, and display them as the ultimate promise to that person. It’s no longer good enough to say “we’re the best in service and quality.” Those are reuirements of all business. You’ve got to get down on one knee and explain why you’re the BEST.

    No matter which angle a customer comes at your small business, your USP should cement your entire marketing strategy together. You don’t want them getting whipsawed between a ton of different messages.

    It’s all about frequency and consistency until the prospect makes a yes/no buying decision. It’s the USP that’s the keystone of the whole program and without it there are a lot of business owners that create very confusing marketing programs.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

    • says

      Like the visual of ‘whipsawed’ . . . my husband is in the tree service business. Keeping the message simple, clean and clear . . . thanks for the reminder.

  19. says

    I miss the Friday radio show!
    Thanks for all your cool ideas, I always read your blog posts.
    This post makes me want some of that Pecan cake!

  20. says

    It’s hard to intuitively know important points to highlight when it’s your own product. I could brag about the great details and benefits of my products to others (all great in my head anyway), but don’t know how to put it into words. I appreciate the information, something I’ll mull over for a long time now and try to formulate for my wares.

  21. says

    So often business owners are too close to the business that they rarely know what the public truly cares about, but I think Mike Webb said it best “It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.” – Mike Webb
    Thanks for sharing!
    Mike Slover

  22. says

    Hi Brian, this is a great post and I love the idea of a hidden benefit. I think the Schlitz beer story really makes the point that often we’ve already got something remarkable (or even unique), but because it’s taken for granted, it’s overlooked and undervalued. Sometimes it takes outside eyes and a fresh perspective to identify a new twist on an old tired tale.

    I’m really interested in what makes businesses special. It’s something I’ve been exploring on my own blog. I tend to work with very small / micro businesses and I often find that it’s actually the business owner themselves that provide the hidden remarkable benefit. And I think that’s because although you may be offering the same service or product as someone else, no one else does it in quite the same way – the secret is to work out precisely what that difference is and then communicate it in a way that appeals to customers.

  23. says

    Great post Brian! I read so many sappy ads that look like they’re trying too hard. “Tell a compelling tale” is great advice. I also appreciate Joshua’s comment, “No matter which angle a customer comes at your small business, your USP should cement your entire marketing strategy together. You don’t want them getting whipsawed between a ton of different messages.”

    All good, thanks so much!

  24. says

    Brian, this is fantastic! I’ve attempted to explain the importance of story to many, but the Hopkins/Schlitz and the Hennerberg/Pecan Cakes examples work so well.

    I’d like to add that after the step of “identifying” your remarkable story, the next step is to Tell It Masterfully 😉

    Also, As I’m relatively new to CopyBlogger compared to many, I’m thrilled you’re re-releasing and updating archived content, thank you!

  25. says

    Thanks for reposting this story about the success we achieved for Collin Street Bakery with identifying the “hidden remarkable benefit.” I’ll always remember the “aha!” moment that started us down the path to this new positioning. It was over lunch with the client when we were served pecan pie for dessert. My client remarked that the restaurant’s pie was made with commercially grown pecans, whereas CSB’s fruitcakes were made with native pecans. This prompted my curiosity about native pecans. The research suggested there was a story to be told and a unique selling proposition to be created. Obviously it worked.

    Moral of the story: always have dessert.

    If you’d like to see the CSB package, follow this link:

  26. says

    Hi Brian,

    Love the Schlitz story, NOT the beer … Yuck! I’m one of those Seattle beer snobs, as the stuff is great up here … must be the water 😉

    I like to call this your “Killer Swag.” It’s your unique combination of know-how and life experience. Who you are and what you know, delivered in your own special way. But it’s sometimes hard to find your own hidden benefit. When you do inject your personality into the mix it makes your content that much more special though, at least I like to think it does. Thanks for the post!

    p.s. When is the podcast starting up again? I already miss it.

  27. says

    Hi Brian,

    First, a zillion thanks for re posting this great post for newbies like Jason ‘J-Ryze’.

    Question, what would be, in your perception the ‘hidden-remarkable-benefit’ of Copybogger?

    • says

      Haha, thanks for noticing, Ashok :)

      And I’d guess one hidden remarkable benefit is that CopyBlogger’s kind of like a Blogging University, developed from the seed of a love for copywriting :)

    • says

      The hidden remarkable benefit of Copyblogger tends to evolve over time. :)

      Right now, it’s probably that all the work writers do to create great persuasive content is also a terrific SEO strategy, with just a few relatively simple tweaks.

    • says

      I can answer this one. 😉

      The one thing I can point to that’s been consistent from the beginning despite all the changes over the years, and the very unique thing, is that we practice what we preach in full view. I not only demonstrated while teaching during the early years (for example, how to get traffic with a post that got huge amounts of traffic in the process), I also made it part of the editorial voice (kind of a wink and smile at all times).

      People responded to that in a very positive way. So, the strange thing for Copyblogger is that we don’t have an overt “message” that you can spot, but the message is nonetheless communicated with the content. We’re transparent about the fact that we’re doing to you what we’re teaching you to do.

  28. Don Raymond says

    I had a great experience with a company that grew 900% in 3 years due to finding and exploiting its unique (remarkable) benefit. I posted an article a few years ago that shares that story:

  29. says

    Great Idea, I’ve been struggling to get the right hook on my site. I know what I want but don’t know how to make it more appealing, just like your fruit cake story. I’ll have a new look at things following this advice.


  30. says

    That’s very interesting to me. May sound funny but as a person who has struggled with low self esteem all his life I often wonder why my customers like me, and this gave me a wake up to acknowledge what these remarkable things are for me and my business and leverage them. THANKS

  31. says

    Its one thing to hear about selling the sizzle instead of the steak but it becomes easier to envision with real world examples from normal companies. I’ve been thinking about the positioning of my current business and another idea I’m working on but. I’ll use these examples for inspiration and give it a few more shots.

  32. says

    Thanks Brian. The USP thing has been bugging us for some time now. It’s easy to say that we must have it and that we need to have a very clear view of exactly what our USP is. I’ve been teaching learners about competetive advantage for years, e.g. your product or service must either be cheaper or better than those of your competitors. That was mostly applicable to physical products with a shelf life or on site delivery of services.

    In content generation for the internet more and more people are opting for audio and video production. This immediately creates a challenge in the market, because it excludes the hearing impaired, especially if it does not have sub-titles. I was just thinking that maybe, because my wife is hearing impaired and both of us produce written content, can we not perhaps make this challenge our USP?

  33. says

    Hey, thanks for this Brian. Yes, every success has a life story. We all have our own hidden remarkable benefit. We just have to discover it or be aware of it.

  34. says


    In your article, you say:

    “As content marketing becomes mainstream, the early-adopter advantage is gone. I’d argue that we’re already past that point.”

    Have you written anything else to further make the point on the early adopter stage and content marketing to expand on this idea/concept? This is a wonderful article on different ways to present your USP and I enjoyed it very much. Would you have more on the different “adoption stages’?

    Thanks again for a great article.

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