The unique selling proposition (USP) is one of the cornerstones of marketing.
There has to be a reason people do business with you and not someone else — a winning difference that sets you apart and makes you the only real choice.
Traditional marketing advice will have you lock yourself in a cave for weeks listing all of the features of your business, translating them into benefits, then somehow finding that one compelling point that will differentiate you from everyone else you could possibly compete with.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach if it works for you. But if it doesn’t, try throwing it out the window and doing it the cheap and easy way instead.
If you’re not trying to launch FedEx, you don’t need a USP as robust as FedEx’s. Try each of these five-minute exercises and see if it doesn’t shake loose a USP that will work for your site.
Remember that information consumers don’t go to just one blog, subscribe to just one site, or buy just one product. They want anything and everything about the topic they love.
That means your USP doesn’t have to beat everyone else out. It just has to play nicely with the other offerings in your group.
The Crossroads USP
To create a crossroads USP, take two seemingly unrelated ideas and bring them together.
The hit movie Speed was famously pitched as “Die Hard on a bus.” Clueless is Jane Austen’s Emma set in 1995 Beverly Hills.
You can create a crossroads USP by taking something well-known and presenting it to a new audience. Maybe you’ll offer Yoga for Stockbrokers, or Business Blogging for Veterinarians.
Copyblogger is a crossroads blog, showing how to use direct response techniques to create better, more compelling blog content. And as the site and the world around us evolve, we’re finding ourselves at a new crossroads, between internet marketing and social media.
You’re looking for two roads that are different enough that you create some energy, but not so different that you can’t realistically bring the roads together. The Complete Guide to Flower Arrangement for NFL Players probably won’t find the audience you’re hoping for.
The Metaphor USP
Sometimes you can find an overarching metaphor that will snap everything into place.
For example, Duct Tape Marketing offers something you can find in lots of places—marketing advice for small businesses.
But that “duct tape” metaphor tells you a lot. It tells you the approach is practical, effective, and not terribly fancy. It probably skews slightly toward men, but not exclusively. It can be used in lots of different ways. And it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
No one’s ever going to confuse Duct Tape Marketing with a site called Green Planet Marketing or Mama Bear Marketing. Each creates its own USP just by using a metaphor to define the market, the approach, and the angle.
The Persona-Driven USP
If all else fails and you can manage to be reasonably interesting, your USP can simply be . . . you.
As Scott Stratten recently posted on Twitter, “If you are your authentic self in your business, you have no competition.”
Seth Godin, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart, Tony Robbins, Cal Worthington (and his dog Spot), Frank Kern and Gary Vaynerchuk have all created persona-driven brands. They started with something fairly ordinary (business advice, housekeeping tips) and made it extraordinary through the force of their personality, their passion and their individual expression.
To some degree, this is limiting. The business can’t ever get any bigger than you are. But each of those people has learned to partner and delegate in order to create companies that go far beyond a single individual. (You don’t really think Martha Stewart plants all those tulips herself, do you?)
If you’re going to create a persona-driven USP, you’ll need to keep showing up. It’s your job to stand front and center and say something interesting. You’ll provide the voice and the flavor for the site.
But don’t think you have to have a “shock jock” personality for the persona-driven USP to work for you. Chris Garrett and Darren Rowse are both soft-spoken, helpful gentlemen who have created wonderfully successful businesses by focusing on what they cared most about and how they could help others. They used their own experience as a filter for their audiences, with powerful results.
At the end of the day, the only reason you need a USP at all is to answer that question. Why you?
Why should anyone read your blog? Why should anyone buy your product or retain your services? What do you have to offer that makes it worth anyone’s time and/or money?
It can be a painful question, but it doesn’t have to be one that ties you in knots for weeks on end. Keep it simple, and keep moving forward. The strongest USP on earth won’t help you if you don’t back it up with all the other actions that create a successful business.