unique selling proposition

Concept introduced by Rosser Reeves of New York advertising agency Ted Bates, in 1940s. The identification or, if necessary, creation of a product’s exclusive benefit, which forms the advertising theme.

A Unique Selling Proposition is a strategy for selling by offering something special that no one else offers – a unique benefit or feature. A USP lends itself well to being a device for attracting attention and generating interest.

One classic USP was the offer of an unconditional, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee for customers. Of course, by definition, a USP can exist only as long as it is, in fact, unique. Self-service was once a USP, as was free home delivery, and many other innovations that are in common use today.

Most USPs are thus perishable. Something lasts as a USP only as long as only one individual or organization offers it. Ironically, the more successful a USP, the shorter will be its unique life.

Certainly, the most effective ones are transient, for competitors will always imitate success. You may count on every really good idea someone develops being adopted and imitated by others very soon.

Technically, “unique” does not mean just rare, but means one-of-a-kind in the entire universe. For the purpose of creating a USP, it is the customer’s perception that is important. So, it is the customer’s perception that an item is unique because no one else offers it or, if they do offer it, they fail to announce it, that makes a USP.

That marketing strategy is why so many advertisements claim exclusivity of one kind or another, such as “biggest sale ever,” “only Blank Company can offer you this,” “a genuine Blank toolbox,” and other such efforts to stand out from the crowd by offering something unique.

Of course, many of these kinds of offerings are not true USPs because they are only vague claims, and they do not even suggest – much less specify – a unique benefit to the customer.

To win customers, the USP must be prominently and clearly stated. Customers will normally not make the important connection between the USP and their personal interests, so you must make the connection for them.

In finding or creating a new USP for your business, product, or offer, bear in mind the two important characteristics that are absolutely necessary to make the USP effective:

  1. It must be something that will get attention, is not being offered elsewhere, and will make your offering distinctive and memorable. (Without these characteristics, it does not merit being called a USP at all.) The effective USP is not modest, but bold and assertive.
  2. It must offer the client a benefit important enough to influence his or her decision to buy from you. Doing anything less wastes your time creating your message and the reader’s time in considering it.

The USP or Unique Selling Point is a basic strategic idea that is a valuable device in all sales situations, including Facebook ads, your home page, print pieces, telemarketing scripts, as well as company blog.

It is not used nearly enough, possibly because it is not as well understood as it ought to be, and possibly because it is hard work to develop really effective USPs. Too often, an ordinary logo or slogan is assumed to be a USP, or one continues to use a once effective USP that has outlived its usefulness and no longer qualifies as a USP.

A USP must be memorable and motivating, as well as unique. However, “unique.” in this application, is a relative term, one that must be qualified, not one with absolute meaning. The qualification is this: The USP must be unique only in terms of the customer’s perception. (In marketing, all truth is whatever the customer perceives as truth.)

Being unique is a requirement of the USP, but not the sole requirement. It must also be something dramatic or novel enough to attract notice and be effective in motivating the customer to want what you offer. A USP has some value in having even one of these qualities, but its maximum value lies in having all these qualities. Even better, the ideal USP also makes a promise to the customer, directly, if possible, but certainly by clear implication. Achieving at least some of these qualities is what represents the true challenge in creating an effective USP.

Unfortunately, most USPs are highly perishable. One reason for this is because competitors are imitative, and the more successful the USP, the more likely it is that competitors will imitate it so that it is no longer unique. But even an unimitated USP gets stale with prolonged use and no longer attracts attention after a time.

Keeping USPs fresh and creating new ones, as necessary, are a constant challenge to your imagination in exploiting the USP strategy. Each business ought to have its own main USP, but it may and should have USPs for the various products and services it delivers.

Synonyms: USP, unique selling point, unique selling position

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