Developing your USP: A step-by-step guide

How to develop a USP – unique selling point

Your USP - a unique selling proposition or unique selling point - makes your business stand out from the crowd and tells your customers what is special about you. So it's vital to get it right, as marketing consultant Amanda Walker explains

What is your USP?

Your USP is what makes your business and its products or services different. It's what you offer that no-one else does in your market - whether that's a unique product range, higher quality, a lower price, a better customer experience or a new technological innovation.

If you can't identify your USP, you'll have a hard time convincing prospective customers to buy from you instead of your competitors.

Why do I need a USP?

We're always reading about how many messages consumers are bombarded with every day. They cannot re-evaluate services and products every time they need to make a purchase. To make life easier, they tend to organise products and services into groups and position them accordingly - for instance, the safest car, the most expensive car and the best value car.

A strong selling proposition, well communicated, will help customers quickly understand what your business offers and why they should choose you over the competition.

How to find your USP

Finding your USP means having a good understanding of your target market, your competition and your industry.

Understanding your target audience

Developing a USP begins with your target audience. What do you know about your target audience and why they buy items from the market you are operating in? What needs do those items meet for them? In other words, are they looking for a time saving, some expertise, a trustworthy supplier or something else?

By consulting customers, colleagues and friends, you can make a list of all the reasons someone might choose to buy your product or service. Look at your online reviews and any customer feedback you’ve received on social media. Are there some key themes that keep coming up? Pay close attention to this feedback and be open-minded - your customers’ perception of your USP may not be yours.

What is your competitive advantage?

Think about your strengths and weaknesses as a business. You should be able to pull out one or two things that you believe your business is really good at. Now make a list of your competitors and see which needs they are meeting.

Next, evaluate how well they meet those needs. Just because someone currently has a good position in a market doesn't mean that they're delivering on their promises. If you can do better, that's a strong basis for market entry.

Ask yourself what makes your firm distinctive. Is there something different about the way you make your product or provide your service? What are your values and what are you trying to achieve? For example, some businesses base their USP on ethical behaviour.

Look at industry trends

At the same time, you need to look at those needs that aren't being met by anyone, and also think about the key . If you are an accountant, for example, these trends could include changes in legislation and new online competition.

Consider current trends and those issues that will be most important in five years' time. Now see if you can extend your advantage into these areas.

Testing and refining your USP

Come up with a strong statement that conveys your USP. Talk to five or ten potential customers to get their feedback on the different ways you are positioning your brand.

The results of these interviews should help you to choose the best positioning statement:

  • what business you are in
  • who your target customers are
  • the single most compelling benefit you offer - the unique selling point that sets you apart from the competition
  • how you deliver on what you promise

How to communicate your USP

Your USP should drive the development of your business and your marketing strategy, whether you are creating a website or a logo, posting on social media, or embarking on an online advertising campaign. Always ask yourself if your image and activity clearly communicate the benefit you are offering.

It's not advisable to change your unique selling proposition too often, but it is important to keep it fresh. Watch out for any shifts in trends or competitors that could undermine your USP.

A step-by-step guide to creating your USP

  1. Make a list of what you know about your target audience.
  2. Make a list of all the needs that your product or service could meet - these attributes are all potential selling points for your business.
  3. Screen these against trends and competitors. Now remove the selling points that are already being well met by competitors. Don't forget that your USP is a unique selling proposition so you are looking for a gap in the market.
  4. Match each potential USP against what you and your business are especially good at, and how you want to be seen.
  5. Consult customers, colleagues and partners to get their feedback; also check customer reviews.
  6. Conduct short interviews with about ten people in your target market to choose the strongest USP for your business.
  7. Double-check that you have the right USP. Does it convey one strong benefit? Is it memorable? Is it clear who the brand is targeting from the USP? Can you deliver what it promises? Is it really unique - or could a competitor claim the same thing?
  8. Use this positioning to develop your business and your marketing strategy, creating copy and images that support your USP. Evaluate these activities using your USP as a benchmark.
  9. Create a social media strategy based around your USP to build awareness of what makes you different.
  10. Keep monitoring trends and new competitors that could affect how customers see your USP.

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