Finding Your USP

August 12th, 2009 by | Print



Before we get started on finding the “U” (or you) in your USP, let me just quickly say that USP stands for Unique Selling Proposition (sometimes referred to as Unique Value Proposition). Basically, your USP answers the question for your customers, “Why should I do business with you verses the competition?”


The inspiration for today’s post comes from some small business entrepreneurs that recently asked for my assistance with their struggling efforts. I believe in taking the doctor approach of asking questions to root out the ailment from its symptoms. And one of the first questions that I ask is “what is your USP?”


Now some simply don’t respond at that point, whether out of embarrassment or hope that I would give them a quick magic bullet I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I don’t believe in throwing out cookie cutter responses that are cure alls. I don’t believe that they exist.


However, there are basic building blocks for success that apply to any business and defining your USP is one of them. As a matter of fact, I find it tends to be one of the primary root problems that most small businesses face.


Having a defined USP affects what you name your business, who you target as customers, how you market your business, the products and services that you offer, and so on. So if you don’t have a USP (or almost equally damaging – the oxymoronic bland USP so you can grab the “everyone” market), how do you answer the question for customers, “Why should I do business with you?”


Let’s do a little exercise. First, try and think of a business that is completely unique – it doesn’t have a single competitor. I can’t think of one. If you can, please tell me. So don’t take months fretting over finding a USP that is totally unique. You are going to have competitors and chances are that your USP will have some similarities to other businesses. As a matter of fact, if your USP is too unique you may find that you have extra work to do to convince customers that your business has merit.


You should be able to come up with your USP within a couple of minutes. And as you do, apply the Twitter challenge of keeping it to roughly 140 characters (not words) or less. We live in an ADD world. People don’t want to hear you drone on for minutes about what you can do to benefit them.


If you find that you are struggling with your USP, then you either need to re-evaluate your business or follow some of the examples below.


The Niche

Finding a niche requires definition and possibly invention. You are bringing a product or service to a market that isn’t quite satisfied with the generic solutions available on the market today. Do you have an expertise, a concept, a design that differentiates you from the competitors? Do you offer something evolutionary to the market?


The Intersection

If you go to my Resources page, you will see under “Creative & Innovative Thinking” my recommendation for an excellent book titled, “The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation”. The book introduces the idea of the intersection – bringing two seemingly disparate concepts together to create a revolutionary approach to solving problems without re-inventing the wheel.


For example, the biggest market for Intersection USPs is the green industry. If you can apply green concepts to a green-less target market and do it at a competitive price point, you have an excellent USP.


The Personality (The Expert)

The Personality type USP is difficult to accomplish unless you are known as an expert within an industry (think Donald Trump, Martha Start, Oprah). People will buy into what these experts have to say because they have a proven track record of success; people want to buy into success.


Now the Personality USP isn’t only for household names, but in order for this to work for you, you better have a big, unique personality that attracts people – in addition to providing a product that they want.


If after reading this post you find that you are still struggling with your Unique Selling Proposition, write to me at I am more than happy to help.


All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


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