Nathanael Green's Blog

An advertising copywriter, novelist, and freelance writer's brain goo.

Make it Unique, Make it a Benefit

with 2 comments

Do you have a unique selling proposition? Having one, and communicating it effectively, can make a huge difference in your marketing.

It doesn’t matter what you’re peddling: You’re writing your resume and cover letter for a job; you’re writing an advertisement for your company; you’re crafting an elevator statement to pitch your screenplay … if you can include a unique selling proposition, it’ll make it all that much stronger.

So what is a unique selling proposition?

A unique selling proposition, also known as a unique selling point (or USP, as the cool kids like to say), is pretty simple. It’s the specific thing that makes what you’re selling one-of-a-kind.

It’s any time you can confidently say, “This is the only _____ that does _____.”

Why a USP is important and can’t stand alone.

Offering a unique aspect to what you’re selling is a great way to get attention. It makes you stand above the rest of the competition. Being the only one to do something makes it interesting and desirable.

Imagine you’re looking through a list of job applicants, and there’s only one single person who’s got a Ph.D. They definitely stand out.

However …

If you’re hiring for a position designing electric cars and the person’s doctorate is in medieval literature, their USP doesn’t mean squat to you.

So you have to make it relevant. Your USP should be a benefit to your audience, and you have to make sure you communicate it as such.

The beneficial USP.

Honestly, not every product or company can truthfully offer a beneficial USP. Notice I say “truthfully.” Because often people will create one that’s either not true, which I think is shameful, or offer one that’s unique, but not beneficial: “MacGregor’s Pub has the cleanest mirrors in town!”

Or one that’s too vague: “Joe’s Salsa tastes better!” Um … better than what?

Bad USPs are all over the place. So take a browse in the newspaper or pay attention to commercials to see what you can find. I bet once you start looking, you’ll see dozens of things that don’t make sense. And when you do, please share.

Now, if only you can take these propositions and turn them into a benefit. Like “With over a hundred sparkling mirrors at MacGregor’s, you can easily check out that cutie behind you without getting caught.”

Ok, it’s a stretch … but you get what I’m driving at.

Finding your USP.

What makes you stand out? What is the one thing you do better than anyone else? Is there anything you do that no competitors do at all? Think about these things and also think about what it means to your audience. What is the biggest benefit from their point of view?

Think about other benefits to your customers beyond the product itself. For example, the local craftsman selling cuckoo clocks isn’t just offering clocks. He’s giving his customers pride in old-time handy work and making them feel good about supporting their neighbors and local economy.

It’s your job to find your USP, find how it benefits to your audience, and explain it to them.

Here’s a link
with a little more about USPs, including a few good examples.

And let me know what you think. Have you found any bad USPs? Any great ones?

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Written by Nathanael Green

July 2, 2009 at 6:03 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Nate, it’s very interesting to think about query letters and other sorts of writing pitches in this light. I thought as I started reading that you were going to say that the pitch itself had to be done in a unique style, but what I think you’re saying is that what has to be unique is the content. Sounds hard, but worthwhile.

    Seana

    July 3, 2009 at 1:19 am

    • I agree that it’s hard, but certainly worthwhile.

      You can certainly do well with things that aren’t completely unique – novels, restaurants, colas, whatever. There are tons of me-too products out there that fill a need in some way (how many copycat chain restaurants are out there that are all still viable?). Sometimes one producer simply can’t fill the demand, so similar things spring up to fill the void. Sometimes people just jump on the success of something else. Sometimes a lesser, cheaper product is more appealing.

      But personally, I think it’s worth it to put the effort into making something unique. Whatever your product, if you can do one little bit better than anyone else, or innovate in a way previously unseen, you’re really creating. You’re offering something more than just a me-too product, and you’re doing something you can be proud of. And for marketing purposes, no matter what your product, I think it’s much easier to push something you believe in.

      Nathanael Green

      July 7, 2009 at 9:23 pm


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