Unique selling point
What is a unique selling point?
A unique selling point (USP), also called a unique selling proposition, is the essence of what makes your product or service better than competitors. In online marketing, communicating your USP clearly and quickly is one of the keys to getting potential customers to convert on your site.
Why is a unique selling point important?
A unique selling point defines your company’s unique position in the marketplace, getting at the heart of your business: the value you offer and the problem you solve. A strong USP clearly articulates a specific benefit – one that other competitors don’t offer – that makes you stand out.
If all the products appear to be the same, your prospective customers won’t know which one is right for them. Being clear about your unique selling proposition helps them differentiate between the variety of choices available to them. It is a crucial part of effective selling, especially online where consumers have so many options.
A USP can also serve an important role internally, as it forces you to consider your company’s mission and its very reason for being. A successful business often determines which of their key competitive differentiators are clear.
As a business owner, you need to consider and communicate who your business is for, what drives you to offer the services you offer, and how you want to make a unique impact.
Your USP is your key differentiator and the reason your customer will buy from you and an important part of your marketing strategy for attracting new customers.
Unique selling point examples
Zappos is an online shoe store, and there is nothing especially unique about selling shoes online. However, their selling point is unique: free returns. There is no penalty whatsoever for returning a pair of shoes you don’t want, a major convenience to customers and a strong unique selling proposition.
Toms Shoes is a shoe manufacturer. Again, there is nothing especially unique about that. But Toms Shoes’ unique selling point is that for every pair of shoes a customer purchases, the company donates a pair to a child in need. Toms Shoes helps put shoes on needy children’s feet; this is their unique selling point.
Nike is yet another company known for selling shoes. Yet they are differentiated from Zappos and Toms because they focus primarily on athletic shoes with prominent sponsorships with star athletes. Their USP is that they provide the best quality shoes for athletes and fitness in general.
Those are just a few examples of unique selling propositions. USPs are by their nature unique to each business, but roughly fall into three major categories:
- Quality - Superior materials or ingredients, superior craftsmanship, proprietary manufacturing methods, one of a kind
- Price - The lowest price guaranteed, price matching, free shipping, bulk discounts, special offers
For established companies, the USP can eventually become synonymous with their brand, as the company’s name is automatically associated with the unique value proposition that the brand offers.
How to communicate your unique selling point
There are many ways a company can communicate their USP to their customers and prospects. A few commonly employed methods include:
- Advertising - Traditional media advertising and brand marketing campaigns can be a good way for a new business to get their brand in front of their target audience and communicate their USP.
- Social Media - Social media is a large driver of brand awareness for many companies. Having a strong presence on social networks and working with social media influencers can be a way for companies to communicate their USP.
- Content Marketing - Creating interesting or viral content that also talks about how and why a company is different from the competition can be a good way to communicate USPs.
- Digital Marketing - For an online store or digital business, the USP is often presented as the tagline of a webpage or as a bulleted list on a product page.
- Search Marketing - Improving a website's SEO and ranking for key terms in search engines such as Google can be a good way for a company to generate visibility and communicate their USPs.
How to test your USP with A/B testing
If you are uncertain about what drives your customers to buy from you, then A/B testing your company’s USP on landing pages can help. By testing different USPs against each other, you can determine the messages that resonate best with your target audience by measuring a specific conversion goal such as a product purchase.
Let’s say that you sell Lutz marbles, a rare collectible type of marble. You are not sure whether people are more compelled to buy them for the ‘goldstone’ in the marbles or their age (they are more than 100 years old).
Should your unique selling point be the goldstone or their age?
You could find the answer to this question by setting up an A/B test for your landing page where you test two different headlines:
- Variation A: Precious & Rare ‘Goldstone’ Marbles for Sale
- Variation B: Precious & Rare 100-Year Old Marbles for Sale
(By the way, the USP on a landing page isn’t always just the headline; it usually consists of some combination of a headline, subheadline and a bulleted list of benefits).
Using a service like Optimizely, you can track marble purchases as your conversion goal and see which USP gets a higher percentage of conversions.