USP: The Foundation of Your Business

Your business needs a USP. I’m not talking about a simple slogan – your USP is much bigger than that.

It is the cornerstone of your positioning in the market and how your customers interact with you.

A business without a USP is like a house built without a foundation. If you don’t have one, the long-term health of your business is on shaky ground.

What is a USP?

USP stands for unique selling proposition. Simply put, it’s how you define yourself in your marketplace against your competition. It thoroughly and convincingly answers the question:

Why should I do business with you, versus every other option available to me, including doing nothing?

The last part of that question is important. It forces you to address the segment of your market that is seemingly happy in their current state. You should not write off that segment of your market, because it’s not that most of them are happy with their current solution, it’s that they’re complacent and could be convinced if the right offer were put in front of them.

You may think your current mattress is fine (for example), but the smart company will craft such a convincing USP that you will start to question your apparent good night of sleep.

That is the power of a strong USP, yet too many business owners don’t take the time to thoroughly answer the above question – let alone put it to use in their marketing.

How to Determine Your USP

Your USP is all about differentiation. What is it that makes you different from your competitors? “Good quality” and “exceptional service” are not specific enough. Those phrases ring hollow in the ears of your prospects. They may provide a starting point to discovering your USP, but they are not enough by themselves.

Even if you have not specifically articulated your USP, you still have one in the mind of your customers. They are doing business with you (and not the competition) for a reason. That reason will help you articulate your USP.

Survey your customers. Ask them why they buy from you and be sure to dig deeper when they say something like, ‘good customer service.’ Try and get them to be as specific as possible. The information they provide is invaluable.

How to Stand Out

How do businesses differentiate themselves? One way is to be the price leader. But be warned…

Going this route is a losing proposition.

It is incredibly difficult to maintain and often leads to a downward spiral where you are forced to cut prices to levels that are not sustainable. Eventually, you will go out of business or be overtaken by a competitor that has found ways to cut costs even more than you.

By the way, the majority of shoppers are not primarily motivated by price. If they were, everyone would drive a Kia, shop at Wal-Mart, and drink Bud-Lite. Don’t play the price leader game unless you have millions of dollars to spend on advertising.

Rather, focus your efforts on something that gives you a competitive advantage. What can you offer that others in your marketplace cannot?

Look for a void that your competitors are not addressing and fill it.

Don’t just assume you know what this is without direct feedback from customers. Your USP needs to be something they care about. You may be able to deliver your service faster than anyone else, but the marketplace may not care about speed of delivery. Let your customers tell you what is most important.

We’re the Only Company That…

What is it that you and only you provide in your marketplace? This is a great way to determine your uniqueness and a great way for customers to remember you. What is your ‘only’?


It’s easy to get carried away with creating a USP to the point where it can become unrealistic. Perhaps the most important part of your USP is that you can deliver on its promise.

If you put something out there and then fail to deliver, word will spread quickly that your company cannot be trusted. This is a recipe for disaster.

Stating Your USP

Your USP should have the following elements:

  • simply stated in 1-2 sentences
  • easily understandable
  • create immediate interest from qualified prospects
  • push away unqualified prospects

For example, my USP is that I help small businesses double their revenue in as little as 90 days – while working fewer hours – and I guarantee it.

This does not appeal to non-business owners, or businesses that are comfortable with the current growth trajectory, or business owners looking to retire this year. But it does appeal to business owners that have hit a roadblock in their growth and are overworked and don’t know how to get back on track.

Examples of USPs

Domino’s Pizza

One of the most famous USPs was that of Domino’s Pizza: “If we don’t deliver your pizza in 30 minutes or less, it’s free.” This was communicated in all advertisements from the company until this became what they were known for.

It worked for a time and allowed their business to thrive, but competitors soon began matching this USP, forcing Domino’s to try and develop something new.

The big lesson here is that USPs are not permanent in nature and must adapt to changing circumstances.

(As an aside, you can see the effect that a worthwhile USP has on the marketplace: It forces your competitors to step up their game. In the end, the customer benefits greatly. That’s how you know you have a winning USP.)

Geico Insurance

“15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” This is a powerful USP. It appeals to anyone looking to save a bit of money and do so in a short amount of time.

Using Your USP

A USP is useless unless you know how to use it.

It has use both internally among employees and externally in your marketing.


Internally, it ensures your employees are all in alignment about what makes your business unique.

If I were to ask five of your employees what the company’s unique selling proposition is and I get five different answers – you’ve got a problem. Your business will be sending confusing messages to the marketplace and prospects won’t have a clear idea of what it is that makes you different.


Externally, your USP, and variations of your USP, should be used in your marketing communications.

USPs aren’t always slogans, so don’t get caught up in using the exact same verbiage all the time regardless of the medium of communication. You risk coming off as awkward and robotic. Rather, the intention behind your USP is what should be apparent at all times, regardless of how it is stated.

But make sure that it is always stated.

Don’t let your differentiating factors be left unspoken and just hope that your customers will see what makes you unique. You need to be explicit about it and repeat it every chance you get.

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