while you creatively imitate others, remember that it's
also important to be different. Distinguish your business
or practice from all the rest. Make your enterprise special
in the eyes of your customer or client. That is the goal
I want you to pursue.
do you get your business differentiated? By creating a
Unique Selling Proposition - or USP.
USP is that distinct and appealing idea that sets you
and your business, or practice, favorably apart from every
other generic competitor. The long-term marketing and
operational successes I help you achieve will, ultimately,
be helped or hurt by the USP you decide upon.
possibilities for building a USP are unlimited. It's best,
however, to adopt a USP that dynamically addresses an
obvious void in the marketplace that you can honestly
fill. Beware: It's actually counter-productive to adopt
a USP if you cannot fulfill the promise.
business owners don't have a USP, only a "me too,"
rudderless, nondescript, unappealing business that feeds
solely upon the sheer momentum of the marketplace. There's
nothing unique; there's nothing distinct. They promise
no great value, benefit, or service -- just "buy
from us" for no justifiable, rational reason.
no surprise then that most businesses, lacking a USP,
merely get by. Their failure rate is high, their owners
are apathetic, and they get only a small share of the
potential business. But other than a possible convenient
location, why should they get much patronage if they fail
to offer any appealing promise, unique feature or special
you want to patronize a firm that's just "there,"
with no unique benefit, no incredible prices or selection,
no especially comforting counsel, service or guarantee?
Or would you prefer a firm that offers you the broadest
selection in the country? Or one with every item marked
up less than half the margin other competitors charge?
Or one that sells the "Rolls Royce" of the industry's
you see what an appealing difference the USP makes in
establishing a company's perceived image or posture to
the customer? It's ludicrous to operate any business without
carefully crafting a clear, strong, appealing USP into
the very fabric of the daily existence of that business.
point is to focus on the one niche, need or gap that is
most sorely lacking, provided you can keep the promise
can even create hybrid USPs -- combinations that integrate
one marketing gap with another. Before you decide on a
USP, though, be sure you can always deliver that USP through
your whole organization. You and your staff must consistently
maintain high levels of quality or service.
you decide your USP is that your company offers the broadest
selection of products or services "instantly available"
or "always in stock," but in reality you only
stock six out of 25 items and only a few of each item,
then you're falling down on the essence of your USP promise,
and your marketing will probably fail. It is critical
to always fulfill the "big promise" of your
you don't honestly believe you can deliver on your USP,
pick another one to build your business on. Just be sure
it's unique and that you can fulfill it.
the USP is the nucleus around which you will build your
success, fame, and wealth, so you better be able to state
it. If you can't state it, your prospects won't see it.
Whenever a customers needs the type of product or service
you sell, your USP should bring your company immediately
conveying the USP through both your marketing and your
business performance will make your business great and
success inevitable. But you must reduce your USP to its
sinewy bare essence.
it. With paper and pen, prepare a one-paragraph statement
of your new USP. At first, you will have trouble expressing
it tightly and specifically. It may take two or three
paragraphs or more. That's okay. Ruthlessly edit away
the generalities, and tenaciously focus on the crispest,
clearest, most specific promise you could possibly hold
out. Then, rework it and hack away the excess verbiage
or hazy statements until you have a clearly defined, clearly
apparent Unique Selling Proposition a customer can immediately
seize upon. And then, integrate your USP into every marketing
aspect of your business, such as display advertising,
direct mail and field selling.
say you run display-type ads, and your USP is that you
have better selection and follow-up service than any other
competitor. There are several ways to integrate these
qualities into your ads. For example: State the selection
USP in the ad headline:
Always Have 168 different Widgets in No Less than 12 Different
Sizes and 10 Desirable Colors, in price ranges from $6
if good service at an affordable price is your USP, use
this as a model:
Tree Trimmers will trim and maintain your trees and shrubs
six times a year, once every two months, and all it costs
you is $16 a month, billed quarterly."
now you should have the general idea that you should carefully
integrate your newly adopted USP into the headline and
body copy of every ad you run. And in every direct-mail
piece you send out.
integrating your USP into just your ads and mailing pieces
isn't enough. You must integrate its positioning statement
into every form of your marketing. When your salespeople
call on prospects, everything they say should clearly
reinforce your USP. They should explain the USP to the
customer in a clear, concise statement. For example:
Mr. Prospect. I know your time is short, so I'll get right
to the point. Your company manufactures widgets. You buy
steel and copper from a competitor. You're currently paying
$100 a ton for steel and $75 a ton for copper, of which
you waste roughly 25%. My firm will sell you a higher
grade steel and a higher alloy copper for $95 and $69
a ton, respectively, freight prepaid, which saves you
an extra $3 a ton. Plus, we'll guarantee our metal will
produce a waste factor of 15% or less, and we'll replace
any wasted coverage, free. One last point, Mr. Prospect.
It could be important. We'll furnish you with 50, 20 gauge
titanium rivets and cap assemblies free with every 10
tons of steel you order this month. May I have your order?"
the sales pitch, your sales reps should refer to the USP
benefits or advantages, showing the prospect why it's
vastly superior to take advantage of your USP rather than
your competitor's USP, if he or she even has one.
try and merely have your salespeople "wing it."
Insist that they do their homework. Make them sit down
(figuratively speaking) and express the essence of your
USP. Be sure they can clearly and powerfully express your
USP in 60 seconds (the oral equivalent of a written paragraph),
and then compellingly state how it benefits the prospect.
Furnish your prospects with plenty of examples of how
you honestly deliver your USP.
an old, tired company or profession adopts a powerful,
new, and appealing USP, it gives new life, new excitement,
new interest and new appeal to the marketing plan. You're
suddenly different, instead of just being another interloper
preying on customers you've trapped into hearing your
sales pitch! Now you're on the customer's side.
remember this axiom: You will not appeal to everybody.
In fact, certain USPs are designed to appeal to only one
segment of a vast market. There is a vast gulf between
the upscale clients and the bargain seekers, and you probably
can't reach them both. Which do you want to stake out
as your market niche?
forget my earlier advice. Don't adopt a USP that you can't
deliver, or further marketing is useless. Also, analyze
the market potential of various USP positions in terms
of volume, profits and repeat business.
example, the highest marketing niche may be in the exclusive,
expensive USP, but the biggest money may be made in the
discount-volume USP. There's a place for both, but if
you try to ride two horses, you'll probably bite the dust.
Remember too, that your USP is giving advice, assistance
and superior service; it can't stop with mere sales rhetoric.
It must become total company conduct. If someone calls
in with a question, the people answering the call must
extend themselves. The same goes for every person who
interacts with that customer, from the cashier and the
delivery person to the service or repair people. You and
your employees must live, breathe, and act your USP at
down and write a synopsis of your USP for your staff,
how you're trying to carry it out, and how everyone can
project that USP to the world. Make their cooperation
a condition of employment. The entire company must adhere
to the USP.
to your staff, write scripts, hold contests, and reward
people who distinguish themselves in promoting your USP.
Set an example so that your staff can see the USP in action.
can you ensure that you are in the hearts and minds of
your customers after the sale? Here are a few good approaches:
following a sale, write, call or visit your customers.
During this follow-up effort, see that the customers feel
important and special, and that their initial purchases
are "resold." Repeat your USP and remind the
customers how it helped them make their purchasing decision.
Reassure customers about their wise decisions, and show
how the same USP that served them this time will be there
to serve them in the future.
again, state your USP, telling customers why you've adopted
it, and why it's such an advantage to them. People rarely
understand the benefits you provide them, unless you carefully
educate them to appreciate your efforts on their behalf.
post-purchase follow-up incorporating the essence of your
USP is vital, regardless of how frequently you "back-end"
or resell to that customer. You enhance the customer's
loyalty and value to your business by following up after
the sale. At the very least, a follow-up call, letter,
or sales appeal drastically reduces or eliminates cancellations,
returns, refunds, complaints, adjustments and disputes,
and reassures customers of the prudence of their recent
marketing requires that you give customers rational reasons
for their emotional buying decision. There is a formula
for success, and the USP, my dear friends, is truly an
integral part of that formula.
on the business, I usually advise my clients to offer
frequent special promotions to their customers by mail,
telephone or in person. Everyone wants to feel appreciated
and personally acknowledged. By offering your customers
genuine, specially priced deals or first choice, you endear
yourself to them. At the same time, you enhance your customers'
perception of your Unique Selling Proposition.
your USP is service, your preferred promotions will be
service-based rather than price-based. Give them extended
service -- for instance, a special offer of your basic
service, or one year of free consulting or assistance
not normally given.
don't underestimate the profit potential inherent in special
offers. Acquiring first-time customers usually costs a
small fortune. Space ads have to reach tens of thousands
of readers to produce a few hundred customers, so it may
cost you $10 or more to acquire a customer. The same goes
for TV, radio, or direct mail. Field salespeople may have
to call on 15 to 30 prospects before they make one sale,
so the cost of acquiring a new customer may be "hundreds"
once you satisfactorily deliver your product or service
and have a core customer base, you can continuously rework
and resell at a very modest cost per sale. When you have
a list of customers who have already shown their willingness
to spend money on your products or services, it costs
very little to go to them with additional special offers.
you have 10,000 customers, it will probably cost $3,000
to mail them a letter. (At best, that same $3,000 for
display advertising would probably generate only 100 new
customers at a cost of $30 per customer.) Calling all
10,000 prospects on the phone would take five telephone
sales people about a month. If they were on salary, that
might cost you about $10,000 (for that month) or only
about $1.00 a contact.
broad choice is your USP, have a customer-service representative
contact your customers to see if everything is satisfactory.
If everything is not, offer to replace, repair or correct
the product or service. Your customer-service people should
know just as much about available choices and options
as your salespeople. Give them reasonable authority to
replace, repair or reinstall if there is any dissatisfaction.
Make them aware that their jobs depend on ensuring that
the promise behind your USP is fulfilled. They should
provide evidence to any customer with a problem, complaint
or question that the USP is real and that the entire company
is enthusiastically committed to doing whatever it takes
to promptly fulfill the USP promise.
in your employ who does not, cannot, or will not promote
your USP should be immediately replaced with someone who
can and will. Your real wealth comes from repeat or residual
business which will only happen if every aspect of your
business is a continuous extension of your USP.
can send a personal thank-you note, letter, or a computer-typed
letter to customers. You can send a gift or a gift certificate.
You can send items to correspond with holidays: A box
of candy on Valentine's Day; a poinsettia, a turkey or
ham at Christmas; a birthday card -- the possibilities
are many. If you add up the customer's value in future
business or repeat sales, you can probably justify a sizable
investment in his or her goodwill. Everyone likes to be
acknowledged and feel they are special.
should even integrate your USP into every contact with
someone asks for a refund, replacement, or adjustment,
instead of resenting the fact that you have to give back
money, use that opportunity to reconvey the essence of
your USP -- either in person or by letter. If you have
an exchange department, instruct that staff to courteously
and sincerely reiterate your firm's USP, and assure the
dissatisfied customer of the firm's commitment to offer
more service, greater selection, better guarantees or
whatever. Then, if you issue credit or a check, include
a prepared letter expressing your deep commitment to your
USP, and apologizing for any inconvenience, disappointment
or dissatisfaction. With every refund, send a letter expressing
disappointment that you did not fulfill the customers
expectations, and strongly restate your firm's USP and
your commitment to it.
ask the dissatisfied customer to please give you another
chance to make good! And make it worth their while by
giving them a discount certificate, a special bonus, offering
three widgets for the price of two, or some other preferential
treatment that shows unhappy customers you want their
business back, that you appreciate them, and that you
will make good.
everything else, never, ever lose track of the fact that
USP is all about the customer or the client. It is not
about me, you, the company or the profession. Don't make
the mistake of aggrandizing your business. Instead, help
your customer or client do some aggrandizing.