What is Your USP?

“Our faith in the present dies out long before our faith in the future.”

– Ruth Benedict

Do you know your USP? More important – do your customers know your USP? What – you may ask – is a USP?

What does USP stand for? In many ways, your USP identifies exactly what you stand for!

Your USP is your Unique Selling Proposition. It is the specific benefit that your customers get from your product or service. In order to have a successful USP, it is vital that you understand these 2 points:

  1. Your customers need to perceive what you offer as a real benefit to them. It has to be a benefit that really matters.
  2. You must be the first to claim this benefit.

Creating your unique selling proposition also allows you to focus your business. It is a constant reminder of why you remain in business. Why your customers choose to do business with you – and not with your competitors.

Here are a few examples of truly memorable USPs:

  • Federal Express – “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”
  • M&M Candy – “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”

Are these merely advertising slogans? No. They are operational imperatives.

Federal Express created their business to deliver packages overnight. Long before many customers realized that they actually needed to have their packages delivered overnight. Once enough customers started to see how overnight delivery of packages was important, other transportation companies started to offer overnight delivery.

That is when Federal Express realized that in order to stand out from their competitors, they needed to offer a guarantee. An not just any guarantee. Not just an offer to refund the money if the package didn’t arrive on time. Not just a coupon offering a discount on the customer’s next shipment – (and why would you care about the next shipment if your current shipment didn’t arrive when you promised?)

Their USP – “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

Here’s an interesting sidebar that illustrates leadership and vision. On the first night of operation, Federal Express used:

  • 389 employees and 14 aircraft to deliver
  • 186 packages overnight to 25 cities in the USA

FedEx helped to create the demand for overnight package delivery. There was little perceived need for this when they began operations. Once enough customers perceived that they needed overnight package delivery FedEx needed to cement their name and reputation in the front of the customers mind. And they needed to structure their operations to ensure that they would fulfill their USP – “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

No other package delivery company can claim that USP. UPS (United Parcel Service) had to create their own USP. They had to differentiate their business. That is why you have to be the 1st person or company to claim your USP.

Once Hertz told us that they were #1 in the car rental business, no one else could claim that position. They could attempt to dispute it – but that is a losing strategy. Rather, Avis staked out its own USP be proudly proclaiming that they were #2 – and therefore they had to work harder to become the #1 choice for their customers.

We see this in the political arena. During this election cycle, Sen. Barack Obama’s USP is “Change we can believe in.” He owns that position – in the minds of voters. No other candidate can take that away from him this year. He proclaimed it first. He has structured his campaign around this message – his USP is more than a slogan, it is the candidate. As long as enough voters perceive “Change we can believe in” as something that truly matters -to them – he holds the winning hand.

He sensed that voters wanted change from the status quo – the way things have always been done; the way things presently stand. He understod that “our faith in the present dies out long before our faith in the future.” He employed this thinking to create his strategy; to create his USP.

Just as with the history of FedEx, it took leadership and vision – along with a little luck – to determine that the electorate was looking for real change this year. 18 months ago, this was not so evident.

How about you – what is your USP? Individually, as a business – how do you stand out? What makes you unique? How do you differentiate what you offer? How do you provide a unique product or service that benefits your customers?

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