Streetwise Advice: USP vs. Business Strategy

A Unique Selling Proposition Is Not a Business Strategy

A quick way to differentiate a unique selling proposition from a strategy is to think in terms of how a USP should work in advertising copy. It should be catchy, cute, or snappy. Each product might have its own USP.

Because a USP is not your strategy, don’t try to hit all of the key features of your products or even feel compelled to mention the most important. Instead, try focusing on one benefit that is highly memorable. An incredibly great example is David Ogilvy’s classic “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in a Rolls Royce is the sound of its clock.” Clearly, the strategy of Rolls Royce is not to make the clock as loud as possible, nor is the low level of interior noise the most important feature of a Rolls Royce. But this statement is packed with emotion, and it is highly memorable.

It’s not as easy as it may seem to come up with a unique selling proposition that is really powerful. This is one reason why major corporations spend tons of money on ad agencies in an often-endless search for the “perfect” USP. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t come up with a great USP before you start your business. Chances are, your competitor doesn’t have a very good one, either.

But don’t forget about a USP, or put off finding one forever, even if your competition is in the same boat as you are. A good USP can be a powerful competitive edge. If you’re stumped sitting at your desk trying to come up with a creative USP, try discussing it with your family or friends. Or just start jotting down all of your thoughts. Some of them may seem silly at first but may lead to something better in time.

Don’t Get Bored with It

Because you live, eat, and breathe your company every day of the year, you might quickly tire of a good USP. But don’t drop it. Remember, your current customers—and more important, your potential customers—will not see your message every day and will not tire of it as easily as you might.

Do It Yourself

Yes, you could hire an advertising agency to come up with a USP. But I suggest that you do it yourself. For one, ad agencies are sometimes guilty of focusing a little too much on making USPs too cute, too clever, or too entertaining, and not on making them effective. More important, if you create your own USP, you will probably have more pride in it, be more committed to its meaning, and be more apt to use it over a longer period of time. It will be a message you are more likely to use as a powerful marketing tool in presenting your business within the marketplace.

Don’t Misuse It

Don’t get straitjacketed by your USP, no matter how good it is. It should seldom be used as a headline in Internet or print ads or as the starting phrase in a radio or television spot. Instead, you should consider placing it at the bottom of Internet or print ads or using it as the wrap-up line in radio or TV ads.

About Bob Adams

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.