What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 3 of 3]

Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash

[This is the final installment of a 3-part series on creating a memorable USP. You can find Part One here, and Part Two here.]

If you’ve already read Parts 1 & 2 (linked above) of this 3-part series, welcome back! If you’re arriving at this post fresh from somewhere out there on the interwebs and you haven’t read the first two installments, I recommend you read those first. 😊

To recap, in Part One of this post on creating a compelling USP for your business, we defined the terms USP (unique selling proposition) and “meaningful difference,” covered how a memorable USP informs your signature marketing message, and importantly, why your signature marketing message is so critically important to the health of your business, and I shared a short excerpt from my guide Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, to help you make sense of it all.

In Part Two, we talked about five ways a stand-out USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales.

In this final installment, I’ll share a few examples of successful unique selling propositions and talk some about why they work, which I hope will give you solid inspiration for creating a great one for your own business.

Let’s get started.

As I mentioned in Part One, it’s unlikely that your product or service is unique in and of itself, so figuring out what makes you different – whether this is your process, your personality, your backstory, your specialization, your target audience, or all of the above (and it’s usually some combination of all of the above) – and conveying that in your marketing will give you a competitive edge.

I call this the “combo platter” test.

Another framework to consider is the “what your business stands for” test.

As Joe Putnam from Conversion Engine, writing in a guest post on Neil Patel’s blog, says:

A unique selling proposition is what your business stands for. It’s what sets your business apart from others because of what your business makes a stand about. Instead of attempting to be known for everything, businesses with a unique selling proposition stand for something specific, and it becomes what you’re known for.

He shares three excellent examples of this USP framework in action: Starbucks, Zappos, and project management software, Basecamp. Check out Joe’s article on unique selling propositions here for more on that.

Examples of Effective USPs 

If you’re anything like me, it helps to see Real! Live! Examples! to make the theory talk gel and show you the way forward.

I love me some examples, so here’s a big ol’ section full of ‘em.

 [*Caveat: When you look at the first set of examples below from our friend Jim Muehlhausen, you might think, “Oh noes! I have to fit my USP into a short, pithy tagline!” No, you do not. Great if you can do it, but my definition of USP is broader than that. See “combo platter,” above.]

In Compare a Unique Selling Proposition to a Unique Value Proposition, Jim Muehlhausen says:

The goal of any great business model is to have a high-profit product that customers want to buy. A highly marketable product is traditionally described as having a unique selling proposition. Whole Foods offers only healthy choices in its stores. Domino’s Pizza grew rapidly because of its super-fast delivery. UGG boots are not only fashionable but also allow you to walk comfortably without socks. These are all unique selling propositions.

Muehlhausen shares a list of other good examples of products with a clear USP and tagline:

  • BMW:The Ultimate Driving Machine
  • Dawn Dishwashing Liquid:Gets grease out of your way
  • Domino’s Pizza:You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free
  • FedEx:When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight
  • MetLife:Get Met. It Pays.
  • M&M’s:Melts in your mouth, not in your hand
  • Target:Expect more. Pay less.
  • Walmart:Everyday low prices

Want more?

A fantastic resource I love is Corbett Barr’s 10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web. I often refer people to this article when they’re struggling to come up with a USP for their business.

Saddleback Leather is one example of a killer USP Barr shares in the article above, saying:

“There is no other leather bag company on the planet like Saddleback Leather This company oozes personality. The website is full of tales of Mexican bullfighting, travel in third-world countries, simple pleasures and touching stories about the owner’s beloved Labrador named Blue.”

About TOMS Shoes, he says:

“TOMS Shoes are quirky, comfy, light and inexpensive. That alone maybe isn’t enough to make a company stand out in the shoe business. The most unique and compelling part of the TOMS Shoes story is that they give a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair you purchase.”

Check out the article over on Fizzle.co for these and a handful of other great examples.

Here are a handful of my own favorite USP examples, curated from around the web over the last few years and saved into my personal swipe file:

Hiut Denim 

I can’t even begin to explain how much I adore this company. I would marry this company if I could.

What they stand for?

“Do one thing well. We make jeans. That’s it. No distractions.” 

Their backstory is also very compelling, with a powerful emotional hook. But it’s not contrived. It’s not some made-up marketing B.S. It’s the real effing deal.

Hiut Denim saved a town and its livelihood.

Whether or not you find that meaningful, it’s certainly a story you won’t forget. “Oh, that’s the company that saved the town of Cardigan and got them making jeans again.” 

I mean, sure, Meghan Markle wears their jeans, but in my mind, that’s just a natural result of their extraordinary product and business ethos.

They also have the best weekly newsletter of any retail goods company I’ve come across, called Scrapbook Chronicles. It’s full of compelling stories, creative inspiration, out-of-the-box thinking, and interesting ideas. It’s my favorite thing to read on a Saturday morning.

The Unmistakable Creative 

The Unmistakable Creative is a podcast, blog, and so much more. Podcast host, writer, and multi-published author Srini Rao says about The Unmistakable Creative:

I help creative individuals and organizations bring their ideas to life using research-backed principles from neuroscience and behavioral psychology.

Now, you can argue that’s a value proposition, and you’d be right, but The Unmistakable Creative is a distinctive brand with a stand-out USP.

Srini says about his podcast:

I’ve interviewed bank robbers, drug dealers, billionaires, performance psychologists, New York’s highest paid dominatrix, performance artists, entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss and David Heinemeier Hansson, and many more, trying to understand what makes some people’s lives so uniquely them – so unmistakable.

The podcast is a treasure trove of fascinating people doing unexpected things, many of them taking decidedly non-traditional paths to finding success, joy & fulfillment in their professional and personal lives.

Definitely not your “usual” business or marketing podcast (though there are many guests who are geniuses at both of those things), which is one of the reasons I find it so compelling.

Anthropologie 

If you want to read an in-depth, case study-like overview of how Anthropologie has developed passionate brand loyalty among its ideal audience, check out the article Sophisticated Sell on Fast Company. 

I read this article years ago, saved it to my “examples of great USPs and messaging” file, and still refer to it often.

The article overview sums up Anthropologie’s unique appeal nicely:

“Why are so many women so passionate about shopping at Anthropologie? Because Glen Senk and his colleagues aren’t just selling clothes and furnishings. They’re selling a sense of adventure and originality — and the promise of self-discovery.”

If you’re a student of effective copywriting and marketing, you’ll know that what we “sell” has less to do with the actual product or service on offer – whether that’s photography, design, art, business consulting, marketing services, or anything else – and more to do with how our products and services make the buyer feel, how our goods enhance or reinforce a perception people have, or want to have, about themselves.

What Anthropologie “sells” is the aforementioned “sense of adventure and originality — and the promise of self-discovery.” (Think about the oft-used example of a mattress: it’s not the mattress itself that’s being sold, it’s a good night’s sleep.)

Their retail stores create a distinct experience. As Anthropologie’s president explained in the Fast Company article, “One of our core philosophies is that we spend the money that other companies spend on marketing to create a store experience that exceeds people’s expectations. We don’t spend money on messages — we invest in execution.”

One of the things Anthropologie does especially well is spend the time and effort to know their core customer deeply, then reflect that in all they do, through every touchpoint of the buyer experience.

“Most stores cater to a broad base of customers or specialize in a product category. We specialize in one customer. And we offer her everything from clothing to bed linens to furniture to soap,” says Anthropologie’s president.

Now that is a distinct USP.

(If you’re on my email list or read my blog, you’ll know that I am absolutely obsessed with beginning the process of determining your USP & signature marketing message by getting to know your ideal client or customer and their needs and desires really, really well. It all starts there. That’s why I love this Anthropologie example so much. I highly recommend you read the entire Fast Company article linked above; it demonstrates how they have done this successfully.)

The Parker Palm Springs 

Hotels. There are a million of them. So how to stand out and be remembered in order to attract your ideal guests?

The Parker Palm Springs does it in a thoroughly captivating way: through the use of a “short memoir” on their website Home page.

The “memoir” shares a day in the life of an ideal hotel stay, from waking and enjoying a decadent breakfast, to exploring the lovely hotel grounds, to spending time at the sparkling pool and enjoying an afternoon cocktail, all the way through drinks & dining in the p.m., and on through to nightcaps the end the evening, and a perfectly delightful day.

The feeling of being transported and pampered the hotel delivers is captured beautifully in their messaging, images and overall web experience. And those rooms! To die for.

What you come away with after visiting The Parker Palm Springs website is a very different experience to most hotel websites, many of which (even for the nicer hotels) feel much more transactional and utilitarian in their approach.

As I like to say, you have to “paint a picture” for your ideal clients and customers, and The Parker Palm Springs does it brilliantly.

 

I hope this three-part series has helped you better understand what a memorable USP is, the importance of creating one for your business, and how to get started devising your own.

My next step suggestion is to begin paying close attention to the brands you’re drawn to, and note why that is – I bet it has something to do with that company’s USP and brand messaging. (For example, I’ve been driving a Jeep Cherokee for years. When I first bought it, I was still living out West after being a life-long East Coaster, and doing a lot of hiking in the mountains on the regular. The Jeep USP and brand messaging aligned with the person I saw myself as at that time – an active, outdoorsy person who doesn’t follow the beaten path in life and likes to do things a little differently.)

Discovering and conveying your USP is essential to business success, especially online where every potential client or customer that could be yours has a world of choices at their fingertips 24/7.

I have more examples of memorable USPs from my swipe file I may share next week, or some other time soon.

In the mean time, good luck with creating your compelling USP and signature marketing message (s)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 2 of 3]

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

[This is Part Two of a 3-part series on creating a memorable USP. You can find Part One here. Part Three is here.]

In Part One of this mega-post on creating a compelling USP for your business, we defined the terms USP (unique selling proposition) and “meaningful difference,” covered how a memorable USP informs your signature marketing message, and importantly, why your signature marketing message is so undeniably important to the health of your business, and I shared a short excerpt from my guide Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, to help you make sense of it all.

In today’s post, we’ll talk about five ways a stand-out USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales. Then in the final installment of this series next week [Part Three], I’ll share a few examples of successful unique selling propositions and break down why they work so well, which will help you create a great one for your own business.

Ok, so let’s recap a bit:

In Part One, I mentioned that creating your signature marketing message can be approached through use of a “formula” of sorts, which looks something like this:

ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) + USP (unique selling proposition) + your expertise + your life experience & unique backstory + your worldview, applied to your ideal client or customers’ challenges & how you will solve them = your overarching marketing message

You’ll weave this in on your website, blog posts, newsletters, social media updates, and all your marketing communications, wherever you’re in conversation with your audience.

Your signature marketing message is what compels your ideal clients and customers to choose you over all the other choices they have, it tells them why you’re exactly the right person or business to solve their problems and challenges, and it begins to tell them how you’ll do so.

Your messaging should strike an emotional cord with your ideal/desired audience, and make them feel like, “Yes, this is exactly who I want to work with. Where do I sign up?”

Here’s another way to think of it:

The hook/big idea/marketing message of your business answers the question, “Of all the other [thing you do] out there who are equally talented, skilled, and experienced, why should your ideal clients choose you?”

A marketing message that converts will entice your desired clients and customers to take some kind of conversion action, such as subscribing to your email list, signing up for a free consult, inquiring about working with you, making a purchase, or similar.

 

So, let’s say after reading Part One of this post you’re clear on what a USP / meaningful difference is, and you understand how it informs the creation of your signature marketing message. You also get that it’s imperative to begin incorporating your USP and signature marketing message into all your copy online and elsewhere in your marketing communications, so you can stand out from pack and attract and convert your ideal clients & customers.

Once you’ve got that in motion, you’ll start enjoying the following benefits.

5 ways a compelling USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales

A compelling USP attracts and appeals to your ICA

#1: Your signature marketing message is created based on a USP that is meaningfully different in a way your ICA finds appealing, so when expressed in your marketing communications, ideal clients will naturally be drawn to you, and want more of what you have to offer. [I get this may sound like theory, but in next week’s post when we look at examples of great USPs, all will become clear.😊 ]

A compelling USP creates trust with your ICA, and trust = more sales

#2: When you communicate what makes you different from others who provide a similar product or service in a way that resonates with your ICA, they’ll feel seen, heard, and understood. This creates trust. And creating trust is critical to making sales.

A compelling USP helps you create marketing copy faster (and related … helps you make sales even if your copywriting & marketing skills aren’t stellar)

#3: Knowing your ICA well and understanding what your USP/meaningful difference is, means you don’t have to be the world’s most skilled copywriter or marketer to start getting great results from your web and other marketing copy, as long as you’re expressing an enticing USP clearly.

And that means …

You can sit down and bang out copy faster. Get it up on your website or landing page faster. Send out those sales emails faster. And obvs, start making sales faster as a result.

What a bonus!

I still fret over every sentence and word when I’m writing copy for my own business, but because I know my USP and how it’s meaningfully different for my ICA, I can incorporate those elements into my messaging and get the copy out the door so I can make sales now, rather than some undetermined time in the future when the copy is “perfect.” Which it never will be.

True story: my website in its current iteration sorely, sorely needs to be redesigned and upgraded, and I do just fine. In fact, there are many things in my business that need to be improved and upgraded, and there are loads of things I’m not good at, but despite that, I do just fine.

That’s because my marketing message, of which the USP is a large part, resonates with the right people, and enough of those right people reach out to work with me so I can earn a good living.

A compelling USP allows you to create the right marketing message for the right audience

#4: Knowing your USP will allow you to create blog posts, videos, newsletters, email onboarding and nurture sequences, social media status updates, web copy and all other conceivable kinds of content to show off your expertise to your right people with much more ease, instead of spending countless hours in front of your computer pulling your hair out wondering what to write. When the right messaging gets put in front of the right audience at the right time, some of those people are naturally going to buy.

A compelling USP will help you save time, and time = money

#5: When you don’t have to work yourself to a frazzle creating content that establishes your authority and attracts good clients, you’ll free up more time to do other key activities in your business. And as we all know, time is money. Actually, time is a finite resource, and therefore more valuable than money. One way to spend your valuable time well & earn more is to write effective marketing copy faster, which you are equipped to do once you know your ICA + USP.

And as a result of #1 – #5 above?

You’ll convert more sales, because your targeted content & marketing copy demonstrates your USP / meaningful difference in a way your ICA finds engaging, in a way they are drawn to, and in a way that is deeply beneficial to them (which makes it nearly impossible to ignore).

The bottom line is, being one of a kind in your marketplace makes it so much easier for your right people to find and choose you. And you do this in part through a kick-ass USP.

And … that’s it for Part Two.

In the final installment of this 3-part series next week, I’ll share Real! Live! Examples! of USPs that have helped businesses of all kinds develop enormous brand loyalty with their target audience & stand out in their (very often) saturated niche.

My hope is that you’ll look to those examples for inspiration in creating your own memorable USP and the signature marketing message that naturally goes along with it.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the process I recommend for finding your USP and compelling marketing message/s, I invite you to check out the Marketing Messages That Convert guide here.

Why Relevant Messaging for Your Target Audience is Non-negotiable [& how to create it]

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Recently I was on a strategy call with a client I’ve worked with on a handful of copywriting and marketing projects over the years.

Since we’ve known each other for a while, once the strategy session was over, we got to chatting informally about business, and life in general.

She asked me an interesting question.

“I’m curious,” she said. “I know what I need your help with, but what’s the main thing your other clients come to you for, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Even though I serve a varied group of creative service providers, freelancers, and solopreneurs, there’s not a long list of marketing-type things I help people with, or problems I help them solve.

My work with clients mostly boils down to a small handful of things. It’s largely writing email or website copy and/or working out their web & email marketing strategy.

And it always, always starts with getting clear on relevant messaging for their target audience, so their websites and email campaigns attract and convert more ideal clients.

Because without targeted, persuasive messaging, it won’t matter how much traffic you get to your website, how beautifully designed your site is, or how fantastic your work is.

Your ideal clients will not linger on your site, they will not sign up for your email list, and they will not inquire about working with you.

Full stop.

I’ve seen this over and over again, and I’ve been at this since the stone age, AKA 2001. (Which, by the way, I can’t even BUH-LIEVE I’ve been doing marketing communications that long. But I digress.)

This happens because not understanding your ideal clients’ hopes, fears, and dreams, together with your meaningful difference in the marketplace, results in messaging that’s generic, boring, bland and homogenous. 

And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as your marketing copy may be, it won’t convert enough web visitors into solid prospects and ideal clients to make all that hard work you’re putting in to “get the word out” worthwhile.

When clients come to me, they’re often experiencing the following challenge:

They’re getting some level of traffic to their website, but their site isn’t converting traffic into leads, and leads into clients.

In other cases, it’s doing a little bit of this, but not nearly enough.

This, despite having a beautifully & professionally designed website that showcases the work they do in a compelling way, or a perfectly serviceable DIY website that does the same.

Yet, people aren’t people reaching out to work with them often enough. Or at all, in some cases.

I have so much empathy for clients in this situation.

Because I was in this very same predicament when I was selling myself as a generic freelance writer way back in the day, a story I’ve told many times on this blog and in my newsletter.

What saved my butt and my business was getting clear on who I wanted to work with, what problems they had that I was uniquely qualified to solve, and how I could express this persuasively on my website and elsewhere through a clear and compelling marketing message.

That’s what changed everything for me.

I went from having a poorly performing website that wasn’t generating nearly enough qualified leads, and where email sign-ups were moving at a glacial pace, to getting high-quality clients from a tiny amount of website traffic and doubling my email sign-ups.

This was a result of clear, compelling messaging that appealed to my target audience.

Messaging that was not generic. It was also not based on what I thought people wanted, but instead on copious research + interviews I did with real, live, flesh-and-blood humans about their challenges and desires related to their creative businesses.

So, here’s my hot tip for you.

If you create a marketing message that appeals to your ideal clients and share that on your website and through your other marketing channels, it’s entirely possible to gain A LOT of traction – as in, leads, clients, and email sign-ups – without having to do loads of other things first.

Now, to be clear, those “other things” – a professional website, relevant services & packages that your ideal clients want to buy, qualified traffic coming to your site, consistent marketing, etc. – are all important, necessary, and need to be put into place.

BUT, the right messaging always comes first.

That way, when your marketing starts working and traffic starts coming to your site, your audience is met with messaging targeted directly to them and their needs/wants/desires, which in turn, makes them want to subscribe to your email list, inquire about working together, sign up for a free consult, or take some other step in your sales process.

To help you with that, the following is a brief excerpt from my recently released copy messaging guide, which you can purchase if you so desire, or you can get started by implementing the golden nugget below, without spending a dime! 😊

Your marketing message is the combination of things about you and your business — that you already possess! — that put together the right way, will help you attract and connect with your ideal clients & customers (your “ICA,” or ideal client avatar), stand out from the online crowd (instead of being a copycat version of every other person for hire out there doing what you do), and, once you’re getting consistent quality traffic to your website, help you get more business, bookings and sales.

It’s created from your ideal client profile, your unique selling proposition (USP), or what I prefer to call your “meaningful difference,” your expertise, and your unique backstory, among other things.

So, if it were a formula, it would look something like this:

ICA + USP + your expertise + your life experience & unique backstory + your worldview = your overarching marketing message

You’ll weave this in on your website, blog posts, newsletters, social media updates, and all your marketing communications, wherever you’re in conversation with your audience.

Your marketing message is what compels your ideal clients and customers to choose you over all the other choices they have, it tells them why you’re exactly the right person or business to solve their problems and challenges, and it begins to tell them how you’ll do so.

The right messaging should strike an emotional cord with your ideal/desired audience, and make them feel like, “Yes, this is exactly who I want to work with. Where do I sign up?”

Here’s another way to think of it:

The hook/big idea/marketing message of your business answers the question, “Of all the other [thing you do] out there who are equally talented, skilled, and experienced, why should your ideal clients choose you?”

And there you have it.

My hot tip for you is to spend some time creating your compelling marketing message and begin sharing it on your website and every other place you communicate with your audience.

Because again, even without all the other elements in place yet, this can work wonders for your business. I can’t promise that, of course, but it certainly worked wonders for mine.

Creating and sharing persuasive, targeted messaging that spoke to my ideal clients and conveyed my meaningful difference is what made all the difference between me giving up and crying into my Lucky Charms, and still being here, 7+ years into my freelance business journey, loving what I do and supporting myself with it.

If you want to go deeper on how to create a signature marketing message, you can grab my guide, Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, for less than the cost of a Starbucks date.

And if not, use what I’ve shared in the excerpt above to get started on your own.

Either way, I wish you the best of luck!

This is What “Thinking Different” {and Southern} About Business Looks Like: Southern Airways Express

Doing business different

Image by Ladyheart

Around these here parts, we love to preach doing things your own quirky way in business. (And by “we,” I mean me.)

And we love it when we read about a company that bucks the system, says a big ol’ F.U. to “business as usual,” and follows a decidedly different path entirely of its own idiosyncratic making.

And we especially love it when that company proves you don’t have to follow boring old canned ways of doing things to succeed in business.

Southern Airways Express is that company.

My cousins over at The Bitter Southerner recently featured Southern Airways in a story on their site called Fly Me to the Gulf: How a Gang of Tennessee and Mississippi Entrepreneurs Is Bringing a Little Southern Hospitality (and Some Dignity) Back to Air Travel, written by Richard Murff, with photos by Matthew Jones.

Now this sounds like an airline I want to fly:

So abnormal, sensible and human is the team behind the startup that they just might have saved air travel from the savage jaws of awfulness and made it fun again. Its model — short-haul flights of less than 10 passengers — avoids the Transportation Security Administration policies of treating all passengers like refugees; reduces check-in to a pleasant 20 minutes; makes actual airtime comfortable, even sociable; and has no baggage-claim system to send all your clothes to Anaheim for the weekend. It does this, generally, for less money than the major carriers.”

And while things are good now, the startup had to overcome naysayers and dream stealers and a small-minded consensus among the major airlines that their model was impossible.

But guess what? They made it work.

Here’s COO Keith Sisson:

“Look, we aren’t geniuses here,” Sisson said. “We just did it the way that we’d like to see it done. It doesn’t even cost anymore to do it right; it’s just a little more trouble. You actually have to care.”

And that’s what it boils down to, doesn’t it?

You actually have to care.

And by caring, they’ve carved out a competitive advantage.

They’ve done something I talk about ad nauseum around here: they’ve found a way to stand out in a saturated market — simply by caring, by doing things right.

Love that.

Find out more about how Southern Airways Express is doing business different over here:

Fly Me to the Gulf: How a Gang of Tennessee and Mississippi Entrepreneurs Is Bringing a Little Southern Hospitality (and Some Dignity) Back to Air Travel

 

(By the way, even if you’re not interested in this particular article, but looking for some damn good writing nevertheless, you should high-tail it over to The Bitter Southerner. You won’t find better writing anywhere. Their drool-worthy site is full of insightful essays, beautiful images and new ways to think about what it means to live in the South in this day and age. This is hands-down my favorite website on the whole dang Internet, period. I love it to the moon and back.)