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)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embarrassing Web Copy & Marketing Fails

So the other day I had a meeting with the owner of a web design and development company who I may be working with on some upcoming writing projects.

Naturally, we got into a conversation about some of the unfortunate website mistakes we’ve seen over the years, on both the copywriting side and the design side – including our own.

Yes indeed, even the pros make mistakes and suffer web marketing fails.

For example, I remember back in the day when I was first getting started online. Those halcyon days when I actually believed that putting up a decent website, writing some basic copy, and doing a little bit of marketing each week was going to have new clients beating down my door, fairly busting a gut to work with me.

What actually happened?

Well, friend, they stayed away in droves, to quote the late film producer Samuel Goldwyn. (Well, ok, not completely in droves, I did get a few clients from that original website.)

But why so few? Why so many hours spent trying to be visible online to get merely mediocre results, despite doing everything I was told to attract clients through my website?

Turns out the problem was that my website copy was very “flackluster” (a new word I just made up on the spot to describe something that is both “flaccid” and “lackluster” at the same time, ha ha), and so it wasn’t doing me any favors in the client-getting and revenue-generating department.

And here’s the crazy part.

I knew exactly why I was getting these anemic results – I hadn’t figured out who my ideal clients were, or worked out what set me apart among others online who were providing similar services, and all this was reflected in my sad, generic, no-personality, underperforming web copy.

All of which lead to painfully average results.

Still, I dragged my feet for months to fix the problem.

I felt like I couldn’t step off the hamster wheel of blogging, social media posting and otherwise trying to be visible online for long enough to get clear on my ideal client avatar (ICA) and my unique selling proposition (USP), so I could write web copy that was actually compelling to my ideal clients.

Though I knew taking care of these two key things would start attracting more and better clients, and bigger paychecks, I resisted.

But finally, after too many months of craptacular results, and the looming fear that I’d have to go back to work for “the man” if I didn’t get this little challenge resolved, I decided I’d had enough and changed everything.

I got clear on exactly who my ideal clients were. I worked out what my “meaningful difference” in the marketplace was. I rewrote all my web copy, every last page of it, to be compelling, client-attractive and attention-getting to the people I most wanted to work with. I infused it with my personality, worldview and unique selling proposition.

And once I did that? Well that’s when things started to turn around fairly quickly.

I got more email subscribers almost instantly – from exactly the same amount of website traffic. I started getting client inquiries with email subject lines like “I want to work with you, please call me!” and “Photographer very interested in working with you,” sometimes several just like this in a single day.

I got more clients, and not just any clients, but clients who were ideal for me and who I absolutely loved working with. And I generated more income.

Again, I didn’t increase the traffic to my website to do this – I simply wrote better, more targeted, and more persuasive, personality-filled web copy that reflected my unique selling proposition and spoke directly to the kind of clients who were ideal for me.

Why, oh why hadn’t I done this sooner?

It pains me to think of all the wonderful clients, projects, and income I left on the table, simply because I wouldn’t slow down long enough to go off the grid for a couple of weeks to get my web copy in order.

But all’s well that ends well. And I needed to learn the lesson that not understanding my audience or my USP, coupled with the generic web copy that resulted, was never, ever going to bring in the kind of clients, projects and income I wanted.

So, what about you?

Is that where you are right now? Is your web copy “flackluster” and underperforming? Is it not doing its job?

(To be clear, if you’re in business, your website’s JOB is to get you consistent client and customer inquiries, new clients, and sales. If it’s not doing that, that’s a problem. A problem that must be fixed if you plan, like most of my clients do, to use your website as your main marketing vehicle.)

I’ve written about the importance of determining your target audience/ideal clients and working out your “meaningful difference” or unique selling proposition (USP) on the blog before. I even included free downloadable worksheets to help you get clear on these things so you can start getting more traction from your website.

You can check out those posts here:

The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it)

Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to)

Now, if you’d prefer some one-on-one guidance to help you get crystal clear on your target audience and “meaningful difference”/USP, and how to implement these things on your website for better business results, I make a few strategy sessions available each month specifically focused on these two critically-important-to-the-success-of-your business topics. If you’d like more details, simply email me at Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and I’ll send you the info.