What's a USP, and why should you care?
You down with USP? YEAH, YOU KNOW ME!
Now that I’ve shown my age (42, if anyone’s counting), let’s talk about what makes you the best person to serve your dream client.
Summary: A USP lives at the intersection of what makes your business unique and what makes it awesome. Keep it in mind as you market your business and write your website copy.
USP = Unique Selling Proposition
What makes you and your service unique? Why are you the best person to buy from?
What makes you so special?
This isn’t a rhetorical question.
There is something inherent about you, and your service, that serves your clients in a different way than your competition.
- What is it?
- Is it clear in your website copy?
If someone takes five minutes to read your home and about page, they should come away knowing what sets you apart.
Try this: ask a buddy to take five minutes to read your home and about page, then just ask. “After reading that, what would you say sets me apart from my competitors?” You might learn a lot. And give yourself a bit of a to-do list.
Definitions of USP Across the Internet
Entrepreneur defines USP as: “The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.” Fair enough.
Kissmetrics rolls its eyes a bit about Entrepreneur’s definition and 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.” You tell ’em, Kissmetrics.
Copyblogger has a 60-second video on the subject, but those who prefer to read: “In essence, a unique selling proposition (USP) is something that you offer customers or clients that your competitors do not offer. It’s also known as a ‘remarkable benefit.'”
Let’s talk about how to find your USP, and then how to communicate it through the language on your website.
A USP in the Wild
If you own a coffee shop, why should someone come to your place instead of the Starbucks one block over?
Let’s look at my local hang. My neighborhood coffee shop is 100% vegan, and their tagline is “Drink coffee. Take care.” They are known for being a vegan coffee shop in East Portland. You can buy records there, but that’s not why they exist.
Starbucks, on the other hand, is known for its consistent gourmet coffee experience. You can buy bananas there, but that’s not why they exist.
Both coffee shops have other offers, and other marketing messages, but they’re not trying to be the cheapest coffee in town. They’re not trying to sell the most breakfast sandwiches. They’re themselves.
Finding Your USP
If you’ve been reading through this post, stressing about what the heck your USP might be? Please chill.
It’s not necessarily going to be 100% crystal clear right out of the gate. It might take some thinking and refining, and it’ll change as time goes on.
Lucky for you, this isn’t something you have to come up with right this moment. It might take a little musing and shaping. It might take a couple of passes, and a long walk on the beach. Don’t worry if nothing pops to mind right this moment.
Danielle Ewalt knows a thing or two about crystallizing your abilities and communicating them succinctly.
As Danielle says, “Your USP isn’t one thing. There are many competitors that will share one, or maybe even two of our unique traits. It is the synergy created when three or four traits combine that make you (or your company) truly unique and stand out in the crowd.”
Try this: make a short list right now of what makes your business product unique. Then list the top two or three things you do really well. What does the intersection look like?
USP and Impostor Syndrome
I have to be honest with you. When I started thinking through my own USP, I found some internal resistance pretty quickly. “What, me? But sometimes, I don’t immediately know the best copywriting formula to apply!”
Brain, please. I’m good at what I do, and I’m constantly trying to learn more and improve myself. I’m funny when I want to be, and I have a knack for simplifying complex concepts. OKAY, BRAIN? Can I live?
Plenty of other women and non-binary entrepreneurs struggle with this as well. How do we position ourselves as the best, especially when we don’t feel like the best?
I asked the wonderful Selena Maestas to share her perspective as a coach who helps people see and be their best selves.
Our minds are our biggest obstacles. When we believe what our inner critic tells us, we stay small. We question our knowledge, our success, and our worth.
It’s a vicious cycle that requires a LOT of work to overcome, especially if you don’t have the right tools.
First, it’s important that you think about your thoughts. You hear them and understand that those thoughts are NOT YOU, it is your survival brain trying to keep you “safe.” You write all of the thoughts down, without editing. Then, you go back to the top of your list and question your own thinking. Ask:
- Is this true?
- How does this make me feel?
- Do I want to feel this way?
- How would I rather feel?
- What thought must I have to feel differently?
To be fair, this doesn’t fix the problem right away. There are other pieces necessary to override your survival mind; however, it is a good start to see your thoughts for what they are and to notice how those thoughts are affecting your results.
Thanks, Selena! I’m going to write down my negative thoughts for a few days. And by “write down,” I mean on my phone or in a notebook, not “tweet jokes about.”
USP in Your Website Copy
Okay, you say. I’ve figured out my unique selling proposition. But how do I express that in my website copy?
Well, I’m so glad you asked!
- Figure out your USP
- Keep it in mind when you’re writing your first draft
- Go take a walk (have a cup of tea, etc.)
- Pull it out more clearly and completely on your second draft
- Ask a friend if they can figure it out in 30 seconds
- Walk away from it for two days
- Edit it again
- *OR* hire a writer to do the above for you
A five-minute USP audit of your site
Home: Is your USP communicated clearly? Why would that prospect want to learn more about you?
About: How does your story highlight your USP?
Services: Are the services you offer truly your best work? Or are you offering services you think you “should” for your industry? (If you offer those “should be” services, are they making you more money?)
Work/Portfolio: Amplify your skills and expertise by being super specific and showing examples.
Tagline: Your brand, including a tagline if you use one, should work toward communicating your special talent.
Elevator pitch: Can you tell me in ten seconds what sets you apart?
What’s Your USP?
As Danielle says, “It is so powerful when you find it—but it is a process. Sometimes people put so much pressure on themselves. Keep testing things out, listening to your customers and you will find the reasons they choose you!”
Have you found your USP?
Put it to use in your next website copy refresh! Start with strategy and direction with a Website Copy Audit.