To capture a larger share of market and become more viable, sustainable, and profitable, you absolutely must differentiate your business, products, and/or services from your competitors. In other words, you need to make your business special in the eyes of your customers and prospects. You can achieve that by creating a “unique selling proposition,” or USP, and then effectively conveying it to your target. Virtually all businesses can benefit from a good USP, but it’s crucial for those operating in a highly competitive market.

A USP was shown to be 81 percent more effective than a general sales campaign in a recent proprietary research study with more than 4,200 companies and their senior executives, conducted by Stevens Consulting Group. “USPs is so successful because they provide instant attraction based on two things: emotion and value,” says Drew Stevens, president of the Eureka, Missouri-based consulting firm. “The USP provides something memorable that prompts others to speak about you. The market wants to hear from your customers proclaiming your benefits, not from you.”

A USP is also a memorable promise about your brand and what it delivers. If you think about it, you can probably reel off four or five examples of USPs that continue to keep their brands front-of-mind with consumers:

  • BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”
  • Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”
  • Federal Express: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”

Gail Bower, president of Philadelphia-based Bower & Co. Consulting, suggests a three-step approach to creating an effective USP:

  1. Identify the business or personal outcomes that result from the use of your company's products or services.
  2. Evaluate the experience of your brand. Does it truly make your customers’ lives better? Is it easy to do business with your brand?
  3. Create experiences—online, in person, through marketing—that bring this value to life in emotionally resonant ways.

Elements to consider in formulating your USP include any superior alternative you offer at a price customers are willing to pay, verifiable positive outcomes resulting from the use of your product or service, and information that demonstrates understanding of your customer’s needs/requirements. Avoid elements that are ego-driven, fail to communicate outcomes or why your business is the superior choice, or don’t quantify the customer’s problem or your solution.