Why you need to know what makes you unique

If you're struggling to attract and keep your customers it's probably because your USP isn't as unique as you thought.

If I asked you "How much is a coffee bean worth?" You might say approximately two to three cents per cup. What if you ground it, and packaged those same beans as a product on a supermarket shelf, how much is it worth then? Maybe a dollar?

"Wake up with the worlds strongest coffee"

DeathWish Coffee has carved a niche in a saturated market by promising its customers the world’s strongest coffee or their money back and with that promise, they are able to charge a premium of $20 USD for a 450g bag!

Now take that coffee bean and add a service - the act of actually brewing it for a customer in a cafe or a diner and you could ask for $2- $3 for a cup of coffee.

"Our Barista Promise: Love your beverage or let us know - We’ll always make it right"

Starbucks’ USP is service through personalization. They serve coffee to match their customers' needs. The interior reflects individual neighbourhoods. Customers can sit and relax, socialise or even work and suddenly you can charge anything from $8 - $10 for that cup of coffee.

You see, Deathwish and Starbucks aren’t selling coffee beans, they're not even selling you a cup of coffee. They're selling you their USP!

Your unique selling point is the heartbeat of your organisation – the thing that sets you apart from the others. A strong, instantly recognizable USP can make or break a business operating in competitive markets and niche industries. Customers are becoming overwhelmed with the different options, if you can’t tell them quickly and effectively what makes you better than your competitors, then there’s a good chance you’ll lose their interest.

It’s essential that you leverage your USP and make it the cornerstone of your overall marketing strategy, yet, only 69% of B2B companies have an established USP and struggle to be heard, often competing solely on price and being the cheapest in their market. Using a lower price as a long-term business strategy is not sustainable, your customers will pay you less, swap services quickly, are harder to please and complain when something goes wrong. Whereas businesses with a strong, value-driven USP have customers who are loyal, willing to pay more, become your advocates and stick with you even when things go wrong!

The Unique Selling Proposition, or “USP,” is a marketing proposition that originated in the early 1940s by Rosser Reeves, an advertising pioneer, author, and agency VP at the Ted Bates advertising agency. The USP concept quickly became universal and according to the writings of Reeves was supposed to give an ad campaign a little extra buzz.

Back then “Unique” referred to a feature of the product or service, “Selling” referred to value and “Proposition” was the promise of a specific benefit. Reeves also had a couple of caveats: The proposition had to be something the competition could not "say" and, it had to be important and engaging enough to engender positive behaviour toward the brand.

On the surface, defining your unique selling proposition or USP may seem simple enough. For some business owners, it's easier because it’s probably what triggered your business creation in the first place. You saw a gap in the market, you saw a problem to solve, but for other businesses finding your unique selling point takes time and research, especially if you're in a crowded or saturated market. It can be harder to find what makes you different let alone, a way to distinguish yourself from your competition. And while it's recommended you can change your USP from time to time to keep it “up-to-date”, you’ll ultimately want to keep the same underlying values throughout the lifetime of your business, so it’s crucial to make sure that you get it right the first time around. In fact, you might even need a little professional help.

It takes time to create a strong USP, but it is a powerful marketing asset for your business if you get it right. The companies that successfully communicate their unique selling proposition generate more brand awareness, increased sales, and improved customer retention. Simply put:

1. You'll reach the right people

2. You'll stand out and be memorable

3. It'll make your marketing and selling easier.

There are 3 necessary steps that can help you when trying to define your USP.

Step 1: Research

Before you can start deciding what makes you different you need to do your research.

Understanding and identifying your ideal prospect allows you to structure your unique selling proposition to best suit the needs of your target customers. Consider the following:

  • What does your perfect customer really want?

  • How can your product or service solve their problem(s)?

  • What factors motivate their buying decisions?

  • Why do your existing customers choose your business over your competitors?

Listen to customer feedback, what are your ideal customers demanding or looking for, find out their pain points and how you solve their problems.

A SWOT analysis will help you to position yourself in the context of your competitors. Check out your direct and indirect competitor's marketing materials, websites, and product descriptions and conduct an in-depth analysis of your competition. You might be able to find a gap in your competitor's services.

Step 2: Finding your benefits

The next step is to start identifying your brand's strengths and weaknesses. You do not need to list everything instead, find elements that help best solve your customer’s problems. Do you have faster delivery? are you in a great location? Does your team have a specific expertise? Remember It's not what you think of yourself, your company or your products, but the ultimate value it creates for your customers.

Step 3: Communicating your USP

Planning out how you’re going to use your USP to sell your company to customers in the future will help you to not only ensure that your value proposition works, but it’ll also give you a direction to go in when you start thinking about things like brand awareness, and how you’re going to market your product or service to consumers.

Think about how your unique selling proposition and your brand can go hand-in-hand. If the benefit you’ve come up with is too broad or can be replicated easily by your competitors then it might confuse your target audience. Applied properly, a USP can be woven into the various areas of your business, from your brand name to your return policy all to reinforce the idea to your customers.

Another great USP best practice is to make your customers a promise. FedEx, for example, guarantees it can get any package to its destination overnight. This not only addresses customers’ specific needs but also makes them a promise – to deliver their packages with care, on time, every time.

Let's look at a few more USP promises

North face

We proudly stand behind the quality of everything we sell

North Face promises its products will last a lifetime, or your money back with a lifetime warranty that guarantees customers a repair or replacement should their item become faulty


Real People, not Robots

T-Mobile knows everyone hates those dreaded automated phone calls. Their customer service or Team of Experts adds to their promise -No bots. No bouncing. No BS. They went all out on their customer service and team training.

Lemonade Insurance

"Forget everything you know about insurance"

“Instant everything, great prices, big heart.”- This insurance company unlike any other insurance company figured out what customers didn't like about the insurance market. It takes a flat fee, pays claims instantly, has low prices, and donates leftover money to nonprofits.

You can also think of your USP in terms of an elevator pitch. This is a great way to condense what makes your business different into memorable bite-sized pieces. Let’s see how this works. Note this framework can apply to both companies and individual products.

  • For [Target Market] Coffee Drinkers

  • Who [Customer Needs] Loves a Strong Cup of Coffee

  • [Your Business name] The Long Roast Coffee Shop

  • [Your Value Proposition] Uses only the finest Arabica and Columbian coffee beans from Fairtrade sources.

  • That [Your Promise]. To make the strongest coffee you've ever tasted or your money back

Now that you know - what’s your company’s USP?