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Do You Know Your Small Business Marketing Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?


If you understand in detail how your product or service is different from the competition, you already know your Unique Selling Proposition. But for many startups and/or established small businesses, the true nature of their USP remains elusive.

Here's a look at key elements every business should include in their USP:

The 4 P's and USP

For your marketing USP, the traditional 4 P's should always be a consideration. These include:

  • Pricing
  • Product
  • Promotion
  • Placement

Pricing may serve as a differentiating factor, but if you seek to undercut the competition, some consumers may equate your product or service with the unfortunate labels of "cheap" and "inferior." Product quality is important, of course, but the marketplace is saturated with businesses that promise high quality with their offerings (so, not much of a differentiating point). Promotion and place each have their merits, but these days, a compelling USP demands something more.

Know your market and audience

Your target audience's buying patterns can direct you towards crafting the right USP. All the information you derive from the following sources will likely point to unique differentiating factors to include in your marketing efforts.

  • Conduct customer surveys via email or through your social media channels.
  • Ask first-time and loyal customers what drew them to your product/service and how it has helped them in their own lives (or businesses).
  • Study analytics derived from customer purchasing patterns on your website.
  • If you have a dedicated salesperson or sales team, ask them to survey customers, too.

Your loyal customer base "gets" what makes you better or more unique than the competition, so it makes sense to dig deeper into their opinions.

Ask first-time and loyal customers what drew them to your product or service and how it has helped   them in their own lives or businesses.

Study the competition

Your competitors aren't standing still. They're working hard to differentiate themselves from you. It's well worth your time and effort to look closely at what the competition is doing to set itself apart, including:

  • Advertising and marketing campaigns
  • Social media messaging
  • Website content, including interactive tools and various calls-to-action
  • Product pricing, placement, and promotion
  • The layout, design, and branding of their physical locations

Another valuable approach is closely examining how market leaders in different industries promote their unique selling propositions. Apple and Nike are oft-cited examples of clean, concise, and compelling USPs, whose approach might offer insights into your own differentiating efforts.

Focus on benefits, not features

Your product or service probably comes with many exciting features, which you'd justifiably like to crow about as part of your marketing USP. What's important to remember is that customers care about these features only insofar as they derive tangible benefits from them. If these product/service bells and whistles are perceived as mere "shiny objects" without any discernible value, customers will turn elsewhere for solutions to their needs. Key customer benefits include:

  • Time saved
  • Money saved
  • Improvements in personal lifestyle or in business processes
  • Specific business issues resolved

What's important to remember is that customers care about these features only insofar as they   derive tangible benefits from them.

There's nothing wrong with promoting specific product features, as long as you emphasize the value they bring to your customers.

Start testing your new USP

With the information you accumulate through these action steps, it's time to identify specific USPs and put them into a compelling brand message (or several trial versions of that message). Invite your most active customers to look at your messaging delivered through a variety of media, and offer them a place on your website where they can respond with thoughts and feedback. The key is determining how well your newly described USP resonates.

Where can you "test-drive" the new USPs?

  • Your company blog
  • A more effectively optimized website (for your mobile audience)
  • Social media platforms (including posts and tweets, as well as links to new content on your website)

By studying the response and website analytics, you'll be able to tell fairly soon how effective the new USP is. If it's not exactly on-target, a few minor tweaks may be all you need to set yourself apart in the marketplace and start reaping the profits of your time and effort.

Examine your business and formalize makes your product or service stand out among the rest. Promoting a strong USP can help your business thrive and possibly expand into new areas.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.
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