Crafting Strong USPs for Fun & Profit

Welcome back!

Last week we started talking about the nuts-and-bolts of crafting web copy, specifically, the ongoing quest to find and identify the features and benefits of any particular product or service. And if you were with me last week (and why wouldn’t you have been?) you know that I like to add results to that equation.

Features … Benefits … Results.

If it were only that easy, huh?

But we both know it’s not. As important as identifying these “Three Amigos” is, it’s just the start of building the wall that will eventually support the all-important Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and that’s where we’ll pick it up from this week.

The USP is an important consideration in writing copy that generates sales. Simply put, it’s the one, overriding thing that distinguishes the product or service you’re writing about from similar products or services in a favorable way. It’s the competitive advantage that gives a particular product or service the edge when all other things are equal.

Unique Selling Propositions are often proposed in a company’s slogan or catch phrase. Some of the more famous ones include:

  • FedEx: “When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”
  • M&Ms: "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand"
  • BMW: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”
  • Avis: "We're Number Two. We Try Harder."
  • Domino’s Pizza: “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less”
  • Burger King: “Have It Your Way”

There are a million of them, aren’t there? The point is these are more than just slogans. These USPs convey the idea that there’s something special here that no other company, product, or service can match.

And sometimes a USP can push the envelope a little bit too. Take, for instance, which proclaims itself “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.” But is it really? While Amazon is indeed the heavy hitter in terms of sales and revenues, Barnes & Noble is the nation's largest book retailer with bricks-and-mortar stores in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Is Amazon’s claim legitimate? I guess it’s in the eyes of the beholder. At the very least it’s a play on semantics. But what can’t be denied is what Amazon has done with its USP, which is achieving “top-of-mind positioning.” And because of that bit of cleverness on the part of Amazon’ s marketing team, most people you talk to today would say that Amazon is the biggest bookseller in the country.

Creating a strong USP is especially important in today’s world, where there’s a flood of competing products and services of every kind. A strong USP should position the product or service you’re writing about as being different from others like it in a positive way, thus conveying the feeling that it’s more valuable—and perhaps more exclusive—than the competitor’s offering. It achieves this by giving the reader a specific and compelling reason to buy from you (or your client) rather than from the competition. Strong USPs not only provides the groundwork for all supporting copywriting, but also all marketing efforts as well.

So where do you start if you have a project and need to come up with a USP? Well, often the product or service itself will provide the answer; all you have to do is put it in marketable terminology. But here’s a few things to consider while you’re thinking it through:

  • Define the Product’s Uniqueness – The uniqueness of a product or service is, after all, the core of a USP. If a product is new to the marketplace, it shouldn’t be too hard to define a unique aspect. If the product has a lot of competition, your USP may be found in how it’s sold, marketed, delivered or guaranteed, for example, rather than the features and benefits of the product itself.
  • Be Specific – Take a look at the USPs above. The commonality between them all is that each of them offers a specific benefit. No ambiguity allowed, thank you. And that’s what you, too, have to do when creating a USP. Once you’ve defined the unique aspect of the product or service that you want to spotlight, state it clearly and specifically so people understand right away why they should buy yours instead of the next guy’s.
  • Be Brief - USPs are not intended to introduce the company. Make them a short sentence or two at the most. The more concise you are, the more memorable your USP, and the better your results will be.

Let me know what you think. Till next time, and as always…

Good health and good writing!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

Click to Rate:
Average: 4.8
Published: October 7, 2009

3 Responses to “Crafting Strong USPs for Fun & Profit”

  1. Hi All, I'm new to AWAI, and I'm the midst of the practice exercises (currently at #17). I'm plodding ahead with some uncertainty, but I've faith in the mantra I discovered in the AWAI materials: keep moving forward.
    Thx, Dr. Ben

    Dr Ben

  2. Thanks--good,simple,to-the-point,easy to understand article on USPs.

    Dorothy B

  3. Awesome Information...I will certainly be focusing on USP a lot more with my future copy. Thank you! I truly Appreciate it!

    Brian Allen

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)