Jane was sitting in her networking group waiting to deliver her “elevator speech.” She thought she had a great line to explain her catering business. She delivers quality food, fast and friendly. She even liked the alliteration: all those “f’s”.
Sure enough, three people before her, another woman stood up and announced she was a caterer too. (Don’t you hate when that happens?)
That’s ok. Jane has a unique selling proposition. At least she thought she did.
At the end, the woman said “and we deliver quality food, fast and with a smile.”
Wow. What is Jane supposed to say now? That was her unique selling proposition. She can’t deliver her unique selling proposition now; it’ll sound like she just copied this other woman.
Jane was stumped. She was stuck coming up with a brand new pitch and frustrated that her unique selling proposition wasn’t really unique.
Today’s podcast episode is about understanding your customer better to craft better marketing messaging.
Don’t Be Like Jane
Any marketing book starts out telling you to have a unique selling proposition or USP. For one of my favorite version of this, check this out. But most of the clients I work with start out with a unique selling proposition that sounds a lot like every one else.
“We provide best-in-class service.”
“We save you money.”
“We’re a firm you can trust.”
None of these are unique.
Make Your Unique Selling Proposition Truly Unique
There are standard definitions of a unique selling proposition. But there is one rule of thumb in a unique selling proposition: ask yourself: “can the competition say the same thing?”
Note: I did not ask “can the competition honestly say the same thing?” Even if they are lying through their teeth, if the competition can say the same thing as you, then you do not have a unique selling proposition.
That means you are going to have to move beyond the niceties of service and quality and get to the stuff people really care about.
You have to imagine your competition in the back of a meeting room listening to what you say when you describe your product or service. They are presenting after you, and they’re not very creative. They plan on repeating every word of your unique selling proposition. Even if they can’t fulfill the promises, they must not be able to repeat what you say.
If you say something like, “our team is the fastest”, they will repeat it. If you say “we deliver the highest quality product”, they will repeat it. Who cares if it’s not true? It will be believable and you will have lost your opportunity to differentiate yourself.
You need a way to create a unique selling proposition that your competition cannot repeat – at least with any credibility. It must be specific, meaningful, and backed up by your customers’ experiences.
But this is really important! In fact, messaging is a powerful tool to accelerating sales of not only a new business, but an existing product as well.
Make Your Unique Selling Proposition Meaningful
Not only must your unique selling proposition be something unique, but it has to be something your prospects care about. To be meaningful, we have to use language that motivates our prospects.
Whether you sell to business or to consumers, you are basically selling to people – human beings. And people are pretty consistent. They really only care about a few things deep down when buying something:
- Making money,
- Saving money,
- Staying out of jail (and other regulatory or legal trouble), and
- Improving their quality of life.
Soft benefits like quality, speed, and trust are not important to people unless they eventually result in one of those things.
That’s not to say these soft benefits aren’t important; they are. But they’re not unique, nor are they particularly motivating if you don’t have one of these more base benefits.
Pay Attention to the Dirty Little Secret
Having a main benefit like making more money isn’t enough. Why not? Because of the Dirty Little Secret.
The Dirty Little Secret is this: anyone can get any of those things with enough time, money, work, blood, sweat, and tears.
So unless you can spare your customer some of that, they don’t need you. They can “do it the hard way.”
To show to your prospects that you can achieve that main benefit without doing it the “hard way,” you will need to show you can control one of those things: time, money, work, blood, sweat, or tears.
Your unique selling proposition needs to demonstrate that you can get your prospects the big benefit, but that you can control the process of getting there, so it’s not so bad.
There isn’t one big list of things people want controlled, but here are some examples:
- Quality of product,
- Staying out of jail (or other legal trouble),
- Quality of life, or
- Making it easier.
Showing you have control over the process will make your unique selling proposition truly unique.
Benefit + Control = USP
Now that we understand what benefits our prospects really care about and why controlling the process of getting them is so important, we are ready to learn an easy way of creating a unique selling proposition that cannot be easily repeated and is meaningful.
There is a two-part statement I call the “Benefit-Control Formula” for a unique selling proposition.
First, identify one, and only one, main benefit from the big benefits I listed above. I know that your product or service may do many of these things, but one of them is your really big result.
If you’re having a tough time coming up with one, think about your perfect customer – real or imaginary. What would they say about what you did? What big result did they achieve?
Next, identify one, and only one, thing you control from the list. This control factor should be something offsetting. What do I mean by that?
An offsetting factor is something which run contrary to the benefit you provide. For example, you help your customer make money while controlling costs. Controlling costs run counter to making money, because people think they can make plenty of money if they just had money to spend. The fact that you reduce those expenses makes the benefit even more potent.
Another example: we provide you custom furniture for your home in less than two weeks. Here, we are controlling time. Obviously, any one could produce custom furniture if they had enough time (and money). But here, we’re saying we can control one pesky factor that makes custom furniture difficult to get. (And bonus if you can say you do it at a low cost too!)
Making it Truly Unique with Specificity
But, you say, my competition could still say the same thing.
Here is where you get unique: use numbers.
Not just any old numbers, but numbers from past experiences: either current or former customers. If you’re just starting out, then project using research or your experience and qualify it.
For example: you increase sales by 23% or you create 3 more hours of productive time per week.
In each case, we use a number to make the unique selling proposition more attractive.
One note about numbers: don’t round. Strangely enough, people like specific numbers. So if you can, say 23%, don’t round to 20% or 25% or say “about 20%.” Say the specific number. It sounds more credible.
Certainly you don’t want to make numbers up, but if you don’t have data and you have to project because you have a new product then say so. “We expect to increase your sales by up to 19%.” Believe it or not, that statement is better than “We increase sales around 20%.”
With numbers you truly stand apart from your competition. They are not going to repeat your numbers. Even if they have the same numbers, once you’ve gone out with a figure, they will have to come up with something else or look very silly copying you.
Putting it Together
That’s where the Benefit-Control Formula comes from. A main benefit while controlling for something while including specific numbers makes a unique selling proposition that is meaningful and hard to replicate.
Here are some examples:
I help you comply with the laws and regulations of the finance industry, while lowering your compliance expenses by 23%.
I lower your food costs by 16%, all while increasing the satisfaction scores of food quality by 21%.
I increase your sales 34% within 90 days.
Do you see how these unique selling propositions are much better than the wishy-washy ones before? Can you imagine your competition getting up after you and repeating the same thing?
No. This is a truly unique selling proposition that is specific, meaningful, and non-repeatable.
Try it yourself. Take the easy two-part formula with specific numbers and develop your own unique selling proposition. It takes some time to think through each part, when I assure you it’s worth the effort.