The Death of the Unique Selling Proposition
Mark Hale ‐ December 1, 2014
I’m going to make a bold statement. When it comes to advertising your small business I think you are frustrated, feel that you have been BS’d, taken advantage of and feel that you have wasted your hard earned money on postcard mailers, direct mail letters, television ads, and radio ads that did not work! Does that about sum it up?
Part if the reason you have had that experience is that when it comes to advertising and marketing everyone has an opinion, which is usually based on false information that is outdated and in incorrect.
One of these outdated points is the concept of a Unique Selling Proposition. I’m sure you have read books or attended marketing seminars where the speaker stands up on a stage and with the pitch and presence of a Baptist preacher on Easter Sunday he tells you that if you are going to successfully market your business today that you have to have a “Unique Selling Proposition.” Horse hocky! This advice was outdated and unworkable 20 years ago, especially in today’s fast paced Internet age.
What is an USP? “The unique selling proposition (USP) or unique selling point is a marketing concept first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern in successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. The USP states that such campaigns made unique propositions to the customer that convinced them to switch brands.” Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, said that, “differentiation is one of the most important strategic and tactical activities in which companies must constantly engage.”
The term USP goes back to a time when selling and marketing revolved around the “sales pitch.” Today, having and using a sales pitch does not work and with it, the concept of having and promoting a USP (pitch) does not work.
Why? People are over advertised to, they are “pitched” from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. They block out 99% of the pitches they hear because they are not interested in being pitched. What your customers and prospects want is honest information and enlightenment about solutions to problems they have. A wise marketer presents these solutions as the benefit of doing business with his company.
We are now in the era of the Unique Selling Benefit or USB. If you want your advertising and marketing to be effective it has to be focused on selling the solutions to the problems your customers have. You should enlighten and present solutions to the buyer by showing the benefits of your product or service. Actually this is not a new concept, the majority of the effective USP’s of years past were built around solutions to problems.
Nowhere is having a USB more important that in direct mail marketing. We create a lot of direct mail campaigns for many different types of businesses. The direct mail campaigns that are most effective are built around presenting solutions to problems. Campaigns that use the outdated concept of Unique Selling Proposition almost always fail.
How do you come up with a USB for your business?
First look at what problem your customer is trying to solve with your product or service? Problems can be broken down in three major categories:
- Freedom from
- Avoidance of (usually pain)
- Gaining of (more pleasure)
A USB is phrase that simply and clearly explains how your business provides the solution to the problem of freedom from, avoidance of pain or the gaining of more pleasure.
McDonald’s, back in the late 80s, ran an ad campaign with the USB that said “You deserve a break today” The tag line hit at the heart of what McDonald’s was offering, which was and is the freedom from having to cook and the pleasure of dinning with family and friends.
Four steps to developing a USB for your business:
- Identify what problems your customers are trying to solve.
Make a list of problems your customers want to solve. Talk to your customers and ask them what they most like about doing business with your company. Along about the 30th customer you talk to you will start to see a common thread of a solution of a common problem.
For example, we have a client who owns a dental practice who did a brilliant job of building his business around a USB. The name of the business is the “Walk In Dental Clinic.” The USB they use is “We are open when you need us. No appointment necessary just walk in.” Other dental offices close at 6:00pm, while this dentist stays open until 9:00pm and is open on weekends. The problem he is solving is the inconvenience of going to the dentist. So Dental Walk In Clinic is there for your convenience.
- Choose a problem your company solves and brain storm a USB – benefit.
From your list of problems your company solves, identify which is most important to the customer. You may have to do a follow-up survey to find out exactly. Then write a statement that promotes the solution as your unique benefit.
- Write your USB
The key to writing a good USB is to clearly state the solution to the problem the customer wants to solve. It usually is a good idea to conduct a survey with some of your customers and prospects in order to get feedback about your USB. You want to make sure it communicates to them and that what it communicates is important to them.
- Make your USB known – PROMOTE!
Now that you have an USB for your business, it is time to let people know about it. Make sure the marketing material you use is built around your USB. Every piece builds on the solution to the problem you solve, it educates, it enlightens AND it sells your USB.
Our marketing representatives can help your create marketing support materials the help present and position your USB. The important thing is that all your materials have a uniform look, everything from your letterhead, business cards, brochures, booklets and pocket folders to direct mail, postcards to magazine and internet ads.
©2005-2014 Mark Hale, All Rights Reserved
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