What makes the difference between success or failure in your direct response marketing?
It’s what Rosser Reeves, in his book Reality in Advertising, called the Unique Selling Proposition (or USP).
But what is a USP?
Quite simply, it’s the factor that sets your product or service apart from all the similar products your competitors are marketing.
And you must have one for all forms of direct response advertising – digital ads, video, direct mail, television, podcasts… all of it.
It’s one of the first things I require my copywriting team to do for a prospect.
Let’s look at some USPs to see them in action…
“Still the Low Price Leader… and more”
Lucky supermarkets’ USP is that they have the lowest prices: “Still the low-price
leader… and more.”
But they also have a more subtle one. Namely, that some stores promise low prices and some promise service and other amenities… but Lucky’s offers BOTH!
“When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best”
Recognize that one?
It’s Hallmark Cards’ USP… and it’s such a part of the pop culture now that some cards parody it… like “I care enough to send the hairy beast.”
In essence, Hallmark Cards’ USP is that their cards are the absolute best, and that no caring person would want to send anything else. Just like L’Oréal’s “you’re worth it,”
Hallmark Cards are the best… for the best.
For investment advisor, Bill Donoghue, we made his USP clear:
“America’s #1 Safe Money Expert.”
Not only is he a leading expert, but the words “safe money” is reassuring to cautious investors.
And for DTN, in their marketing geared to bankers, we created the USP: “The first low-priced, time-sensitive services in America.”
The prospect instantly got the message that DTN’s system was not only a leader in its field for speed, but the price was right as well.
It’s important to note that, in these examples, we went out of our way to make sure the customer was aware of the USP.
The customer won’t find out why your product is unique or special or better unless you tell them.
For direct mail, landing pages, and emails, I like it at the start, middle and end… maybe more.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because you know your product is great that your prospects know it too.
That said, the most difficult part of using a USP in your advertising or marketing is… creating it!
How to Create a Winning USP
The most obvious way to create a USP is to sell a totally unique product or service. Or to add something to your good but rather common product that makes it unique.
But, if neither of these scenarios are possible, then it’s up to you to create your own USP.
4 Steps to Success
The first step in the process to asking yourself some questions…
• How does my product differ from the competitors?
• Is my product/service somehow related to current events or topics of interest?
• Is my staff the most knowledgeable around?
• Is my product/service of the highest quality? Or is it disposable?
• What is my inventory like? Do I have the largest selection of a given type of
• What is my customer service department line? Do they bend over backwards to
make sure the customer is completely satisfied with the product/service?
• What is our founding or history?
And so on.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a better idea of some possible USPs.
Besides noting the above-mentioned qualities (inventories, services, etc.) when creating your USP, there are three other simple ways to do it.
1. Your guarantee as promised. An unusual guarantee as a USP does several
things: it distinguishes the product from the competition; it illustrates the
marketer’s confidence in the quality of the product or service; and it makes the
customer feel that the purchase is “safer” than one that offers no guarantee. A
customer, upon reading a guarantee that offers all his money back if he isn’t
satisfied, will say to himself: “If they’re willing to do that, then the product must be
2. Company Image. This type of USP can be used very successfully. For example, let’s say that you sell laundry detergent, and that your detergent is fully
biodegradable and produces no harmful chemicals. Your company can then state
in its USP that it is a leader in environmentally safe technology, and that your
company cares very much about the environment. And seeing as how
environmental issues are a “hot” topic, your product stands to capitalize on this
and sell very well.
3. Price. If your product has a lower price than any of its competition, that’s a
powerful USP. The price should be prominently featured in all advertising. But
beware: the low price should be explained. A prospect, upon seeing a very low-priced product, will ask himself: “Why are they selling it so low?” Then he may
wonder if the low price means that the product is bad or that the person selling it
is untrustworthy. Therefore, you must make clear to your prospect why the price
is so low (like you have a low mark-up rate, or do all the work in house, etc…)
4. A special claim. If your product does something no one else’s can, that is a
powerful USP. An example of this: “Colgate cleans your breath while it cleans
When creating your USP, remember to think about the “suffering point.” What pain or problem is your client suffering that your product or service can help overcome?
Consumers aren’t mind readers. You must tell them how your product or service will assuage their suffering point. If you make them realize that you understand their needs and sympathize with their problems, let them know that your product or service can help them, and find a solution to this problem, you’ll go a long way towards creating a powerful USP.
Why a Not-So-Unique USP Worked
Of course, not every USP you create must be unique. Sometimes, a not-so-unique USP works too.
Here’s an anecdote from the career of marketing pioneer Claude Hopkins. He was creating ads for a failing brewery, and the copy of these ads stated that the beer was “pure,” by virtue of the brewery’s process and operation.
The brewer told Hopkins that their process was not unique. In fact, it was the same process used by every brewery. Hopkins asked if the public knew anything about this process. It so happened that the public did not. When the brewery made the use of this process their USP, the public though it was special, and that this brewery’s beer was worth buying.
In short, having a USP is critical to your marketing efforts. And creating one that will distinguish your product or service in its field takes a little effort and thought… but it’s not impossible.
We can help. Contact call me at 615-814-6633 or email at email@example.com