Why I hate Unique Selling Points (USPs)

So many people in marketing talk about finding your "Unique Selling Point" or USP. That thing that makes your business different to everyone else out there. I understand the reason for this because if you look the same as everyone else then it's difficult for buyers to decide why they should pick you instead of your competitors.

The problem with USPs

The only way to find out what makes you "unique" is to look outward at your competitors and compare what you offer, and how you offer it, to them and what they offer. Then you end up changing your marketing to fit around what they're doing. And what do you do if someone else does something similar to you? Suddenly you're not "unique"!

I've seen businesses get into a real state about their USP, especially in industries where (on the surface) businesses can seem pretty similar such as professional services. I hear marketing that starts with, "We're different to other [professional service companies] because..."

If you have to tell people you're different, then the rest of your marketing is not working.

USPs vs Positioning

When I use the word "positioning" I mean the space a brand occupies in the mind of its market. For example, Waitrose occupies the “high quality and good customer service” space while Asda occupies a “cheap and cheerful” space.
Positioning strategies are often mapped out in a matrix (below) and are really useful when formulating your brand strategy and messaging. It's particularly useful when developing new brands (products or companies) to make sure you're not about to launch yourself into a crowded space in the market. By mapping out other players' positioning strategies you can spot opportunities for business growth.
Just because there's another company with a similar positioning strategy to you, it does not mean there isn't enough business for both of you. Look at the car market – there are lots of "luxury" brands out there but they each have different brand strategies and messaging.

So how do I market a business without a USP?

Focus on what makes you special, not what makes you unique.

If you focus on what makes you unique you can go round in circles agonising over whether something about you is "unique" enough. Especially if you're a service business.

As a marketing consultant, I'm not unique! True, there aren't many marketing consultants with engineering degrees who take the same approach I do, but I'm not the first person to point out that good marketing is structured and has similarities to engineering. If I was trying to find a USP about me, I'd end up wasting a lot of energy searching for something that I do that no one else does.

And yet, I'm a human being and so, by definition, I'm already unique. All my clients are unique because they are a collection of human beings who are inherently different to other people. And that human "uniqueness" is usually impossible to describe in a way that is useful to a customer.

Shout about how you're different and you won't need to say that you're different

Instead of looking at everyone else, look inside. What makes your business special? What is important to you? What do you believe in? Spend your time and energy shouting about your story from the rooftops. Because I guarantee you that, if you are different, then your customers will work that out for themselves.

Need more help?

If you want to work with a marketing consultant who's different to all the other consultants out there... just kidding. Let's face it, you need to find a consultant who's the right fit for you, because we're all different!

If you'd like to find out if I'm a good fit to help you with your marketing, book in a free clarity call and we'll talk. I look forward to hearing from you.

Ros Conkie


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