Marketing Strategy

Unique Selling Positions

Written by James Garvin for Gaebler Ventures

With all of the information out there vying for your customer's attention, a startup needs to find a way to uniquely stand out. Companies stand out in the mind of their customers by offering something unique and how you communicate your unique value is through your unique sell proposition ("USP").

There are many different ways to craft a unique selling position, but there are also many ways that you should not go about creating your unique selling proposition.

Unique Selling Positions

Many entrepreneurs mistakenly focus on the features of what their product or service can do when designing a unique selling proposition, but don't think critically enough about the problem that they are seeking to address with their solutions.

A unique selling proposition is not a tagline, although your tagline should reinforce your unique selling proposition. A unique selling proposition is a one or two line phrase that when someone asks you what your business does, this is what you tell them. It should be short, sweet, and simple. It should also make your target customers want to learn more.

A common error when entrepreneurs make when trying to communicate their USP or describe the value of their business is by trying to tell customers the ten things that their product does. People don't want 10 things to be done; they only want one thing to be done. No company or product is known for doing 10 things, they are known for doing 1 thing really well. This is the law of Positioning and how firms differentiate each from each other in today's hyper competitive environment. Google is known for search, Southwest is known for low-cost airfare, the Wall Street Journal is known for business news. Every firm does a multitude of things and provides numerous solutions, but ultimately it is only one thing that a firm is known for.

As an entrepreneur, your goal is to help define what that one unique value proposition will be and how you will communicate it. Your unique selling proposition should start with the problem you are addressing. Never spill into your sales pitch with out first framing the problem you are addressing. The problem usually involves an activity or job that your target market is currently doing or trying to get done and you can provide a better, faster, cheaper alternative.

QuickBooks, the long dominant small business accounting software uses the unique selling proposition "Save Time, Stay Organized, Get Paid Faster". Notice that the USP does not try to describe how QuickBooks works or the features it comes with. Rather it summarizes the benefits and solutions to a job that usually takes small business owners a lot of time when managing their finances with excel or other non-accounting software.

Vanguard, the low-cost index fund manager, uses the USP, "Are you just investing, or are you Vanguarding? Their USP reinforces their commitment to guarding their customer's assets by providing a the widest selection of low-cost index funds that do not try to time the stock market, but rather provide investors a safer and smarter way to invest for the long-term.

Every entrepreneur needs a USP, not only to communicate to your customers, but also to keep the internal team focused on delivering that unique selling proposition to the best of your ability. Remember to stay away from selling features, and rather sell solutions by framing the problem you are tackling with your product.

James Garvin began his education studying biotechnology. In recent years he has turned his interest in technology to helping two internet startup companies. The first business was an online personal financial network and the second was an e-marketing platform created to help entrepreneurs demo their web sites. Currently a student at University of California Davis, James is spending his summer incubating two new online businesses and writing about his entrepreneur experiences.

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