How to Define Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Regardless of the industry you’re in or the size of your business, you have to tell your customers what makes you special. They want to know what sets you apart from your competitors. That special ingredient is your unique selling proposition or USP. Actually, you can have more than one special ingredient in your USP. Now, that doesn’t mean go crazy. Think quality over quantity.

The smart people at Entrepreneur define a unique selling proposition like this: 

“The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.” 

Sounds pretty legit. The only thing missing is a stronger emphasis on what your business stands for and is all about. This the most boiled down, 30-second elevator pitch on how your business is different and better.

Questions to Answer When Defining Your USP

Think and take a hard look deep down. The soul searching begins.

What does your business stand for?

Think about what your business is about at its core. Find 1-3 things you do exceptionally well and that make you unique. Think about things that are important to you.

For example, at Kapok Marketing, our unique selling proposition is that we’re both digital marketers and small business owners. We’re a local digital marketing agency and owners of a motorcycle classifieds website. We understand both sides of the business coin. We live and breathe digital marketing, and we understand what it takes to run a small business.  It’s also very important to us to be good people. And voilà, that’s our USP!


Don’t try to be too many things or good at everything. It’ll make you look like you don’t do anything 100% and stand for nothing. You can’t be everything to everyone. It’s tempting, but don’t do it! Say no to outliers and focus on your core.

What do you have that others in your industry don’t?

Think about your competitors. How is your business different from theirs?

If you worked at a bakery in France for 15 years before opening your own bakery here in the Tampa Bay area, that’s something that makes you special. Chances are most of your competitors don’t have the same experience. Your customers want to know that. They’ll think it’s cool. More importantly, they’ll think your experience makes your baked goods way better than the rest.

Maybe you have a unique recipe for a crazy delicious cake that no one else knows how to make. That makes your bakery special. Tell the world! Your customers want to know.

At Kapok Marketing, our clients feel more comfortable with us because they know that we understand the ups and downs of running a business. We understand their pain. The added bonus is that we’re also really good at finding remedies for their marketing pains.

What do you want to be known for?

Close your eyes and think about what you want your customers to think about your business. Do you want to be a Jack of all trades or an expert in your chosen domain? Almost no one likes companies that try to do too many things. They’re more likely to be perceived as a hot mess express. Instead, pick 1-3 things you want to be known for doing well.

For example, the car rental company Avis wants to be known as a number two company in their industry. They’re not trying to compete for the first place, and that’s okay. People know them for being less fancy-schmancy and offering lower prices.

While Enterprise is working hard to be #1, Avis is happy with being a low key successful #2. Avis is okay with being number two because that’s who they are. They cater to people who don’t want to or can’t afford to rent a car from a fancier car rental place.

Examples of popular USPs

  • Domino’s Pizza: “We GUARANTEE – Fresh hot pizza, delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s FREE!”
  • FedEx: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
  • Apple: “We provide a lifestyle with our products.”
  • M&Ms: “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
  • DeBeers: “A diamond is forever.”

Keep it simple!

There’s no need to try to be something or someone you’re not. Stick with what feels the most authentic to who you are and what you want your business to be. If you dislike wearing business suits, you shouldn’t try to be the most dapper business professional in town. People will think you’re trying too hard.

Warby Parker is one of the companies that excel at simplicity. Their USP is providing fashionable, quality eyeglasses for $95. They also donate a pair to someone in a developing country for every pair purchased. It’s simple, yet powerful enough to keep customers coming back for more.

The Most Powerful USP You Should Adopt

This is a major ? (in DJ Khaled voice)!

If you’re just starting out and don’t have enough street cred, one of the easiest ways to differentiate yourself is to make it super easy for people to do business with you. Treat your customers well. Make it easy for them to spend money with you, and to get a refund when they’re not satisfied. They’ll love you. You’ll become their partner in life.

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is putting too much emphasis on telling potential customers how much they’ll love their products. They overlook the fact that most people are worried about what they’ll do if the product they purchase doesn’t live up to its promises.

Customers want to know that there’s is a Plan B, if things don’t go as well as expected. They want to feel safe and smart when buying from your business. It’s your job to make that happen.

If you can make your customers feel smart and safe, you’ve hit the USP jackpot. They’ll see you as a friend who cares about them. That’s the ultimate goal. No one wants to spend money with Petty Betty businesses. People do things that feel good. Spending money with a business that makes it easy and safe feels good.

How Often Should Your USP Change?

Almost never, unless you’re rebranding your business and want to go in a different direction.

You’ll be tempted. Customers, family, friends and even industry peers will come to you with ideas for making your business better.

Their ideas may not be bad, but they’re of no use to you if they dilute the core of your business. Some of the ideas may even sound like a good way to bring in additional revenue. Resist the temptation. They’ll dilute what your business stands for and drive away your core customers.

It’s not uncommon for a small business owner to start adding “other” products because a few customers asked for them. Pretty soon, they wake up and their store has morphed into a hot mess of products that have very little in common. They’ve compromised or sold their soul. This is a terrible place to be in. It happens when people deviate from their core.

How Do You Communicate Your USP?

You scream it from the rooftops. Seriously, you incorporate it into all of your marketing efforts. If your USP is to offer the most delicious roast beef sandwiches in town, then people need to know that. You have to talk about it and be about it.

The Time to Define Your USP is Now!

Right now. Take out a sheet of paper or start a Google Doc. Think of 1-3 things you do better than your competitors or things that set you apart. They don’t have to sound super polished. Speak from your gut. Who are you inside? Focus on that 0.5% of your DNA that makes you different, and start working from there. Don’t try to be someone else. That spot is taken. Be you, and that’s your USP!

Tell Us About Your USP

If you’re on the USP struggle bus or have a killer USP you’d like to share, let us know. Leave a comment or send us a message.

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