Everybody talks about your “USP”, but what does it actually MEAN? In today’s episode, I’ll tell you what you need to know about why we even have this term, whether or not you need to have one, and a brief foray into toothpaste that fits into your purse.
What is a USP, and do you, personally, need one? All this, and more, will be revealed. Give me less than 10 minutes, and I’ll explain… your USP.
Just click play, and I’ll meet you there.
Transcript & Shownotes
Welcome back to Naomi Explains Marketing, the show where I help coaches, consultants, experts, authors, and other associated nerds, geeks and misfits sell the contents of their brains for cash money. I am your host, Naomi, and today we’re talking about your USP.
Let’s do this.
So, do you remember those brands we were talking about in our last episode? Coca-Cola and Lyle’s Golden Syrup figured if they made something non-generic, maybe they could take over the world? For a while, everything was great. Coke and Lyle’s and their fellow 19th century brand barons were making money hand over fist being the only recognized games in their respective towns. But! Success breeds both imitation and competition, and soon enough, other makers of sodas and syrups and soda syrups decided they wanted in on the action. So what did they do? They made their own versions! Now there’s Lyle’s Golden Syrup and Bob’s Golden Syrup and Bill’s Golden Syrup.
At a certain point, the golden syrup buyer had too many choices. When it came time to buy their syrup, it wasn’t immediately apparent what to do. It used to be Lyle’s, generic, or make your freaking syrup yourself. Now that Bob and Bill and God knows who else was on the scene, the syrup buying situation got complicated. What was the difference between Lyle and Bob and Bill? There was just no way to know. Syrup buyers did what we all do when faced with too many choices – we go with what we already know, or we do nothing.
That was not okay with Bob and Bill. If they wanted to get in on the action, they were going to have to differentiate themselves. They needed a competitive advantage. They needed to communicate what was special and different about their syrup, or Lyle’s was going to eat their lunch.
Enter the Unique Selling Proposition.
The Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, is a solution to this very specific problem. In the retail space, when the options are functionally identical, sellers need to identify something about themselves that is absolutely unique. It provides a sorting mechanism for the customer. Look at all of these toothpastes! However shall I choose? Well, this one tastes like cinnamon. I like cinnamon – I’ll buy that one! This one is good for sensitive teeth. I have sensitive teeth – I’ll buy that one! This one is tiny enough to fit in your purse. I have a purse – I’ll buy that one! When everything was the same, it was the marketing team’s job to make some element NOT the same, so that it could stand out in the marketplace. And remember, for most products, your USP was not something you FOUND. It was something you CREATED. They didn’t hunt around in the factory to see if they could figure out what was different about them. They made it different from the get-go, so they could then say it was different when it came time to write the copy. Marketing begins in product development.
So. USPs. Awesome. But… they’re not all awesome. There’s also a downside, and it’s a biggie.
If you decide that you’re going to differentiate yourself by being the only toothpaste that fits in a clutch, and you do well, what happens? Everybody else wants to get in on the action. The better you do, the more copycats you get. This means that your big plan for differentiation in the marketplace becomes absolutely useless very, very quickly.
Let’s say my USP for this podcast is “the only show that explains key marketing concepts in less than ten minutes”. What happens when Lyle, thoroughly sick of the syrup industry, creates “Lyle’s Marketing Minute”? I am now NOT the only show that does that, and my USP isn’t very U anymore. So unique selling propositions are valuable, but they’re on shaky ground,
Now, the big question: Do you need a USP?
Well, I don’t know you and I don’t know your situation, but if you’re listening to this podcast, the answer is… almost definitely not.
USPs originated in mass-market physical retail, where people were literally facing multiple versions of functionally identical products. (They were actually facing not just products, but OFFERS, and we’ll talk about that in a couple of episodes.) Seriously, they were facing them. With their face. They’re standing there in the toothpaste aisle wearing uncomfortable shoes and dealing with two screaming children under the age of three, and they were about to miss the last bus home. They had just bought their peaches and their Coke and their golden syrup and their toilet paper and they had to make a decision quickly or everyone’s teeth would be fuzzy. Functionally identical products were right in front of them, and they had to make a call.
I’m going to guess this is not what your business looks like. This is not how you sell your products.
Therefore, in this day and age, in our line of work, most people do not need a USP. Ever. There does not EVER have to be anything objectively unique about you or what you offer.
How can this be, Naomi?
You are selling the contents of your BRAIN on the strength of your PERSONALITY. You are probably involved in some type of content marketing, some type of personal networking. You are building a world in which your prospects know, like, and trust you. (Know Like and Trust is a super important marketing term, and we’re talking about it in a future episode.) But for right now, understand this.
If you make a reasonable offer to a qualified buyer who knows, likes, and trusts you, that’s enough.
If you listen to this podcast and you really, really dig me, and you think to yourself, you know, I like that Naomi woman. When I come out with an offer you like, you’re just going to buy it. You’re not going to Google alternatives. You’re not going to see if your dad has a copy of the yellow pages and look up marketing trainers to see if there’s anyone more, you know, unique. If you did that, you’d have to start the know, like, and trust process all over again and that’s a pain in the ass. You don’t want to do that. You know me, you like, me, and you trust me, and that’s good enough.
It’s the same for your prospects.
If they like you, and they like your offer, and they’re qualified to buy? They just buy. You don’t need to prove yourself more than you already are. Your brain, your style, your personality, your brand… they’re unique enough already. You don’t have to bend over backwards to add manufactured uniqueness. In this one area, yes, you actually ARE a unique and special snowflake, just the way you are.
So, do you need a USP? Maybe if you’re selling toothpaste in a physical retail location. But if you’re selling your brain for cash money? You’re fine.
Now, what’s up next? In our next episode, we’re talking about your target customer. Until then, take great care of yourself, and I’ll see you soon.
Next Episode: #003: Naomi Explains… Your Target Customer
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