Despite your best efforts (and a lot of money out of pocket) your advertising and marketing just aren’t producing the sales you had hoped for. For some reason, your message just isn’t connecting with the people you’d hoped would become your customers.

As a freelance copywriter, is see this situation a lot when I am called in to fix advertisements, web copy and other marketing materials that just aren’t living up to my clients’ expectations.

More often than not, the problem is my client hasn’t developed a strong Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to set their company, product or service apart from the competition.

A USP tells the world you are different from all the rest. It creates a brand new category for you to be the biggest – or better yet, the only – fish in the pond.

One of my loftiest ambitions as a freelance copywriter is to someday create a USP as powerful as Domino’s Pizza’s one-time promise,

“Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.”

Until some unfortunate accidents involving some of their delivery drivers forced them to soften their message, Domino’s rode this 10 word USP to the top of their industry. That is the power of a compelling USP.

Now does that mean that Domino’s was the only pizza chain that made fast deliveries? Not at all. In fact, I am sure some restaurants out there were probably faster. But Domino’s had created a whole new category in the minds of people who were hungry and wanted their pizza delivered fast. And they owned that category.

Another surprising (or actually not so surprising, when you understand the power of a great USP) effect of their USP was that they re-positioned their competitors as all belonging to the “slower” category. In the perception of people who wanted to order pizza because they were hungry right now, the other guys were just not as fast.

So how do you come up with a powerful USP that creates a whole new pond in which you become the big fish? Here are a few ideas I have put together:

  1. Specifically target a need your buyer has that you want to appeal to. These needs can be things like, “to make more money,” “professional advancement,” “better health,” or “to save money/ to get a bargain.” I recently explored how to appeal to your buyers’ needs in an article I wrote called, How to Tap Into Your Readers' Deepest Needs. Click on this link if you want to read more on the subject.

  2. Make a clear promise that you will deliver a benefit. Your benefit statement should promise to solve a vexing problem or bring about a desired change. If your statement does not make a promise, or if it promises something other than a solution or a change; chances are you are talking about a feature instead of a benefit.

  3. Make the solution seem as fast and easy as possible. Your USP is all about chipping away at buyers’ mental barriers. If you can truthfully promise fast and easy results, you have chipped through another excuse NOT to buy from you.

  4. Make sure your claim is believable. If Domino’s had promised 5 minute delivery, no one would have bought in to their concept.

  5. Avoid making a “me-too” type promise. You are trying to create your own category, your own pond. The goal here is not to dive into everyone else’s pond and to out muscle the competition.

  6. Promise a distinct before vs. after contrast. Does your USP help potential customers to visualize a real change doing business with you can bring about?

  7. Talk about your edge, your advantage over the competition. What can you promise that no one else can do? Or, in the alternative, what is no one else talking about? Domino’s was not the first pizza chain to deliver pizzas quickly, but they were the first to make that their claim to fame.

  8. Address your customers in the second person. This is a good rule for writing headlines that I carry over to writing USPs. My own USP is, “I am a freelance copywriter who turns readers into YOUR customers." People respond when you talk directly to them, not when you talk about a subject in the distant third person.

  9. Incorporate key words. In many ways this is the hardest idea on this list to incorporate. But if you are writing web content or if your USP will be prominently displayed on your web site, you just can’t ignore key words. My own keyword is “freelance copywriter,” and I make sure it appears on every article I write. (Did you notice how I just cleverly made the opportunity to use it once again?) Keywords are how people find you on search engines, so you cannot afford to make it harder for them to locate you by not including keywords as part of your USP.

  10. If you are still having difficulty, think of how you want people to think about your competition. Put the emphasis on repositioning the other guys. Domino's did this to their competion and placed the idea in peoples' minds that the other guys were slow. And Avis did this by making people think their chief competitor, Hertz, was too big to try as hard to please their customers.

Not only is your USP what positions you as different from all the others, it also tells them why you are the only logical choice in your industry. So go back and look at all your ads and all your marketing efforts that produced less than stellar results. I just bet the problem you need to fix is a broken USP.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown


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