A unique selling proposition (USP) is a tool that makes you stand out from the competition and gives customers the best experience possible. Your USP is a chance to explain why your business’s offerings are different from others in your industry, while reaping the benefits of improved sales, brand recognition and customer loyalty.

It’s not your average show and tell

For starters, make your USP active, not passive because that’s what draws in your audience. For example, “Hercules hurled the boulder at the dragon” is much more compelling than “The boulder was hurled at the dragon by Hercules,” right?

Next, focus on painting a picture. Try using actions, feelings and images: If you’ve only got a sentence or two to catch readers’ attention, a simple description won’t always cut it. For instance, don’t say, “Our culture is focused on you.” A better way to say it would be, “Where customers feel at home,” letting them fill in their own version of this story. And, if there’s room, this example could include creating a section of photos at local events to demonstrate how employees and customers alike are interacting with, or benefiting from, the brand.

Your USP doesn’t have to be a customer-facing one-liner or a company mission, but it does have to be backed by whatever you produce. Try providing a benefit through your USP, like spreading knowledge or helping customers handle a specific challenge. Your readers want to learn, so give them what they want or show them how you can help them accomplish it. Walk-throughs and step-by-step guides work well to do this: Show your customers the problem they have, tips or advice to fix it and how to use the information in the context that matters to them.

Striking a balance

“Showing” sweeps people into your brand story. “Telling” has them skimming and scanning because, frankly, they are less engaged. But it’s an important balance to strike when people are starved for time. They don’t have all day to read your eloquent or humorous copy. So make sure you introduce and start solving their pain points. Often, this can be achieved through a simple, effective headline and some engaging copy beneath it.

An example from GEICO:

In this case, the USP sounds like a catchy slogan, but it works. It provides the benefit — saving money in a short amount of time — and it captures attention. It lets us infer that we should call GEICO for a quote instead of saying, “Call now.”

TOMS is another great example: It donates a pair of shoes to someone in need every time a pair is purchased. It doesn’t just say “we care about our consumer” but shows it by providing for those in need and letting customers get in on the feel-good action. TOMS also has “The stories behind your impact” section to show how people are making a difference, inside and outside of the company.

Creative ideas you need to try

No matter the industry, take a look at brands you like and break down what it is about them that you like. Check your list for shared qualities like usefulness or humor. Think how your specific brand can work to capture that tone.

For example, if you’re a company that uses humor but also prides itself on serious customer service, how can you show that through your communications? Not by simply saying, “We love our customers.” Take the time to consider actions associated with how you want your company to appear and then take those actions, like providing client examples and a clear way to contact the company for information. Social media is another great place to back your USP: Provide social proof by posting photos and sharing topics you’re passionate about.

Serving up must-try restaurant strategy

You can’t attract everyone, so try focusing on the crowd you aim to bring in with your cuisine. For example, if you’re a small sandwich shop with fresh, locally sourced produce, milk it. Show that you’re not the typical Subway by trying a catchy phrase like “Your neighborhood sandwich.” Include photos of the food and customers, along with snappy social campaigns that let consumers get involved. Try a #MyNeighborhoodSandwich or something that lines up with your business.

Nonprofits: Caring for your people

Trust your audience. It may be tempting to scream your mission everywhere you go, but instead talk about what you’re passionate about and what you love to be involved in. Try photos to let people form their own opinions and connect the dots about your brand. It’s a good idea to focus on how your nonprofit is positively impacting the community. Consider a monthly newsletter to share updates on projects, showcase those involved and thank contributors for their support.

Retail ideas to check out

Focus on the strengths of your store. Don’t try to be the best shop in town. Instead, be that warm, inviting place people go to sip on complimentary hot cocoa and shop to their hearts’ content. Consider video to portray your brand’s value, like showing off your street style or your employees’ signature styles. Reviews will be your best friend and help boost your directory listings.

Constructive considerations for construction businesses

Collect references. Ask past or current clients to talk about their experiences with your brand, products or services. There’s nothing like word-of-mouth from a peer to improve trust between consumers and businesses. In addition, create and maximize a website that helps your business get found with keywords like “best North Carolina construction services.” Then, back this up with testimonials and easy methods of contact for customers to get answers to any questions.

Service businesses: Where service is everything

Don’t make bold claims or shower potential clients with numbers or lofty promises. Instead, share past successes. Do this by using case studies and examples of previous projects. If you’ve got an impressive client list, don’t be afraid to show it. Also, consider how socializing your high quality of service could serve your business. Could you afford and keep up with promising to answer inquiries within 15 minutes during the business week?

Providing value to customers is so much more than a one-sentence promise that gets pushed to the side. When you show your USP, customers get a feel for your brand and what it stands for. It’s a simple adjustment to the way your business portrays itself, but it will yield benefits for years to come.

Not a marketer? Not a problem.

This downloadable guide covers marketing in 8 easy-to-understand sections — each filled with professional tips and advice you can put into practice right away.

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