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Unique selling proposition (USP): a definition

What is a unique selling proposition (USP)? A Unique Selling Proposition (sometimes called a Unique Selling Point) is the set of unique qualities that separate a company’s brand, services, and products from those of its competitors. USPs briefly highlight the specific benefits of a product or brand in just a few words or a short sentence.

A strong unique selling proposition is an essential part of every marketing strategy: it allows a successful company (regardless of whether it’s a small business or a large one) to stand out to prospective customers in a crowded field of competitors, and keeps existing customers coming back again and again.

Marketing, ecommerce, and web performance tips

Why are USPs important?

Think about some of the world’s most recognizable brands and you can probably figure out their USPs. Apple Computers, for example, is known for sleek, state-of-the-art design, user-friendly products, reliability, innovation, and being a ‘cool’ alternative to the PC. Zappos, the online shoe retailer, is known for free, no-hassle returns and excellent customer service.

Imagine if either of these companies switched things up. What if Apple came out with a series of dirt-cheap laptops that didn’t have that unique Macbook style? What if Zappos changed the return policy on half of their products?

Chances are, customers would become frustrated, and many would give competitors a try; at the very least, this change would water down both brands. Those elements customers had come to expect from Apple and Zappos—the specific USPs that helped them stand out—would no longer define either company: the very foundation of both brands would crumble.

4 examples of unique selling propositions

A successful USP clearly states to potential customers why they should buy from you. Your USP can be as long or short as needed, provided it defines what makes your brand different and desirable.

Here are four examples of successful business’ USPs:

  1. Bosch: Invented for life.

  2. Zappos: A service company that just happens to sell ________.

  3. High-end design, without the high-end price tag.

  4. FedEx: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.

Want to know your USP? Ask your customers.

So what makes you stand out to your target audience?

Wait! Don’t answer that question yourself. Even if you know your company and your products inside out, you’re really not the best person to answer.

If you want to know how the world sees your brand, you’ve got to ask the people who really matter—your customers! After all, they’re the ones who chose you over everyone else in the market. And even though you might think of yourself as the Apple or the Zappos of your industry, only the market can tell you whether that’s actually true.

Figure out your USPs in just two steps

Step 1: collect feedback from your customers

a) Run a post-purchase survey on your website to give your customers a chance to explain what stands out about your brand and products. Some of the questions you can ask include:

- How would you rate your overall experience?

- What can we do to improve it?

- What almost stopped you from completing your purchase?

You notice that the questions are open-ended, and this is especially important because you don’t want to plant ideas in your customers' heads or limit their answers based on your own assumptions.


b) Run a handful of customer interviews: speak with some paying customers and get to know their experience with your brand.

- Ask them to tell you about the first time they decided to look for a solution to a problem that your business was built to solve and let them go into detail about their experience.

- Ask them to elaborate on what your product does for them and how you could improve it to better suit their needs.

This process will give you a sense of how you stand out in your industry and what you could do to build an even stronger brand.

Step 2: craft your messages based on what you learn

Once you’ve identified what your customers want and why they buy from you, craft your marketing message around your USP.

For example, if customers love that your product is easy to use, stress that USP on your website, in your email marketing campaigns, and in your paid advertising. If your service has a highly affordable price tag, make sure your target market understands how much value they get when they buy from you.

Let your customers tell you what your USP is

Use Hotjar's feedback tools to get deeper insights into who your users are and what they think about your brand and products.