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What is a unique selling proposition?

Definition: A unique selling proposition is the defining factor or characteristic that sets a company apart from its competitors. Online and offline retailers aim to clearly communicate their unique selling proposition to shoppers in marketing campaigns, product descriptions, and all other customer touch points.

Three Types of Unique Selling Propositions That Differentiate a Business

Businesses want to sell their products or services as the all-around best option, but ultimately most propositions tend to fall into one of three categories. Note that companies are not limited to just one of these, though it can be hard to effectively communicate more than one proposition at the same time.

Each type of proposition is focused on a different value, and what the customers care about should dictate what propositions a company focuses on. Establishing a buyer persona helps uncover which propositions will be effective.

1. Products.

Establishes the business's claim as the provider of a product or service superior to what their competitors provide. For example, a company selling rare used books can differentiate themselves based on unique, highly-coveted products that can't be found elsewhere.

Target Value: Quality

2. Prices.

Cost plays a role in every buying decision, but it is often the focal selling point when selling to comparison shoppers. Price-based propositions don't discount their quality: rather, they emphasize value. This appeals to customers who are looking for a reason to spend less.

Target Value: Affordability

3. Support.

Some customers are looking for peace of mind and reliability when they make a purchase. While product and price clearly play a role, what can really sell them is reliable support. These include return policies, technical help lines, extensive online resources, or some combination of these factors. A support-based proposition is selling a reassurance that no matter what happens, the customer will be taken care of. Support is especially important for merchants who cultivate an ongoing relationship with their customers, such as those with subscription services.

Target Value: Social connections

How to Define Your Unique Selling Proposition

The process of determining a unique value proposition varies based on the state of a business.

1. New or up-and-coming businesses.

New businesses need to establish their unique selling proposition as early as possible — and begin communicating this to customers as soon as a connection is made. Creating a good first impression and demonstrating your USP from the moment a shopper lands on your website or views a marketing asset it crucial to capture their interest.

2. Established stores.

Companies with proven experience have a slight advantage, with easier access to social proof points such as testimonials and customer reviews. As businesses accumulate more data about who their customers are and what's important to them, it's entirely possible to shift a unique selling proposition to suit the findings.

Examples of Unique Selling Propositions

1. Focus on having a quality product.

"Our unique selling proposition is, 'affordable furniture of great quality with elite customer service.' Clearly defining our USP to our customers has allowed us to quickly expand our furniture store since opening in 2010."

- Maribell Smith - Marketing Manager, Discount Direct Furniture & Mattresses

2. Help your customer solve a problem.

"Finding a personal trainer can be a pain. Our unique selling proposition helps make this process easier by helping our customers find local personal trainers (at all price points) within 5 miles of where they live. They can also read reviews by past clients to help them make better decisions."

- Jesse Silkoff - Founder & President, FitnessTrainer and MyTennisLessons.

3. Solve the customer’s pain point.

"Finding a quality contractor is a pain. We make this annoying process much more seamless for our customers. They provide details on their specific project and then receive four different quotes within 5 minutes from the top rated local roofers.”

- Dan Bailey, Founder & CEO, MyRoofingPal

4. Help educate customers on purchases.

Large and expensive purchases are important. GadgetReview features expert reviews of products that are considered large and important purchases, helping customers make better buying decisions.

- Rex Freiburger, Founder, GadgetReview

5. Having high standards for what you sell.

It is important that we provide the best products to our customers. Our unique selling proposition is that we carefully test each vaping product in house, to make sure each product is safe and provide customers with customer reviews as a secondary source of quality. If a product has too many bad reviews, we will remove it from our inventory.

- Greg Collins, Director of Marketing, License To Vape

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