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Unique Selling Proposition (USP)


Disciplines > Sales > Sales articles > Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

How to create a USP | USP History | See also


In marketing and sales promotions it is easy to miss a key trick, which is to make what you are selling stand out against the competition, making your products clearly the best choice. This is the key focus of the USP, also sometimes said to stand for 'Unique Selling Point'.

How to create a USP

Get into their heads

Customers do not just look at your products and decide whether they want it or not. They may have lists of desired features or problems that are resolved by the benefits that are conferred by buying the product.

Beyond this, when looking at your product they compare what you have to offer with that which they can buy from your competitors.

Select the key variables

The USP typically focuses on specific variables, such as speed, size, convenience, safety, style or ease of use. It does not focus on price or (by definition) value for money.

The USP says what is different about the product, particularly in comparison with major competitors. Thus you can take a range of variables and produce a table to find out where you are better or worse than competitors.

Do the research

Do not just pick a factor about your product that seems strong to you. Do your research properly. Find out what criteria customers use to compare products against one another. Get their metrics and measurement systems (good customers will happily give you this as it probably means better products from you).

Buy your competitors' products and do a scientific comparison. Better still, get an independent agency to do this, so you can quote them in promotions. Customer surveys also help.

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Position yourself

With the USP you need to position your product not just against the customer's needs but also against competing products. The USP thus explains what is unique about what you have to sell.

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Use comparison words

Positioning against a competitor can often be done using words that compare, such as better, faster, stronger and so on.


The USP was originally discussed in the 1940s and defined in print by advertising executive Rosser Reeves, who was concerned that advertising was losing track of its purpose in the way it was become more about art and less about selling the product. He said:

Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: 'Buy this product and you will get this specific benefit.'

The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique-either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.

The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions; i.e., pull over new customers to your product.
 -- Reeves, 1961

See also

A Structured Method for Developing a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), Features and benefits, Unique, Selling and Proposition

Sales Books

Reeves, R. (1961). Reality in Advertising. New York: Knopf


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