Why there’s no such thing as a USP

By Michael Killen from Sell your service.

Who is this post for?

If you’re confused about what your unique selling point, or USP is.  Then this post is for you.  For anyone who has one and doesn’t know what it is, or how to create one, or if the whole concept seems difficult, read this and save yourself some time.

Objective

When we start up businesses, people throw advice at us like it was water and we’re on fire.  All the time you’ll hear tried and true statements from people.  I’m just as bad as everyone else, I always say ‘have a value proposition’.  But others are-

  • Know your market
  • Do your research
  • Focus on profit over everything else
  • Get a website
  • Offer or be something unique

Have a USP is one of the most common pieces of advice.  Hell, business planners and consultants dedicate entire chapters and books to having a USP.  A USP, for the uninitiated, is a ‘unique selling proposition’ or ‘unique selling point’.  It’s supposed to be something that separates you from the competition.  Something that makes people want to crawl over broken glass to get to you.

I want to dispel a few myths about the USP, and talk about how you can get the results it’s SUPPOSED to get by doing something a little different.  By the way, I haven’t created this other method, there are THOUSANDS of successful entrepreneurs and businesses that take this other approach

What is a USP supposed to do?

A USP is supposed to be something that breaks you apart from the competition. It’s supposed to differentiate you from every one else out there.  The reason a USP is so important to a business model, is because it’s the fastest way for other people to understand what you can offer.

For example, lets say I run a website design business.  There are THOUSANDS of website design companies out there.  So when I’m speaking to a customer, why should they employ me?

Well lets say that I had a product that NO ONE else could use.  It was super effective at generating leads online and SOMEHOW I had created a method that was truly unique.

Even if it was unique, it would have to be more efficient, novel, easier to use and improve on the current offerings.  Just because it’s unique does not mean that it works or that it is useful.

How about if I had a brand new widget, something like a bathroom tap that only ever poured out perfect temperature water.  Sounds pretty awesome.  Aside from the legal and patent sides, there is practically nothing stopping another company from saying that they can do the same thing.

Why it doesn’t work

Be really really honest and try to think of just ONE thing that makes your business unique.

I bet, that there are TONS of other people and businesses that have similar qualifications.  They have the same process, same gear, same approach.

Often when I consult with other WordPress and website agencies, they tell me that their USP is that-

“We’re a professional and dynamic team that delivers the results you need.”

OR

“We value integrity and fair prices for our quality products.  We’re reliable and provide great and clean design”

Yawn.

The truth is that these are not unique characteristics.  Here is how you can tell if it really is a USP.

Could I set up a business TODAY and start saying the exact same thing.  Yes, of course I could.

Here’s another way to see if what you’re saying, is an effective USP.  Would my competitors say the opposite?

“We’re an unprofessional and slow moving group of people that don’t really get on.  We won’t always deliver the results you need.”

That’s classic.  I’d love to see the marketing company that suggest that.

In truth, you have 2 USP’s already.  They’re right under your nose.

The first is YOU.  You are your company’s USP.  No one else works like you or even acts like you.  This is a huge advantage and shouldn’t be scoffed at.  People buy from people.  Your customer relationships are with you, not your business.

The 2nd USP you have is the results you’ve got.  Literally NO ONE ELSE in the universe has done the things you’ve done.

If you’ve created a cool site for someone and it brought in X amount of leads, tell people.  No one else can do that.

It’s an out of date concept

Do you know what happens to unique ideas?  It takes a HUGE amount of time and money to set them up.  It also takes a MASSIVE amount of brain energy for a human to understand a new idea.

The USP was created in the 80’s.  Big American companies needed a term for their marketing execs to sell products with.

Back then, setting up a tech business was expensive, risky and riddled with dodgy sales techniques.

People don’t want a USP.  What they want is a proof that you can deliver results that are derived from THEIR similar problem.

For example, if I specialise in setting up portfolio websites for architects.  Then other architects are going to want those same results.

It’s as simple as that.  Your USP does not need to be a fancy widget or a brand new unique point.  It just needs to be a set of results that you’ve got for your customers, that other customers will want too.

But what if I’m new to the game and don’t have those results?

There are a few different ways you can still get clients interested without resorting to previous results.

First, be energetic and enthusiastic.  Get excited about helping people and making sure you can provide the right results.

There’s no need to tell them that they are your first or second customer.  You can just go through your process and treat them how you’d like to be treated.

Second, show them a plan with some research.  There are TONS of statistics about various website designs.

Everything from sliders affecting SEO, blog posts generating leads, responsive design needed for websites and current design trends.

Nothing screams confidence and competence like well researched plan and evidence to back it up.

What you can do instead

So if you don’t focus on a USP, then what do you focus on?

Well the point of a USP would be to differentiate yourself from your competition.

The most effective and efficient way to do that, is to offer help and get them results as fast as you can.

Start building and creating a few light bulb moments.  Light bulb moments are small insights that solve a very specific problem.  For example, if you’re wanting to work with more retail high street shops.  Figure out 2 or 3 of their most common problems, and solve it.

For example, we offer a light bulb moment explaining the 2 sentence email that gets a response after sending a WordPress proposal.

Its just a small problem, but with a very specific answer.  We also capture email addresses from anyone who wants to view it.

Don’t tell people what is unique about you, let them figure it out.  Instead, have a plan and a clear process that people can see.  Show that you can get results and SHOW them those results.

Show people why you’re different by offering them value straight out the gate.  They are much more likely to believe that you can help them, if you’ve helped them in the past.  Even if it isn’t with something massive.

Why you shouldn’t worry at all

If you’re easy to work with, you’ve got a decent manner and you’re getting the word out there.  You don’t need to focus on a USP.

Many businesses work very well without having to feel that they’re changing the wheel.

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Mike Killen

Mike is the world's #1 sales coach for marketing funnel builders. He helps funnel builders sell marketing funnels to their customers. He is the author of From Single To Scale; How single-person, small and micro-businesses can scale their business to profit. You can find him on Twitter @mike_killen.