If you’re a marketing professional or a conversion person, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard the phrase “unique selling proposition,” or USP if you want to be all jargony about it.
Some people love to talk about it. (Like my main man, Greg, and the peeps at Wordstream, and Kissmetrics, and Tommy at ConversionXL and Rich Page at Unbounce). Okay, like everybody who’s anybody in CRO.
It’s a thing. That’s why you should freaking care.
But even if you feel all lonely and dumb because you weren’t all cool with the USP before, here’s the thing. You’ve been using value proposition as part of your conversion optimization toolkit, even if you had no clue.
The USP is a pretty basic idea, and the term makes you sound smart. All the unique selling proposition does is explain to the consumer how the product is different than the competition and why this difference makes the product the best solution to their problem.
Let me just say that again, because it’s clutch:
The definition of unique selling proposition is a sentence explains how your product or service is different from the competition, and why this difference makes it the best solution to their problem.
BAM! That’s the USP. And applying that little definition thingy to your website is going to add up to loads of cash.
In fact, if you can craft a good USP for your product or service, then you will see huge conversion improvements.
Let’s do this thing.
What is a Unique Selling Proposition?
Let me go all boring history teacher for a second, because I want you to really get this.
The idea behind the unique selling proposition dates to the 19th century.
Harvey Proctor, son of Procter & Gamble founder William Procter, was the founding father of molding an ad campaign around a feature their competition didn’t offer.
Chemical tests proved Ivory Soap’s ingredients were virtually pure, and Proctor saw a gold mine in these results. Their 1882 ad campaign slogan was “It floats” and “99 & 44/100% pure.”
What was the result? It catapulted Ivory to the top of the market share. Or, they floated up, if you see what I did there.
The formal concept of a “unique selling proposition” was developed by advertising agency Ted Bates & Company in the 1940s and the phrase was first used in a book published by Rosser Reeves, the agency’s chief creative officer, in 1961.
Reeves was the author of M&Ms’ unique selling proposition, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”
The fact is, M&Ms do melt in your hands, but what the heck.
Basically, Reeves was the original Don Draper.
Rosser Reeves being Don Draper before Don Draper (Image source)
The whole idea was emerging — simply describing and differentiating your product from the competition.
Customers don’t care about you, and they won’t care about your product if it doesn’t do anything valuable. Customers are honey badgers like that.
If you’re in the business of conversion optimization, then Reeves’ “Reality in Advertising” is required reading. (Guess what. It’s FREE!)
Reeves outlines these three characteristics of the unique selling proposition:
- A product has to propose something to a customer. Answer, “What’s in it for me?”
- The unique value proposition has to tell customers why the product is different. It has to be something the competition doesn’t have.
- The uniqueness has to be strong enough for mass conversion. In the case of conversion optimization, this means it has to be strong enough to convert traffic to paying customers.
Today’s consumer has way too many choices. The USP cuts through the crap and gets to the point. It reduces the cognitive load of choice-making by offering up the most valuable component of the given product.
Have you ever walked down an aisle of a supermarket and had an overwhelming feeling about the many brands of every product you see? Say you want a bar of soap and there are over a dozen different soap brands.
What makes you choose one soap over the other? A soap that focuses on “giving the best clean” isn’t going to sell. Consumers assume every soap gets them clean. But a soap that is chemically proven to be the purest soap on the market? Now that’s marketing a unique selling proposition that converts.
Your USP is your way of being the consumer’s life raft in the sea of unlimited choice.
Why Should I Care About Having A Unique Selling Proposition?
Time for the give-it-to-me-like-it-is section. SO FREAKING WHAT?
The simple answer is because you want to make money.
If you want to be one of the dozens of e-commerce sites that wallows in mediocrity, then by all means continue your generic marketing campaign. If you want to take the lion’s share of your market, then you will sit down with your team and nail down a solid USP.
Get it? Good.
I have more.
Having a unique selling proposition makes your brand easier to sell. It’s not just a product thing. It goes for your brand as a whole.
Today’s consumer is marketing-savvy. They can smell BS, identify falsehood and cut through the crap.
According to a Forbes report on a Lab 42 research firm, consumers are skeptics:
- 76% of respondents said ads in general were either “very exaggerated” or “somewhat exaggerated.”
- 87% think half or more cleaning ads are photoshopped.
- 96% think half or more weight loss ads are photoshopped.
In fact, many consumers are naturally skeptical toward anything that sounds like a sales pitch. Researchers at Albers School of Business describe why this is the case, describing the condition as part of a widespread and cultural “ad skepticism.”
Your USP informs customers why you’re obviously the best choice and leaves them to conclude you’re the most logical choice. Conversion optimization and marketing strategies today require a USP to convert today’s skeptical consumer.
Tips for Crafting a Unique Selling Proposition for Digital Marketing
You’re reading this blog, so let’s assume you’re smarter than the average marketer. Good. Glad we got that settled.
I think you’ve realized by now that the unique selling proposition of your website is the holy grail of conversion optimization. This is the foolproof formula for creating a USP for your website:
1. Do extensive research on your competition.
If you don’t know what your competition offers, then you can’t know what you have that they don’t. Make a list of your five biggest competitors and chart notes on their marketing strategies. Use this as a swipe file to figure out your USP.
2. Create an ideal customer persona
Picking a specific demographic to sell to is not a USP, nor is picking a specific socioeconomic class or gender.
You need to develop a highly specific customer persona to develop a USP that converts web traffic to paying customers. Personalization is crucial to today’s customer. For example, a “dear customer” email doesn’t get opened, but an email marketing message that addresses a recipient by their first name gets the click-through.
Forget the idea of selling to everyone. If you try to sell to everyone, then you will end up selling to no one.
There’s a reason all of the top businesses, both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar, are shifting from generalization to specialization. The reason is there’s no more money in generalization. That’s not marketing.
The new gold mine is selling exclusively to a narrow, specific, target demographic, even though it intentionally excludes other demographics.
3. Decide what makes your site, product, service, business, etc., unique.
What makes your site different from every other site in your niche? The key is to think deeper than the surface. A different color scheme and a catchy slogan may be unique enough to get the traffic to your site, but it won’t do you much good when it comes to conversion optimization.
Your unique selling proposition needs to clearly tell visitors how your product solves their problem in the best way. Don’t focus on just being the “best.” You’re not the best unless you prove it.
The pit of pleasing everyone swallows even some of the best business concepts. Focus on being the option on the market that’s different. Differentiate yourself and they will come.
4. Add a personal touch.
As mentioned before, today’s customer loves a company that connects with them on a personal level. Your company’s “About Us” section is the most profitable sales copy on your website, and it doesn’t have to mention one product.
What this section sells is your company’s story. Put a face and a background story to the founders. Make the reader feel like you’re one of their friends who just turned their passion into a business.
In fact, your entire unique selling proposition could focus on this personal touch. Consumers don’t really like big corporations. They’re not as warm-and-fuzzy as a company with a personal touch. Be real. Be legit.
Winning USP Strategies
Now that you have your USP, you need to apply it to what you know about conversion optimization. The best marketing philosophy when combining these two concepts is “Keep It Simple Stupid.”
The tendency with eager CRO professionals is to get too complex and cross over from unique into obscure.
(Guilty as charged.)
These strategists think more in terms of impressing other marketers rather than converting customers. You may think you’ve come up with a new strategy for converting customers, but the reality is you’re just complicating the process.
All you have to do is study the websites of companies that have succeeded and apply their strategies to your own site.
Unique Selling Proposition Examples
1. Compelling Content Creates Conversions
Content didn’t get declared the king of digital marketing by accident. One case study discussed by Kissmetrics is of a European sweat pad company named L’axelle. They increased their conversions by 93% simply from rephrasing their content to make it more active.
Their copy before the change featured bland phrases such as “protects clothing” and “perfect fit to your body thanks to the unique fold line.” While this is valuable information, it reads more like a product description than sales copy.
The revised copy shifted the focus onto the problem solved by the sweat pads. “Feel fresh without sweat marks” became “Put an End to Sweat Marks!”
You can feel the power in the second phrase. It makes the consumer feel like this product will not only make them more comfortable, but it will put a permanent end to their sweat problem.
If you offer a product that is a permanent solution, you will convert that reader into a permanent customer.
2. A picture is worth 1,000 conversions.
Images on your site are key to conversion optimization for a couple of reasons. Our brains are wired to visually analyze our environments and assess what we see.
Images can be universal while the meaning of words can be easily muddled. This means we naturally trust images more than words. That’s where our second unique selling proposition example comes in.
37Signals (Highrise CRM). They increased conversions by 102.5% simply by putting a picture of a person in the background of their product page.
The reason this simple change was so successful is the change amplified their unique selling proposition — offering a CRM that helps you get to know every lead beyond their contact information.
People see the photo of the young woman in the background and subconsciously put that face to the message of the copy.
Line photo placement up your USP, and you can easily see these kinds of numbers.
3. The Power of Social Proof
The biggest seller of products in the online marketplace is social proof.
A handful of authentic testimonials can sell more than the best-written copy. The women’s apparel site Figleaves boosted their conversions 35% by adding product reviews to their site.
Amazon is the best-known company that utilizes the product review to sell products. Many customers buy a product simply because it was the highest-rated by their peers.
Gather product reviews that prove the claim of your unique selling proposition and make that a prominent feature of your site. It adds a level of trust that is crucial in converting a visitor to a customer.
4. Have a Conversion-Friendly Design
This last point might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of websites that spend all this time adding bells and whistles while including no easy way to make a purchase.
I shake my head. I do a facepalm. It kills me.
One of Amazon’s most brilliant moves is their one-click checkout system. You wouldn’t believe how many suckers just buy-buy-buy because it’s just click-click-click.
Make it easy for your customer to check out. “Buy now” buttons are essential. Experiment with the color in A/B testing to see which converts best. You also need to trim out anything on your home page that doesn’t move your visitor through your sales funnel.
The bottom line is this: Brainstorming your unique selling proposition should be the first thing you do after reading this article.
If you don’t agree with that, then you’ve missed the importance of the USP in relation to conversion optimization.
Please. Don’t do that.
There are dozens of unique selling proposition examples that consistently show how factors like content, images, site design and social proof all play crucial roles in turning your passive web traffic into active dollar amounts in your bank account.
By following this simple advice, you will have your own unique selling proposition strategy as the conversion optimization professional who can deliver big results with simple and efficient strategy.
You like to win? Me too.