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The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition

The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition

Hands down, the question I get most from readers is “how do I make my business or website unique?” I’ve talked to at least 10 of you over the past couple of months about that very topic.

In marketing speak, this is known as the unique selling proposition, or USP.

Note: as a follow-up to this original post, you might also want to check out these 10 killer unique selling proposition examples from around the web.

And it’s a fantastic question because deciding on a USP is possibly the most important decision you can make about your business.

If you make your business stand apart from the crowd, everything you do will be easier. Customers will be easier to come by. Adoring fans will gladly spread the word about what you do because they love it.

On the other hand, if you don’t develop an effective USP, building an audience or getting any customers to pay attention to you will be a constant struggle.

Your USP can mean the difference between success and failure.

And every time I have that discussion with one of you, you say “you should really write a blog post about this.” That’s a great idea, so here we go.

What is a Unique Selling Proposition?

First off, if the word “selling” turns you off, you can think of it as the “unique market proposition” if you’d like. It’s not about selling, it’s simply about differentiation.

Your unique selling proposition is what makes your business stand out. It’s what makes you different and earns you a special place in the minds of your potential customers.

Now, before any of you marketing geeks out there get on my case about the definition of USP, hold on. I know there’s another concept known as the Point of Difference (POD), and that there are probably a dozen of other different academic marketing terms with nuances they taught you in grad school.

Whatever you want to call it, that’s fine with me. The point is, differentiating your business is a Good Thing, whether you’re talking about the business itself, your products or your marketing.

I like to think of your overall USP as your reason for being. Think about it from your customer’s point of view. With tens or hundreds of potential options out there, you have to answer the question, “why should I buy from you?” Or, “why should I read your blog, when there are millions of other blogs I could be reading?”

If you don’t answer that question quickly, your potential customers or readers will move on. It’s really pretty simple.

It’s Not About Being the Best

Having a great product or superb content is probably not enough of a difference to make your business stand out. In most markets, having a great product is just the price of admission.

When you’re small, it’s hard to compete on product or content quality alone. You need to change the conversation. Instead of screaming “hey, look at me, I have great stuff too,” you want to confidently say, “hey, I’m all about X, we do things differently. If you’re into X, we’re the only place you can get it.”

Cal Newport wrote recently about what he calls The Superstar Effect over at the 4-Hour Workweek blog recently. Cal showed why it’s a losing game to try to win by being the best at something everyone else is also trying to be the best at. Think about getting into an Ivy League school, for example. Virtually everyone who gets in is a valedictorian with perfect SAT scores. How do you compete against that?

The answer is that you don’t compete at all. Instead, you become the best at something no one else is attempting.

That’s how Michael Silverman got accepted to Stanford, despite his middling SAT scores and G.P.A. Michael focused his energies on a series of environmental sustainability projects, and earned a reputation and press coverage for his accomplishments. He became the best at what he did, and stood out amongst 32,000 applicants to Stanford earning a unique place amongst the 7.2% who were accepted.

Instead of playing a game he couldn’t win, he changed the game.

That’s the power of a unique selling proposition. You want to be the best at something, but you can make it far easier if you define your competitors yourself.

Promotion is Only a Small Part of Marketing

When I started planning to create this blog, it struck me that most people get traffic building all wrong. At its essence, “building traffic” is really synonymous with marketing. Only, I knew that the world needed another boring marketing blog like it needed a hole in the ozone layer.

I decided to use the word “traffic” in the site’s name because I knew that’s what every website owner craves. You want more traffic. The trouble is, getting traffic isn’t about what you think it is. Most people think getting traffic is about promotion, but it’s really about holistic marketing.

Promotion is an important part of building a big audience, there’s no question. But promotion alone can’t entirely make up for a crappy product, mediocre content or the lack of a unique selling proposition. That would be like putting lipstick on a pig, as one of my old bosses used to love to say.

Building a high-traffic website or successful business starts with your point of view. It begins with your thesis, how do you see the world, how you care for and help your customers, and extends through to your content, products, customer interactions and then finally to your promotion.

Attracting customers isn’t something you “bolt on” in the end. It’s something you work on at every stage of your business, and your unique selling proposition is the first stage.

How to Find Your Unique Selling Proposition

So, you’ve bought into the idea that a unique selling proposition is important, but how do you define yours?

There are a lot of different approaches you can take. Your USP might end up being a combination of things. There’s no one right answer. And depending on what business you’re in, even a small amount of differentiation could lead to a much greater shot at success.

Here are a few simple ways to differentiate your business. These aren’t the only ways, but it’s a starting point to get you thinking.

Use Your Personality

If you’re running a very small business (like I do), or are are the primary owner of your business, sometimes your personality alone can be a powerful difference.

You have to have a personality that resonates with some people to pull this off, but by putting your personal stamp on many aspects of your business, you create something no one can directly compete with (there is only one you, after all). Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example of this approach.

Explore the Intersection of Ideas

Interesting things happen at the intersection of ideas, as Adam Singer likes to say, and plenty of ideas haven’t been combined before. Merge Manhattan-bred customs with African-inspired music and you get the band Vampire Weekend. Mix collective buying power with the social web and you get Groupon.

Think about the topic your business is about, and what you could add to the mix to make it more interesting and unique. It doesn’t require inventing something new, just combine two things you already know about.

Narrow Your Target Audience

Here’s another technique that’s pretty easy to pull off. You can choose a narrow target audience who has never had a business like yours cater specifically to it. For example, become a web designer for plumbers, or a plumber for recreational vehicles, or write about online marketing for dentists.

Think about this from the customer’s standpoint. If you were a dentist and needed help with online marketing, wouldn’t you be inclined to choose the business that specializes in dentists?

The other benefit of specializing in a narrow market segment is that promotion becomes much easier. You know where to find dentists together at conferences and where they hang out online, so you know how to target them.

Narrow Your Topic

Finally, you can also specialize narrowly in one particular aspect of your topic. Instead of being a web developer, become a web developer who translates visual designs into working WordPress websites. Instead of being an auto mechanic, become an auto mechanic who specializes in American-made electric vehicles.

Remember, You’re Not Trying to Appeal to Everyone

When starting out, creating a USP might seem like you’ll be leaving out some potential customers. It’s a natural tendency to want to please everybody.

But when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing no one. The goal of your USP will be to connect more strongly with some people, and not so much with others. This is what you want because when you connect strongly with a smaller audience, your influence can spread much more quickly.

Have you heard the tale of the old man, boy and donkey? I read this in Michael Port’s excellent Book Yourself Solid. This might help:

An old man, a boy and a donkey were going to town. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked. As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding. The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.

Later, they passed some people that remarked: “What a shame, he makes that little boy walk.” They then decided they both would walk!

Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey.

Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey. The boy and man said they were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed the bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned.

The moral of the story? In Marketing, if you try to please everyone, you might as well… Kiss your ass good-bye.

Branding, Design and Messaging

Once you’ve developed a unique selling proposition, your job is to communicate it clearly and often.

That’s the role of branding, design and messaging. A great name, tagline and design can really tie this whole concept of uniqueness together.

And remember that the USP isn’t a one-time decision. You have to constantly remind people of what you stand for. Tell them in no uncertain terms on a regular basis why your business is different.

Be Unique, But Not For Its Own Sake

Being unique is an important marketing strategy, but beware of being unique for its own sake. Being the only business who sells waterskis in the desert makes you unique, but it doesn’t mean there’s a market for your product.

Your unique selling proposition only works when you’re addressing some demand. It’s not necessarily about defining an entirely new market with unproven demand.

Being unique also requires clarity. If the unique selling proposition you come up with takes someone minutes or hours to understand, it probably won’t be effective. Being clear is another essential aspect of building a successful business or popular website.

Can you succeed without a dynamite USP?

Yes, of course it’s possible to succeed without a great unique selling proposition. It’s possible, but definitely not as easy. And success without a good USP requires better product development and promotion, along with some outside factors (maybe a little luck).

Sometimes there is so much demand in a market that multiple (virtually identical) businesses can succeed without working hard to differentiate themselves. In these cases, as long as you have a great product and a way to reach the market, you might be able to break through.

Look at the WordPress themes market, for example. There are lots of successful players in that market, and not too much difference between them.

Another example is the tech news + social media blog space. Back in 2005, Mashable, Read Write Web and TechCrunch all became giants, and did so by focusing on content and promotion more than starting with a unique angle. Of course, Mashable had Pete Cashmore and TechCrunch had Mike Arrington. Remember that a strong personality can be a USP in itself.

In terms of audience building, a USP is really the foundation of your efforts and will have a multiplier effect on your product and marketing.

You can always create a great product and rely on good old fashioned hard work to grow your business, but by adding a solid unique selling proposition you’ll reach your goals faster.

What if your business doesn’t have much of a USP?

So, you have a website or business, and now you’re thinking, shit, I didn’t really think about this USP stuff before I started. What do I do now?

Don’t do anything rash, first of all. You can refine your unique selling proposition without scrapping your entire business, and still make a big difference. The important thing is that you now understand how to use uniqueness to your advantage.

And here’s a word of caution. All of this can seem a little daunting at first. I’ve seen plenty of people get hung up on the concept of the USP for weeks or months. But remember that research and planning with no action won’t get you anywhere. It’s better to start working on your idea and refine it as you go along than it is to get stuck contemplating the perfect USP without doing anything.

What’s your unique selling proposition? Have any great examples of dynamite USPs? Share in the comments!

photo by nickwheeleroz

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  • http://www.businessbackpacker.com Brooke Ferguson

    Great stuff (as usual!). This is something important that I’ve been focusing on lately, especially since I’ve made the transition from consulting in person to being an online consultant. I’ve found it increasingly more difficult to convey exactly what I do, how I do it — and how to share that with my audience. Thanks for this post, it’s given me a lot to think about.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Brooke, it’s great when you can get “what you do” down into an easy-to-say couple of sentences. “Book Yourself Solid” by Michael Port is a really great resource for that.

  • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

    That is some essential magic, right there, Corbett !

    I agree that having a USP is very important – the blogs that I visit all have one. The story with the man, boy and donkey also makes a point – many people try to cater to everyone, and it’s breaking their digital neck.

    For my blog, my personality is my biggest USP – the way I use words and making videos – it’s all 100% flavored by Mars Dorian.

    It seems very overwhelming, but it’s not. It always starts with a honest clarification: What do I stand for ? What is my purpose in the (online) world ? Answer that question and think of ways to make the message as unique as possible.

    I luv this kind of stuff.
    Shine on
    Mars

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Awesome, Mars, I thought you might like this discussion. And I agree, personality can be a strong USP, as long as you know what you stand for, and deliver it well. Congrats on that.

  • http://www.getinthehotspot.com/ Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot

    Great post here, thanks Corbett. I had a light bulb moment this week. My USP is the nicheless niche:) I cover travel, writing, blogging, Internet marketing and business because I’m passionate about all those things and some other people are too.

    Plus the biggest USP of all is that I write about boring topics like Internet marketing and business in a fun way. Who said they have to be approached in a boring, serious way?

    I’m giving up following the rules, it didn’t get me very far and I’m having more fun living and blogging according to my own rules: mix it up and make it fun!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      That’s the best part, Annabel. You don’t have to follow the rules. There are so many different ways to stand out and make things work for you. For every “rule” of online business and blogging you can always find someone who broke it and became a big success. I find that inspiring.

    • http://www.realismartgallery.com Khalda Hamouda

      I agree with you that braking the rules sometimes is very inspiring, especially when you have to do that.
      I passed throuh this experience because I am living in a very frustrating market, so I have no other option than breaking the rules – all the rules , simply because you are unable to follow them.
      But from the other side, you won’t be able to quess what will happen next and this is the bad side of breaking the rules.

  • http://www.mikeziarko.com Michael Ziarko Musing

    Thats one of the things that I’ve always struggled with. Thanks for written about it Corbett. Once you find that USP you can just run with it, but what I’m finding is that it does take time to find your unique voice and you can’t force it. I write about a number of topics on that i’m passionate about and slowly I’m building a usp so I can rebrand the blog (have it less about my name) and go full steam with that.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      It’s true, I’ve found that refining your unique voice is difficult and takes time. That’s why I encourage people to get started and develop your unique message along the way. Good luck.

  • http://www.rebeccaosberg.com Rebecca

    Great post. Since launching my business I’ve been trying to decide just how small of a niche I want to focus on. Right now I’m small businesses who know nothing about social media. Then I was considering scaling it smaller to small businesses in Chicago who know nothing about social media. And then perhaps even smaller. But I have yet to make that decision. Thanks for giving me something to chew on while I attempt to figure it all out.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Cool, Rebecca, glad to help. Let me know how it goes for you. Geography is definitely something you can play with.

  • http://www.blogcastfm.com Srinivas Rao

    Well said Corbett. I think that one thing I would add in addition to personality is understanding what your greatest strengths are. I realized mine was actually talking to people which is why my personal development blog will probably always be a hobby, and BlogcastFM is the one I will turn into a real business. I think your point about getting hung up on this is an important one too. Often, when people get too hung up it causes them not start at all which is worse. Sometimes it takes a while to discover your own USP and by just getting started you’ll get there.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Ah, great point Srini. Knowing what you’re good at is definitely key.

  • http://www.newbizblogger.com Michele

    Hi Corbett,

    Some great points you mention here…it’s clear to me that you’ve found your USP. ;-)

    When you are in a competitive market, it’s definitely a challenge finding your USP. Information and products are so readily available, that what’s going to make you stand out in the crowd become increasingly difficult?

    I think two things: your voice and your ability to make them listen. Getting in touch with how you authentically express yourself and your ability to communicate that expression, whether is be through a product, service or sharing of information is going to be what allows you to stand out in the crowd.

    You ask the question, what’s my USP? Well, it’s my ability to express my self in my own voice, like it or not, and my desire to coach and even “push” people to reach the level of success they want in their business (and in life).

    I too am on this journey and push myself every day, so I make sure I practice what I preach. ;-)

    Thanks so much for sharing this Corbett!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      That’s great that you’ve found self expression to be a point of difference for you. Not everyone feels comfortable enough to do that, but it definitely comes through as a strength when you can pull it off. Cheers.

    • http://paintinglucy.blogspot.com Lucy Chen

      I’m glad to have found your site and article, Corbett. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom.

      I’m about to launch my fine art business and when I read Michele’s comment of “authentically express yourself and your ability to communicate that expression”, I can’t help but think, “hey, that is exactly what I’m doing, or at least, trying to do with my paintings.”

      But every artist do that. This won’t make an USP, will it? Thanks.

  • http://website-in-a-weekend.net/ Dave Doolin

    Not a big fan of Vampire Weekend, thankyouverymuch. They managed to outrank me in SERPs for my domain. =) And that was a simple landing page! WTF?

    Anyway, timely article, as I’m dropping nearly all of my promotional efforts for a couple of months to tighten my focus on current products. My natural inclination is to be “The Best” at something; I really should follow that wherever it takes me.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Whoa, sorry Vampire Weekend is such a touchy subject Dave ;) It sucks when you get out ranked unintentionally. It would suck if a film came out with the same title as your blog, not yours specifically, but just anyone’s blog.

      Let me know where your focused efforts take you over the next couple of months. Should be interesting.

  • http://fitting-the-pieces Richard Goutal

    Wow, not only have you brought balance to a complicated subject, but that balance includes reasonableness like “don’t do anything rash!” Lot of good solid advice here.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Thanks Richard.

  • http://gearboxmagazine.com Brian Driggs

    Hi Corbett. FNG here.

    As much as I despise using affiliate-marketing, web-based-business, marketing hack-abused jargon like “niche,” I think I’ve got mine soundly nailed down, thanks, in part, to this post.

    All I need to do is figure out what the hell I’m going to do with it. Almost a year of triple digit growth month over month and I’ve not made a red cent. I don’t do ads, I don’t do affiliate nonsense, I don’t sell a damn thing on the site. I don’t even ask for donations! All the same, I know I will have to implement some kind of monetization (ugh, jargon) if I’m going to jump the USS Corporate America and get the time to better serve my community.

    This post triggered the firing of some dusty synapses and I had to spin around in my chair to find my little black notebook so I could write a couple ideas down before I continued on.

    Not that these ideas were in any way Earth-shattering, but I figure if your post can trigger that kind of neurological lightning strike, the least I could do is leave a comment saying thank you and confirming my recent subscription (I think Glen linked to you recently).

    Cheers.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Brian, I had to look up FNG. Thanks for introducing me to a new acronym ;)

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad to have dusted off some synapses for you. Hopefully it will lead somewhere worthwhile. I recently released a product and highly recommend it. The whole process was an awesome experience.

    • http://pmo-hq.com Kirk Thomas

      Brian,

      Looked at your website, its very cool. Why dont you setup an internal affiliate program so that your readers can write modification how-tos for their favorite cars and you sell them through the site for a split of the profit. I am assuming that the web-site in your link is the one that you are referring to.

      Best of luck.

  • http://www.startupfreedom.com Sean Gallagher

    Thanks for the USP post Corbett! Awesome stuff.

    I also appreciate the USP advice you shared last week. Really helpful stuff!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Cheers Sean!

  • http://www.millermosaicllc.com Phyllis Zimbler Miller

    A USP is very important for any business — whether that business is online or offline. And sometimes all it requires to find this is to realize that do you already have a USP.

    For example, I spoke to a real estate agent this week who told me she didn’t have a niche. In the next sentence she said, “I do short sales.”

    That’s a niche — or a USP — I replied. It is a subset of real estate sales in her area and, if she thought some more, she probably serves a specialized sub-niche of the short sales niche.

    Bottom line? An effective USP doesn’t have to be something so novel that, as Corbett says, “people get hung up on …. for weeks or months.” It simply has to be that unique philosophy or customer service or whatever that you offer to a specialized group of your potential target market.

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller
    http://twitter.com/ZimblerMiller

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Phyllis, thanks for the thoughts and example (and the link from your related post). Great tips.

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  • http://buzzmedia.com.my David Wang

    Hi Corbett, I don’t have much to add except to let you know I really enjoyed the post. This is a topic that I’ve been thinking off lately and it came at a great time. Cheers

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Thanks, David!

  • http://jackrawlins.com Jack Rawlins

    Corbett, this is an anchor post that should be read by anyone with a product, idea, or personality to promote. I’ve invested over half a century in sales and marketing communications and have seen and worked with and for so many folks who just can’t grasp the importance of what you so eloquently explain.
    Congratulations on a job well done.

    Jack

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Jack, thanks so much for the validation. It really means a lot. I’m glad you agree with my explanation of the concepts here. Cheers!

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  • http://www.snoackstudios.com Shannon Noack

    What a great post with tons of ideas! It’s something that we all know, we must be unique in order to stand out among our competition. But how many of us are actually applying it and using it for our business? Thanks for the post, it’s given me an inspirational boost and a place to start thinking. Cheers!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Not enough people are applying it, so Kudos for starting to think about your USP, Shannon. Good luck.

  • http://www.redesign2.com/blog.html Paul Biedermann

    Once we’re all unique, what will everyone else do?

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      It’ll be business as usual for everyone else, I’m afraid ;)

  • http://calebgalaraga.com Caleb Galaraga

    Super timely! I need to apply this to a project! Thanks, Corbett.

  • http://kathyblogger.com Kathy

    It is truly amazing how many businesses out there don’t have their own USP. Just by coming up with your USP you are actually carving a little micro-niche out for yourself that nobody else is competing for. It eliminates some of the competition because you are no longer trying to be everything to everyone. There aren’t enough people talking about how important this really is.

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Agreed, Kathy. Let’s talk about it more. Thanks for the comment!

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  • http://www.runrgv.com Nichole

    Wow, this is some good stuff. This is the first time I’ve actually heard it articulated like this, though I’ve seen it in action, I couldn’t place my finger on exactly what it was. Now, I have lots of thinking to do. Thanks for the practical inspiration & tips!

  • http://www.grownbynature.ca Josh

    Great article – One of the first ones I’ve read here, but it definitely won’t be the last.

    I’ve been working on my USP (without actually recognizing it as a USP) for a couple of months now, which included new sales brochures, business cards, post cards, website redesign, etc. and I’m starting to see the effects already.

    I’ve been doing research here and there, but mainly just continuing to work on it as the business grows, but I’m glad I found this article to have something to relate it to!

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  • http://thewinningwomannetwork.com Monika

    Already in rediscovery mode, targeting key points I missed when I first began, and found you! Your easy to read and profound explanation add a much-needed missing piece to my mind-map. Your words have much value and wisdom, thanks!

  • http://www.beautyandthebullshit.com Rowena

    Hi Corbett-
    Great post! Thanks! I especially love your donkey anecdote.
    I have lived most of my life breathing USP working for cosmetics and now, for my own blog, I used what I know to expose the more unsavory side of marketing.
    In my blog- I am a tongue lashing anti-hero who finally serves the consumer by exposing her past sins- and critique has been great (and finally great to work for myself!) Do not wanna name my blog here unless you will think it relevant to topic.
    So yes, USP works whether you think of it, against it or ignore it.
    Cheers- Rowena

  • http://www.the911report.com Chris

    This is a great post Corbett. I had an idea for my USP as I was reading and first thought – no too narrow – but then I realized – that is exactly what you are talking about. Break it down and focus on that one aspect. Carrie Wilkerson always says “Focus on one thing until it is wildly successful – then beak out” (basically that’s it :)

    Anyway – the combination of those two things makes for a great heading to follow. Thanks for the help.
    Chris

  • http://www.espresso-and-coffee-makers.com Betty Ziegler

    Thanks for putting a new “spin” on how to get your USP right! Even seasoned bloggers can gain from this post.

    I am a firm believer in both establishing a “VPP” (Valuable Pre-Selling Proposition” as well as a Unique Selling Position.

    These tips are just what we need to easily be able to set our sites / blogs apart from the crowd and stand out.

    Smiles,
    Betty Ziegler

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  • http://www.CodrutTurcanu.com Codrut Turcanu

    To people who want to learn more about USP, study Claude Hopkins and Jay Abraham concepts, works (books) and methods.

    Google the guys, they rock :)

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  • http://theresadelgado.co Theresa Delgado

    Incredibly comprehensive article on developing a USP.

    Referring to it as a “unique market proposition” as an option is a nice way to make it a little easier to swallow for those not wanting to be too “sales-y”. LOL.

    The last part part about, “What if your business doesn’t have much of a USP?” was really good. This isn’t the easiest exercise to do, but it sure helps you define what your product can do for your target market.

    Thank you – Theresa

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Theresa, glad you liked the article, thanks for the feedback!

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  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

    Isn’t it awesome how people get turned off by the word “selling”?

    Yet they do it ALL DAY LONG. You sell your kids on cleaning up after themselves. You sell yourself on what you’re going to eat for lunch. You sell your partner on what movie you’d like to see.

    “Selling” is nothing but influence in my book. You influence either get results you want or not. And in the context of USP, your influence either makes it clear that your perfect prospect should hand you money or it makes you interchangeable or invisible to your perfect prospect.

    Thanks Corbett for shedding your perspective on this term and doing what you can to address this issue. As you mentioned, it’s something a ton of people stumble over and need help overcoming!

  • http://www.TheProfessorIsIn.com Karen Kelsky (@ProfessorIsIn)

    Corbett, I heard you on the Smart Passive Income podcast and came here to your site. My site, The Professor Is In, offers “BS-free advising for graduate school, the job market, and tenure.” Listening to you, I realized that my USP is, vis-a-vis my grad student and junior faculty clients, “I tell you the truth.” So I started rewriting my copy to make that totally clear.

    I’m still just starting out—the site is 5 days old—but I’m excited to have reached this clarity! thanks! Karen

    • Corbett

      Awesome, Karen! The thing I love the most about your comment is that you took immediate action to change things. I’m always happy to have that effect on people :)

      Good luck, and please let me know how it goes. If you have a blog, try writing posts that are related to your new USP, and gauge the reaction from your visitors.

      • http://www.TheProfessorIsIn.com Karen Kelsky

        I will try that! Nobody has yet commented on my blog, though…. I’m not quite sure how to make that start happening. Any advice?

        BTW, pardon me for asking you this question, but how do I get the little photo to show up on my comments? thanks, Karen

        • Corbett

          Hi Karen, to get more comments on your blog, you should start by writing posts that are open-ended. Talk about something that has multiple possible points of view, and then ask your readers for their opinion at the end of the post. If your audience is very small, it may take a few tries to “prime the pump” and get comments flowing.

          To get your picture to show up, register with gravatar.com for a free account using the email address that you enter when leaving comments.

          -Corbett

  • http://TheProfessorIsIn.com Karen Kelsky (@ProfessorIsIn)

    I can do that! I will try this Friday!

    And as you can see, I now have my very own Gravatar image! Thanks for the tip. Karen

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  • Carla Ensink

    I am in the planning stages of a self-improvement blog, and this post was exactly what I needed to read!

    Once I started thinking about what my USP should be, everything seemed to come together. Determining my USP helped me narrow my focus, and come up with good ideas for a tagline and URL. Most importantly, it helped me to realize that I truly can add something to the self-improvement niche and help people out. That is a great feeling!

    Thank you!

  • http://theclearcopywriter.com/blog/ Danielle Lynn

    Excellent post.

    I love how you go deeper into the topic rather than using the same old song and dance.

    And regarding USPs and small businesses, I agree – I’ve found that showcasing your personality works better than trying to execute a ‘faceless corporation’ type of approach.

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  • http://LauraRibas.com Laura Ribas

    Hi Corbett

    I just discovered and I’m amazed by the quality of the information you post. You just got a fan!
    The topic you talk about is really interesting to me since I’m rethinking my mission in blogging.

    Thanks from Barcelona!

    • http://fizzle.co Corbett Barr

      Hey Laura, thanks for commenting. Good luck with your new blogging mission!

  • http://pmo-hq.com Kirk Thomas

    Corbett,

    I was really struggling on a USP for my new blog but after reading through your site. (wandered over from Patt Flynns site) I think I have it mostly nailed down. You have some great content here or should I say EPIC content and can’t wait to join in on your Million Dollar Blog challenge and learn more from you. Thanks from the trenches!

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  • http://pathtoenlightenment.net Diego

    Corbett,
    Thanks for the good advice. It actually made me notice that I don’t have any USP at all! At least now I’m aware of what do I have to focus on.

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  • http://www.thedynamiclife.com Hugh

    I guess I’m a little late here, but just linked to this post from one of your others. Thanks for all the valuable info! I read and took notes on all of this and will implement it now and throughout the next week to re-brand and re-launch my humble blog. Thanks Corbett!

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  • http://www.praverb.net Praverb

    Thank you for this article and this post. I stumbled upon this post while searching for the definition of USP. Thank you

    Patrick

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  • http://www.humanbean.com David Machin

    Finding this great article came at just the right time for us! I like your balanced view – too many others are dogmatic and if you don’t conform to their formula, well, you’re just gonna fail!

    We now believe we have our unique proposition:

    ‘At HumanBean we create stories and games which teach children positive attitudes and behaviors for success in life.’

    Our strapline: ‘Preparing Children for Success’

    Does that read OK to you? If you were a parent, would you be interested enough to find out more?

    Thx again, David

    • http://www.pocketchanged.com Caleb Wojcik

      Hey David,

      It looks to me like you have your USP down pretty well. It is very clear reads well.

      • http://www.humanbean.com David Machin

        Thank you Caleb, that’s really encouraging to hear.

        Getting our proposition down is making so many other tasks easier to do. It’s a great starting point for articles, it helps us stay focussed on the right content and best of all, gives me a one line answer when people ask “So what’s this HumanBean thing all about?” No more rambling on about Teamwork and Goal setting for kids etc. A relief all round I expect ;-)

  • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

    Hi Corbett and Caleb

    I’m doing the Start a Blog course too, I may add this comment under lesson #1. After reading lesson 1 and now this I’ve sort of stumbled on a narrowed niche market for my business. Currently I focus on teaching photography and have articles, tips, reviews, etc. I’m going to be doing some interviews with successful photographers, got one to send questions to now.

    But I find this market is very competitive and saturated with photography school blogs. I find that many of my private tutoring students tend to be in their 40s or 50s and one lady even asked me if I could teach an old lady how to use her camera. (she’s not old she’s 50ish). So I came up with a phrase that struck me “teaching old dogs new tricks”. My business name is Her View Photography (which I’m not changing at this point) but I think I will add a tagline and maybe a new graphic to go with it.

    I’m finding that people in this age bracket (I’m 45 myself so I can relate to them well also) feel a bit intimidated by classes and all the younger people and they feel sort of stupid or embarrassed. So they turn to me for private lessons and I make them feel comfortable. I think I can focus my entire site on doing that as well.

    How does that sound to you? any tips on how to do that?

    • http://www.pocketchanged.com Caleb Wojcik

      Maybe you could use that phrase but make it more unique, like “teaching old dogs new camera tricks”?

      • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

        Yes thanks, I’ll play with variations. I was planning on adding “photography” or “camera” in there somewhere. I’ll see which keywords get better rankings

        • Corbett Barr

          Hey Darlene, that sounds like a great potential market to dive into. Have you identified unique aspects of the way older camera users learn or things they want to do with their cameras?

          Also, obviously if this works out, a branding change might be a big next step.

  • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

    A couple, they mostly want to photograph their grandchildren (so moving targets LOL) and travel stuff when they go on holiday. Some are snowbirds.

    How they learn is slower, they want to go at their pace and feel classes too fast paced. Mostly they want to know how to use the expensive SLR they bought that they have no clue how to use. They also have more discretionary income than younger students, they travel (fits in with my goal to do photo tours) and they buy lots of gadgets.

    I’d love your input on rebranding. I don’t really want to change my company name. I’ve had it for years and my web site has history so my husband (he does web programming and SEO and taught html at a college here) doesn’t want me to change the name. I’d do it if I thought it would make a huge difference – so I’m torn. Perhaps a second business? That’s overwhelming for me to even think about though. Should I post this question inside the Start a Blog course on week 1?

  • http://www.espressoenglish.net Shayna

    Hi Corbett,

    I’ve read this article about five times in the past week, and I’m still chewing on it! Thanks for writing such practical, thought-provoking piece. May I ask you a couple of questions?

    1) As I think over specializing vs. being too general, I find myself wondering: how narrow is too narrow? Is there a way to know? For example, my website focuses on learning English as a second language, but I’m debating whether I should “zero in” on just ONE particular aspect of English learning (like grammar for beginners, or business english, or perfecting your pronunciation)

    2) “You can refine your unique selling proposition without scrapping your entire business, and still make a big difference.” –> I would absolutely love to see a post with practical examples, whether theoretical or real case studies on people who have actually done this. How to shift your brand and focus while still bringing your audience along?

    Thanks :-)
    Shayna

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  • http://www.wanderlusting.info Dayna

    Your blog is INCREDIBLE. My new must-read, I’ve been scouring it periodically all day. I’d been having a hard time finding guidance from just one source on how to better my blog (and start a new one), and I am finding absolutely everything I need. I’m only at the beginning of this article, but in case I forget to comment at the end (due to my surge of creativity all of these are inspiring), well done. Epically well done! If anyone comes to me with blog questions, I’m sending them your way.

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  • http://alexandreb.net Alexandre B

    Hi Corbett,
    I have familly near SF, they own a woodworking, cabinet making and furniture restoring business but don’t have an USP.
    I tried to help them to find the best one and I came up with :
    “Bringing European Style to your Home”
    What do you think ?

  • http://lifestoogood.net/100-business-models-when-to-use-them/ Alan | Life’s Too Good

    Hey Corbett,

    you can tell reading this that it’s a subject you’re passionate about – really well written. Even though I understand the USP concept very well (many years as a management consultant will do that to you) I knew it was something close to your heart so wanted to read it anyway and don’t regret doing so. Inspiring stuff!

    take care & best wishes,
    Alan

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  • http://www.startupnoodle.com shlomo

    Hey Corbett!
    Great post, but it seems to me after looking around that you explain how to find my unique selling proposition, and I actually did.

    Now, How do you write that? Is that like a slogan I”ll put on the top of my blog? is that a whole post explaining this? What’s the best format for it?

    Thanks,
    Shlomo

  • http://marketingwithsergio.com Sergio Felix

    Hey Corbett,

    I should have read this article a lot of time before… And I’m a bit overwhelmed by it.

    Finding my USP is not going to be easy, I know what I’m good at, and what I could mix it with, just not really sure it may be unique enough to make it a strong USP.

    But as you said, not taking action is not going to cut it either.

    The bits on visual designs 2 wordpress sites and marketing for dentists, sprung very cool ideas on me, I actually *think* I may have something.

    Thanks for the amazing article and food for thought.

    Sergio

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  • Ryan Gee

    Nice article. This little exercise of finding a unique selling point for my blog is something I just completed recently. My usp is focusing on people getting started in IM that do not have much free time or money. For example, stay at home moms, or full-time working dads. Whatever the situation, I hope to be able to help them, since that is the circumstance I was in. Thanks for the post.

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  • http://eapost.com/2011/12/25/how-to-write-a-blog-mission-and-why-bloggers-need-to-write-them/ Philos Mudis

    Coming up with ones USP is good, but backing it up with action and nurturing it everyday is way better.

    Plus it shows consistency and people will always be attracted to that so long as you provide valuable content, products or services. That is why I think every blogger should write their own blog mission – which they can write any time.

    One question though: What would you tell new bloggers to do to stop wasting time on fancy USPs that they may find hard to stick with Corbett?

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  • http://www.namastenutritionist.com Frances Arnold

    Thanks for the brilliant post. My USP – nutrition and yoga – feels a bit like two separate worlds at times. To date, I’ve struggled to pull them together in a natural way. This seems so weird, because I live both nutrition and yoga passionately every day. But sharing it this way with my following feels like talking through hiccups. I guess I’m getting in my own way. Any advice?

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  • http://www.healthywealthyfamilies.net Hilary Martin, MBA, CFP®

    I’m (admittedly) a little late to this party, but catching on fast. I’ve only been blogging for 9 months or so, but have been a partner in a thriving financial planning practice for about 8 years.

    My blog will, first, show people how to produce a transformation in their relationship to money so that they can MAKE more money AND be happy with the money they have. Then, we provide insights about the investments industry, proven investing advice, and articles to help people understand the neuro-psychology of money (basically, why we literally have to DEFEAT our own brains to be happy in the area of money).

    However, I have not really written or spoken this anywhere on the blog yet (*sigh*). I was hoping it would come out over time? (duh)

    Since meeting Scott Dinsmore last week at his LYL event, I now know that I desperately need to get this USP articulated and promoted. It’s in my MIND (obviously) just not on the blog yet. Thank you for this article, I’m looking forward to taking the class at startablogthatmatters.com. I’ll keep peeking around in here for more gold…

  • http://everlutional.com David Hamilton | Everlution

    Masterful gem here, Corbett, much gratitude. Great as I’m re-crafting my “USP” or really vision and mission with my passion and purpose as a coach and hardcore personal development blogger.

    I love the distinction of having great content and saying “hey I have that too” vs. “here’s what I’m all about and here’s where you get it.” That’s the big WHY difference, and constantly ties back to the mission. Between you and Chris G. at 3×5 (easier to spell than his last name!) – this cuts through my my like a diamond blade now. After years and years I get it now thanks to you guys.

    Time to put some time into my USP-Vision statement!

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  • http://www.juliatrops.com Julia Trops

    Thoroughly enjoyed this post and others you have put up. I know that much is applicable to the traditional collar jobs/careers, but I am working out how to apply this to artists (me). The concepts are transferable, but in a world where everyone and their dog (and elephant and turtles) are artists, I wonder if it isn’t the USP, or the personality that is the dominant ruler.

    Or maybe…

    As you ay, the product itself does not have to be brilliant, just those who become allies… the supporters then become the USP.

    What do you think?

    Julia

  • http://www.clarisgs.com saravanan

    Hi Corbett, I think I landed to the right page which clearly describes the importance of “USP”. After reading this article, I am very clear in setting my objectives and strategies to focus on my point of difference and it greatly helped me to identify the business advantage according to my target audience.

    Thanks and wish you read more articles from you which potentially helps to young entrepreneurs like me.

    -Saravanan

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  • http://hudsonvalleygraphics.com/ Janeen Violante

    I like to think that our USP is that we offer high quality graphic design creative at a fraction of the cost (if you were to, say, hire a NYC design firm). Is this enough, though…are we communicating THAT feature on our site…do people realize it at all? My thinking about our website is that it features “the work”–you open it up and BOOM–there’s the creative (I don’t always see that on graphic designers sites)
    I’m working with a new client who is trying to finder her “voice”–I passed this on to her..thanks!
    GREAT GREAT teaching from you..as always

  • http://www.motorhard.com Tom Reber

    Great article! I’m a small biz coach/speaker now, but years ago I founded and built a painting company. There were too many Quality Painting and ABC Decorating type names out there. I was blown away by how uncreative most were in our industry. So, I built….
    http://www.jalapenopaintwerx.com

    Tons of leads, sales and buzz….

    Thanks Corbett! Keep it up!

    MOTORhard!

  • http://www.thebadtimesbible.com pete

    I just have to say I am so impressed with the people who come to this site. I am grateful to have found it. That is all, have a great day you freaky dreamers…

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  • http://acepropertyinspections.com.au/ darren

    thanks for the reminder about a USP Corbett…its too easy to miss when youre busy puting all the other pieces together when building a business…yet it should be one of the first things we get done..thanks

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  • Julian Greene

    Ha! Thanks for recycling your original “Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition” into my inbox this morning. Interesting thing is the timing. I had seen it before — the 10 sites with the great USPs — but this time it came immediately after my boss had written me and said, “Your article was great, now take 3 hours and find us a USP.” Obviously I don’t have weeks and months to agonize over it. But have read this before, and having it brought back into my awareness this morning will do it, I’m sure. Thanks for this. If the boss likes my USP, I’ll share it with you.

  • http://teachingthecore.com Dave

    Hi Corbett and Co,

    Just wanted to thank you for helping me develop a USP. I read this post many months ago, and it marinated in my brain helping to create a site that is gaining traction in the education sector. I’m a full time teacher who was looking to 1) encourage other teachers and 2) learn about a new set of standards affecting eduction today, and 3) develop an additional income stream to support my family while I pursue my (fixed income) passion of teaching high schoolers.

    I began by blogging through the standards I wanted to learn about. I didn’t shy away from being myself while blogging, and, where appropriate, I shared things I had been trying in my classroom to meet the standards.

    But my USP came on a drive home from a state conference of educators. Like usual, there was a lot of freaking out at the conference, an undercurrent of anxiety threaded throughout the public discussion on American schools. It then came to me: I needed to focus the blog on a “non-freaked out approach” to these standards.

    There are lots of sites online that deal with the standards, and an over-abundance of products. But 1) few are made by teachers, and 2) those that are made by teachers are either low-quality or, for lack of a better term, “stuffy.”

    Within the month, I’m planning to roll out my first ebook for sale. I’ve also been able to attract enough traffic to garner an private advertising deal with my alma mater, and Amazon associate sales are bringing in a few bucks a month, too. Most promising, the site has recently provided me with my first two paid speaking gigs, one in Oklahoma and one on the other side of my state in Michigan.

    Anyways, I just wanted to thank you guys at Think Traffic. Consider me one more beneficiary of your published ethos.

    Cheers,
    Dave Stuart

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  • vc

    this is very interesting. i am so happy to come accross this stuff. i need a help,am a photographer,how do i know my USP in photographic business. please reply through my email (vcdigital@yahoo.com).thanks

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  • alex

    Great article. I wish I’d read it before branding my business though. Now I’m thinking of re-branding mid-stream — changing the name and the USP — but don’t know if this can be done or is advisable???

  • http://www.drive80.com Mike Doyle

    This was bad ass. I’m am currently researching my USP and this was VERY helpful and spoke very clearly to a creative person like myself. It was easy to read, it was relatable to my life and I like how you used bands as a comparison. Definitely the feel I am trying to express with my company.

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  • http://wonderfulwanderings.com Sofie

    Just found your site today and am now devouring articles.
    Why didn’t I find this a year ago, when I started blogging?
    I’ve found my USP a while ago already, but I just can’t seem to shape it into something tangible: a tagline, something I can keep repeating.
    Will have to work on that…

  • http://www.lizwrightnow.com Liz

    Oh my goodness…I wish I had found this article soooo much sooner. I started a travel blog a few years ago that has been stagnant because I could never define my audience, and grew discouraged with my lack of readers. Breaking into the whole “travel blog” and “personal development” market seemed impossible, but I wanted to revamp it to help promote a book I am writing. This has helped me to really think about who I am and who I could reach, which will help me narrow the focus for my book too. The idea of merging popular markets together and sort of creating my own genre and target niche I think will really help. I’ve got lots of things to change and update as I move forward but I’m thinking something along the lines of :
    The single broke gals guide to traveling the world and having a kick-ass life
    Still need to do a bit of research, and try and infuse my own personality like hell into it, but thanks for the awesome article. Definitely considering the 90 day course!

  • Elad

    Grate post. I enjoyed reading it

    Do you think that ThinkTraffic USP is your personality?
    As far as I see, the topics and audience is not too narrow.

  • Mark McKnight

    My USP is also my writing style, but I also want to be the go to guy for SEO. I am trying to think of something related to Internet marketing that I could mix this with to form something unique. Any ideas?

    Mark

  • Elad

    Hey Corbett and all,

    Last year I did a serious career change (at age 40) and began an SEO carrier as independent. The business works well and grow fast during the last months and I thinking to start a blog of my own, BUT like you wrote in the post: “the world needed another boring blog marketing like it needed a hole in the ozone” so I decided to put it off until I find a unique idea.

    Today, I provide three types of services:
    1) SEO services to SEO agencies (B2B).
    2) Local SEO – I promote websites related to local services and rents the site to businesses that want organic traffic.
    3) SEO to premium customers.

    Perhaps each of these issues can be a difference but I’m not sure because everything is already available.
    Maybe the idea of developing a career in Internet marketing at age 40…

    I’d love to hear what you think.

    Elad

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  • http://www.customertrendlog.com Ayesha Saeed Haq

    I have been trying to build traffic to my site for quiet some time, its such a great hassle. I dont even know where to start and how to finish. Thanks for sharing the tips, but most of these generic tips i have already embedded and that seems like not working :’( I loved your pointabout Remember, You’re Not Trying to Appeal to Everyone… but that doesnt seem to work for me

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  • http://www.smallmetrics.com Isham Jassat

    Great article! I’m just starting a tech and business blog for small businesses and trying to define exactly what I’m about is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. This article really helped – thanks a million!

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10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web

Two weeks ago, we talked about why a unique selling proposition is so important in building a high-traffic website or blog. Today let's make this discussion a little more concrete. Below are 10 websites and blogs with phenomenal USPs.

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