Here’s a trick question: What’s better — chopped liver or filet mignon?
Most people would say “filet mignon.” But filet mignon isn’t better than chopped liver. Nor is chopped liver better than filet mignon.
If you said “filet mignon,” what you should have said is “I like filet mignon better”… not “filet mignon is better.”
It’s a matter of taste. You like filet mignon. So to you, filet mignon is better. But I like chopped liver… so to me, it’s not.
What does this have to do with your business? Plenty.
Every business needs to have a Unique Selling Proposition or “USP”… a reason why customers should buy from you instead of from your competitors.
Do you know what the weakest USP is? It’s “We’re better.”
“Better,” you see, is nonspecific… and it’s difficult to prove. You say you’re better. I say I’m better. Just saying it — without being able to prove it — makes prospects disbelieve you.
Also, “better” is such a general term that it has little meaning.
Same thing with the overused word “quality,” as in Ford’s old campaign, “Quality Is Job One.”
So how do you create a Unique Selling Proposition that actually makes people want to buy your product instead of your competition’s? One way is to focus on a feature of your product — one that is not only different but delivers an important benefit to the user.
Sometimes the “feature” differentiating the product is a brand name or label the consumer trusts. The problem with the branding approach is that it usually requires a massive, costly advertising campaign that most small businesses cannot afford.
A great example is the George Foreman grill.
This is clearly not the world’s best grill, nor do I recall the manufacturer ever claiming that it is. But it is the only grill you can buy with the name “George Foreman” on it.
So if you want a grill that cooks good food, you can get one in lots of places. But if you want a “George Foreman” grill, you can get it only from the George Foreman grill company.
Another way to create a USP is to base it on a unique feature — one the competition does not have — or on a feature the competition has but does not mention in their advertising.
In his book Scientific Advertising, for example, Claude Hopkins tells the now-famous story of a copywriter assigned to the Schlitz beer account.
As the copywriter was touring the brewery, he noticed that the beer bottles were being cleaned in live steam. When he commented on this, the brewmaster urged him to ignore it. “Every beer company washes its bottles in steam,” he explained. “Yes, but the consumer does not know that,” countered the copywriter, who went on to create a successful campaign based on the concept of purity. One of his ads trumpeted, “Beer so pure, the bottles are washed in live steam.”
But what if your product is not unique? Not a problem. Take a feature and make it seem unique by being very specific about it. Here are some examples:
- Crispix. They didn’t say it tastes better than other cereal. They said Crispix “stays crisp in milk.”
- Wonder Bread. They didn’t say it’s more nutritious than other bread. They said Wonder Bread “helps build strong bodies 12 ways.”
- M&Ms. They didn’t say M&Ms is higher in quality than other chocolate. They pointed out that, because of its hard candy shell, M&Ms “melt in your mouth, not in your hand.”
- Verizon did not say its network is more reliable than that of other carriers. They show its coverage map side by side with AT&T’s and state what is then obvious: Verizon has “5 times more 3G coverage.”
- Geico does not say it’s superior to other insurance companies. Their slogan — “15 minutes could save you 15 percent” — promises a fast rate quote. (Note that they don’t promise to save you money, they just say they could.)
- Domino’s never claimed to have the best pizza. They promised to deliver hot, fresh pizza within a half hour.
You can’t confidently promote and sell your product without a strong USP. After all, if you don’t have the reason why people should buy your product on the tip of your tongue… how will you persuade them to buy what you’re selling instead of going to your competitors?
To formulate a USP, start by asking yourself these questions:
- What is different about my product that delivers an important benefit to the user?
- Is there an industry, application, or other niche I can specialize in?
- Is there a way to brand my company or product to give it consumer appeal?