What Is a USP? The Complete Unique Selling Proposition Guide

What Is a USP? The Complete Unique Selling Proposition Guide

Your USP can make or break your business.

Because if your customers don’t immediately know you’re better than the competition, they’re going elsewhere.

So what is a USP? It’s the Unique Selling Point, Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or Unique Value Proposition (UVP). It’s the quickest way to get your value across to your customers. Aka the elevator speech of online businesses.

So whether you’re a solopreneur writing your own website copy, a new copywriter or anyone in marketing, this post helps you write a crystal-clear unique selling proposition without stress and confusion.

What Is a USP?

Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is what makes your product better than the competition for your target audience.

In other words, your USP is the reason the customer goes with you instead of your competitors. It’s the one feature (or sometimes combo of features) that are unique to your product or service.

Maybe it’s a unique feature your product has that no competitor has thought of. Or it’s something you do way better than your competition. It might even be the reason you started your business! You saw a need no one was filling and decided to fill it yourself.

what is a usp red flower standing out

Why Your USP Is Important

A strong USP makes you stand out from your competitors and unforgettable in the minds of your target audience!

You want it to be clear, specific, compelling and memorable so it immediately grabs your target audience’s attention and sticks in their mind long after they’ve read it.

But here’s the thing: you don’t need to attract everyone out there with your USP. You just need to attract your ideal customers that like what you’ve got more than they like your competitors.

What Businesses Need to Use a Unique Selling Proposition?

Every business needs to advertise their USP, but if your business is in a heavily saturated niche, it’s especially important to nail it.

Let me give you an example. If Bob’s Bushcraft is the only business offering bushcraft classes in San Diego, it’s a lot easier to stand out because it’s the only option for anyone searching “bushcraft classes San Diego”. Bob isn’t really sweating his USP (at least not until there’s competition).

what is a usp bush craft example of a knife

But if 4 other bushcraft businesses open up in San Diego, Bob has a problem. He now needs to differentiate his business from all the others so his ideal customers find him. Because it’s unlikely he’s the perfect fit for every bushcraft enthusiast. Some people may like Betty’s Bushcraft classes more because she’s vegan and incorporates everyone’s horoscope into the lessons (see how I just snuck Betty’s USP in there?).

So Bob needs to identify what he’s really good at and also what types of customers he wants to choose his business over all the others. Bob starts asking questions, reading reviews from his previous customers and listing off everything he does really well in his business. He determines that his happiest clients were families with young children, and those also happened to be his best experiences because he has a large family and loves kids. Bob goes ahead and rewrites his marketing materials with his new USP:

Bob’s Bushcraft | The Top Choice for Families Looking to Learn Bushcraft Together (Kids Welcome!!)

Or a shortened, catchier version: Bob’s Bushcraft: Where families learn bushcraft.

what is a usp paper and pen

How to Identify Your USP

Are you better, faster, cheaper or stronger? Do you offer better customer service? Impressive guarantees? Do you allow returns?

The level of difficulty for writing your USP comes down to how well you know 3 things:

  1. Your industry (the competitive landscape),
  2. your product/service
  3. and your customer.

Answering the questions below for your product or service will help you better understand those 3 things and identify your USP.

Get to Know the Competitive Landscape Questions:

  1. What do my top 3 competitors do really well?
  2. How am I different from my competitors? / How is my product different than alternatives to my product?
  3. What is currently missing from the industry that I can offer?
  4. What do customers dislike about my competitors that I can capitalize on? (read their reviews if possible)
  5. What do customers love about my competitors that I can do even better? (read their reviews if possible)

Get to Know Your Product or Service Questions:

  1. What is my business/product really good at? (If you are your business it could be something you personally do really well or have a background in. Something that sets you apart or makes you an expert.)
  2. What do I want my product or service to be known for?
  3. What do I offer or what can I (reasonably) offer that goes above and beyond my competitors?

Get to Know Your Customer Questions:

  1. What are my customers’ problems? (aka what problems does your product solve?)
  2. What questions do my customers ask?
  3. What is standing in the way of my target audience buying my products/services? (doubt, fear, money, missing information, etc)
  4. What do my current customers already love about my products/services?

Once you answer these questions, you should have a good idea of the 1 feature or combination of features that makes your business unique and more desirable to your target audience.

Unique Selling Proposition Templates

Your USP needs to separate you from your competitors, accurately convey what your product or service is and does well, and do it all in a way that is irresistible to your target audience.

Unique Selling Proposition Template #1

Brand Name | [What your product or service is] for [target audience] that want [target audience desire] [how you do it differently]

Bob’s Bushcraft | [Bushcraft Classes] for [Families] That Want [to Learn Bushcraft Together (Kids Welcome!!!)]

Swell Copy | Copywriting Courses for Entrepreneurs That Want to Write Their Own Copy Without Getting Stressed or Overwhelmed

Sharp Look | The Electric Razor for Gentlemen That Want a Bump-Free Shave in 3 Minutes

Unique Selling Proposition Template #2

[Business Name] | The Top Choice for [ideal audience] looking to [verb] [product/service offering and USP]

Bob’s Bushcraft | The Top Choice for [Families With Small Children] Looking to [Learn] Bushcraft Together

Swell Copy | The Top Choice for Entrepreneurs Looking to Write Copy That Sells Without the Stress or Confusion

Sharp Look | The Top Choice for Working Men That Need a Smooth Shave in Under 3 Minutes

Unique Selling Proposition Template #3

We [solve a problem] with/without [unique benefit].

(Bob’s Bushcraft) We teach bushcraft classes to families in a way that’s fun for every age.

(Swell Copy) We teach you how to write copy for your business with plenty of examples so you’re never overwhelmed or confused.

(Sharp Look) Our electric razor gives you a smooth, bump-free shave without taking 30 minutes of your morning.

Unique Selling Proposition Template #4

What product/service is + what I’m really good at + what my customers want.

Bushcraft Classes That Are a Blast for All Ages (really good with kids and customers want it to be fun for the whole family)

Copywriting Courses that teach beginners step-by-step copywriting tactics they can implement immediately.

The Electric Razor That Gives You the Smoothest Shave in Under 3 Minutes

Examples of Value Propositions

Once you figure out your USP, you’ll repurpose it and use it in a million different ways throughout your marketing, so the templates are really only useful for narrowing down the idea and giving you a format to get started. As you’ll see below, USPs come in all shapes and sizes!

what is a usp warby parker glasses example

  • Warby Parker: “Try 5 frames at home for free”
  • TOMS Shoes: “One for one.” Or the longer version: “With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need.”
  • Costco: “low warehouse prices on name-brands products”
  • GEICO: “Save 15% or more on car insurance” – What is it? Car insurance! How are they different than other car insurance companies? They’ll save me money! How much much? 15% or more!
  • Valvoline Instant Oil Change: “Open to serve you with drive-thru, stay-in-your-car oil changes”

How to Use Your USP

A clear Unique Selling Point reminds both you and your customer why you matter. It also serves as a guide for the rest of your marketing strategy.

You want your USP front and center on your home page and reiterated throughout your website, emails and ads. It’s what you lead with whenever you’re speaking to potential customers that are researching their options. If they are in your target audience, your USP should tell them that you’re the right choice for them immediately.

what is a usp key takeaways

What Is a USP Key Takeaways

  • What is a USP? Unique Sell Point, Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or Unique Value Proposition (UVP). It’s what makes your product better than the competition for your target audience.
  • Why is it important? It makes you stand out from your competitors and unforgettable in the minds of your target audience.
  • Where to use your USP? Use your USP across all your marketing materials. On your home page, about page, ads and emails.
  • Questions to ask to discover your USP?
    • What do you do really well?
    • What makes your product or service different from other options (competitors)?
    • What problems do you solve for your ideal customer?
    • What do you want to be known for?
    • What do your customers already love about your product?
  • USP Templates
    • 1. Brand Name | [What your product or service is] for [target audience] that want [target audience desire] [how you do it differently]
    • 2. [Business Name] | The Top Choice for [ideal audience] looking to [verb] [product/service offering and USP]
    • 3. We [solve a problem] with/without [unique benefit].
    • 4. What product/service is + what I’m really good at + what my customers want.
Best Books About Copywriting (Including 7 You Can Read for Free!)

Best Books About Copywriting (Including 7 You Can Read for Free!)

You’re here either because:

A: You want to learn how to write copy that sells.
B: You already write copy and want to get better.
C: You’re writing a blog on the best books about copywriting.

Either way, you came to the right place!

This list on the best books about copywriting has a little of everything, including books from the copywriting greats and Amazon bestsellers. These are the books that professional copywriters read again and again to rethink the way they approach copywriting.

So read on.

If You’re Learning How to Write Copy…

Take it step by step!

Delving into copywriting can quickly become overwhelming if you try to consume every copywriting blog, course and book you can get your hands on.

I strongly recommend you read one book at a time and take time to take notes or really digest what you’re learning. Then, put your learnings to the test as soon as possible before moving on to another resource.

These books aren’t a quick fix or overnight solution to writing copy for your website. They are however reads that will reshape how you view copywriting and advertising as a whole. Plus, you get to learn copywriting from the pros for free with the PDF books available!

In the words of Jim Edwards, “Commit to getting good at it. Then do it and practice it. Before you can be great you have to be good. Before you can be good you have to be bad. Before you can be bad, you have to try.”

13 Best Books About Copywriting

Copywriting Secrets by Jim Edwards

Don’t be fooled by the scammy cover—this book is copywriting gold!

Jim Edwards breaks down foundational copywriting principles and tactics into short chapters that are perfect for quick bursts of reading.

10 Reasons Why People Buy From Copywriting Secrets

Chapter 3 will help you come up with tons of different ways your product benefits the customer. Edwards outlines the “10 reasons why people buy” and 10 accompanying questions you can ask to get to the most powerful value proposition for your product or service.

The following questions are taken directly from the book Copywriting Secrets:

  1. Make Money: What are 5 ways my product/service will help them make money?
  2. Save Money: How can I or my product/service help them save money over the next week, month or year?
  3. Save Time: How much time can I save them and what else could they do with that time?
  4. Avoid Effort: What is something they don’t have to do anymore once they get my product/service?
  5. Escape Mental or Physical Pain: What physical pain do I eliminate for them & what does that mean for their life or business? How does my product/service eliminate mental pain or worry for them?
  6. Get More Comfort: What are 3 ways I or my product can help them feel more comfortable?
  7. Achieve Greater Cleanliness/Hygiene or Attain Better Health: How does my product/service make it easier for them to achieve greater cleanliness or hygiene? How does my product/service help them feel more healthy or more alive?
  8. Gain Praise: What are 3 ways my product/service is going to help them be the envy or their friends?
  9. Feel More Loved: What are 3 ways my product/service is going to help them feel more loved by their family?
  10. Increase Popularity/Social Status: How will buying my product/service make them feel more popular and increase their social status?

Edwards recommends you try to answer each question as many times and in as many ways as you can to come up with endless value propositions for your sales copy.

Brilliant Copywriting by Byron Perdue

I absolutely loved reading this book. Byron Perdue is a British guy with tons of wit.

One of my favorite parts of Brilliant Copywriting is the interviews with experienced copywriters from large companies, like Innocent. Each interview gives you amazing insight into how each copywriter thinks and you get many creative writing tips, like how to defeat writers block.

“Brilliant copywriting is about improvement by inches, not great leaps forward.” – Byron Perdue

Words That Sell by Richard Bayan

Words That Sell is a reference book full of lists of powerful phrases for selling your products. It’s the kind of book you want to keep handy on your desk so it’s always accessible when you’re writing.

It starts with instructions on how to use the book and a little “crashcourse on copywriting” then you’re left with pages and pages of copy you can use word-for-word on your own offers!

Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso

Web Copy That Sells is practical, direct and relevant for anyone selling online.

In the first chapter, Veloso mentions a copywriting tactic you’ve probably heard of (or will soon).

The tactic is copying successful ads and sales pages, by hand, until you internalize the method and mindset. In the section “How to Become a Great Web Copywriter in Five Hours or Less”, she recommends you copy the sales page on MagicWordsThatMakeYouRich.com .

So, what’re you waiting for? Grab your notepad and start copying!

Read Web Copy That Sells for free here.

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz

Eugene Schwartz is one of the most famous copywriters of the last century, with his most notable years in advertising during the 1950s and 1960s. He’s the guy who came up with the 5 stages of awareness, a tactic that every marketer on earth uses today when describing their target audience.

The 5 Stages of Awareness:

  • Unaware: The prospect doesn’t know they have a problem.
  • Problem Aware: The prospect knows they have a problem but don’t know how to fix it.
  • Solution Aware: The prospect knows the solutions available to them, but they haven’t found your solution yet.
  • Product Aware: The prospect is aware of your solution, but isn’t totally convinced it’s right for them.
  • Most Aware: The prospect knows all about your product and what it costs, and is ready to make a purchase.

Read Breakthrough Advertising for free here.

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

Claude Hopkins was a no nonsense kind of guy. His book (like many on this list) may seem really old, but I can guarantee that the principles in it are just as effective today as they were back then. Hopkins talks purely about sales and advertising, which is exactly what copywriting is.

My favorite part about this book is the example of all the old ads he includes.

Read Scientific Advertising for free here.

The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman

“Every product has a unique personality and it is your job to find it.” – Joe Sugarman

Joseph Sugarman is an advertising legend. He’s known for many online copywriting tactics, but one that is especially popular (and important) is the idea that the goal of the headline is to get the reader to read the first sentence. And the goal of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence and, so on.

Sugarman also recommended making the first sentence of your copy very short. That way, the reader can’t help but move on to the second. 😉

In the words of the Amazon reviewer ‘dg’, “If this book is the only place you learn about copy in your life, but you master all the principles, you will be an amazing copywriter.”

Read The Adweek Copywriting Handbook for free here.

The Boron Letters & More by Gary Halbert

Fun fact: Gary Halbert wrote the Boron letters while in prison at Boron Federal Prison Camp for mail fraud. He wrote the 25 letters to his son Bond to pass on his wisdom on life and advertising. I haven’t read all the Boron Letters myself, but it’s helpful to know the context of where and how they were written otherwise you’ll wonder “uh, where is this going?”.

If you want the full story on how Halbert ended up in prison, it’s hilarious and totally worth the read.

Read the Gary Halbert Letter for free here.

Reason Why Advertising by John E. Kennedy

Kennedy is credited with defining copywriting most accurately as “salesmanship in print”. The story of how John E. Kennedy got into advertising is something right out of a movie. You can read the full story in the opening of this PDF from Andy Owen Copy and Creative.

Many copywriters learn a ton from this book and highly recommend it. For me, it wasn’t that revolutionary. I was expecting a book that teaches you ‘reason why’ copywriting and this book doesn’t teach you it. Instead, Kennedy makes a case for ‘reason why’ copywriting with impressive stats and examples that show it’s 3x more effective than other forms of “advertising”.

Read Reason Why Advertising for free here.

The 16-Word Sales Letter by Evaldo Albuquerque

The 16-Word Sales Letter gives you step-by-step instructions for writing powerful sales letters that convert even the most hesitant customer. My favorite part about this formula is “getting the reader to believe in the one belief”.  You fill in this formula for your offering and it helps determine your ultimate goal.

Here’s the formula: “This new opportunity is the key to their desire and it’s only attainable through my new mechanism”.

Then, he gives amazing examples of this formula in action, like this P90-X example:

“Avoiding the plateau effect (new opportunity) is the key to building muscle (desire) and it’s
attainable only through the P90-X “muscle confusion”system (new mechanism)”.

Read The 16-Word Sales Letter for free here.

The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner

Read The Irresistible Offer for free here.

The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly

Read the Copywriter’s Handbook for free here.

Oglivy on Advertising by David Oglivy

Read Oglivy on Advertising for free here.

best-books-on-copy-writing-kindle-in-grass-image

Get the Best Copywriting Books on Your Kindle

You can send the books with PDF links to your Kindle in just a few clicks!

  1. Download the book PDF to your computer.
  2. Go to “My Account” in your Kindle Settings and get your Send-to-Kindle email address.
  3. Open your email and create a new draft addressed to your Kindle email address.
  4. Make the subject line ‘Convert’ and attach the PDF download to the email.
  5. Hit send! It will be sent right to your Kindle Library for you to read.

How to Choose the Best Books About Copywriting

There are tons of copywriting books out there, and some are definitely better than others.

Before you waste your money on a copywriting book, read the review on Amazon. You can get a really good idea of what you’re going to learn from a book by seeing what others have to say. And if you have a Kindle, send a sample to it so you can preview the book before buying!

Happy learning, copywriters!

What If I’m Not Ready to Hire a Copywriter?

What If I’m Not Ready to Hire a Copywriter?

If you’re not ready to pay a copywriter, either because:

1. You don’t have the money

2. You’re not sold on the value a professional copywriter will bring you

3. Or, the copywriters that you’ve interacted with charge SO MUCH money and you’re really not ready to commit that amount

I totally understand. 

Finding a copywriter, to me, is almost like sifting through “We Promise You’ll Make 100 Million Dollars” promotions that you see advertised on FB and in your mail.

How to Write Copy Like a Copywriter

If you’re not ready to pay for a copywriter, you can try writing copy yourself. It’s going to take more of your time but you can greatly benefit from a few basic copywriting principles that you don’t have to be an expert copywriter to master. Reading books about copywriting is a great place to start. Or, you can jump right in with copywriting formulas!

These are two popular copywriting formulas that you can use to write your emails, your homepage or your sales letters!

Powerful but Simple Copywriting Formulas

Copywriting formulas are the tried and true techniques for writing powerful copy that converts. Sure, some execute the formula better than others, but they give you a framework when all you can think is “WHERE DO I START?!”

One of them is PAS: Problem, Agitation, Solution

PAS helps you get inside your reader’s head and makes them feel understood.

When you identify their problem, they think, “Wow, XYZ really gets it.” Then, when you agitate that problem using real-life examples your reader has experienced, it stirs up the feelings (likely negative) associated with the problem and increases their desire to solve it. Now, your reader is just dying to find a way out. You can swoop in a save the day with your solution to their problem. Let’s see an example for an imaginary electric razor company called Sharp Look:

Problem: When was the last time you had a really good shave? You know, one that didn’t take forever and leave you with nicks and bumps, or make you late for work?

Agitation: A bad shave can leave you feeling incompetent before you’re even out the door. It makes you feel like an amateur at work with little shaving cuts, or worse, you don’t shave at all and risk looking unprofessional.

Solution: If this happens to you regularly, you need to know about our new Sharp Look Electric Razor. In less than 2 minutes, it gives you a perfect shave with zero bumps or cuts. And the best part? You don’t need water or shaving cream.

Stop tolerating shaving. Start looking forward to it.

And the other is AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

AIDA moves customers from the very beginning “awareness stage” to taking action, or the “conversion stage”. You have to truly understand the buyer to make AIDA work. Basically, if you are successful in each stage of AIDA, the reader will keep reading until they get to the final stage, Action.

Attention: Expertly shave your entire face in 2 minutes.

Interest: The average man spends 45 days of his life shaving.

But not you. You don’t have time for shaving.

You need to go to work, chop wood, heck maybe even hunt for your next meal.

Desire: That’s why we’ve created the Sharp Look Electric Razor that gives the fastest, closest shave legally allowed. Scary? Yes. Scarily efficient.

The Sharp Look’s 9 stainless steel blades and 10rpm motor keep you looking devilishly handsome, without the typical hassle that comes with shaving.

Action: Get a shave that’s man enough for you. Get a Sharp Look Electric Razor.

If Nothing Else, Leave With This

The one key takeaway I can tell you if you don’t want to hire a copywriter and you just want to try copywriting yourself is: write like you speak.

A great place to start that is literally recording yourself.

Sit down, get out your phone, find your recorder app or whatever it is. Tap the record button, but before you tap it, ask yourself the question you’re about to write for. For example:

When I’m writing my homepage, I need to tell people what I do. So I literally ask myself:

“Tara, what does Swell Copy do? What is Swell Copy?”

And then I hit record and I start talking about it as if I am answering the question for a friend or colleague.

The whole goal of this is to write like you speak. So do that for yourself, then listen to that recording and write down word-for-word what you’re saying (of course you can polish it up later) and it will convey YOU throughout the message. People want to feel like they are talking to a person, like they are talking to you.

Welcome to the World of Copywriting!

If you have any questions, email me at tara@swellcopy.com.

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