I’ve used this example for more than ten years-it’s that good. Once upon a time, two young men determined they would put themselves through college by running a small business. Early on, the business was woefully unsuccessful, and one guy bailed out on the other. The one who stayed and stuck it out came up with a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that revolutionized his entire industry and made him a multimillionaire. First, his little business grabbed dominant control of the local market; then, rapidly, the state, America, the world!
His USP was: “Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Ten words that brilliantly incorporate two product benefits with the meaningful specific of delivery within thirty minutes-not quick, fast, or soon, but precisely in thirty minutes-and a guarantee.
This USP has passed into advertising history, but it fueled the growth of an empire, and thoroughly frustrated competitors large and small. In fact, in its heyday, I played word association with people and asked them to say whatever first popped into their minds when I said “pizza”; 85 out of 100 said “Domino’s.”
Question: If we went out into your marketplace and asked 100 or 1,000 people to play the game, gave them the generic name for your type of business, and 85 percent of them responded by naming you, how well would you be doing?
I had the privilege of interviewing Tom Monaghan (founder of Domino’s Pizza) for a magazine article some years ago, and there’s no doubt that his success and that of his company have been linked to a complex list of factors, notably including his personal success philosophy and his ability to instill it in his franchisees. But there’s also no doubt that his USP was largely responsible for the rapid rise and dominance of his company in the pizza industry. It generated enough wealth to let Tom indulge in his lifelong fantasy of buying the Detroit Tigers (with a $53-million-dollar price tag), collect classic cars, give most generously to his church and favorite charities, and be financially independent and secure at a relatively young age.
That is the power of a truly great USP. It is worth working on the invention of a strong USP for your product, service, or business. And it’s not necessarily easy. I know clients who’ve taken months, even years, to finally hit on a USP that they liked and that really worked. For each, the months of frustrating brain strain have paid off handsomely.
A Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is a way of explaining your position against your competition. When a supermarket chain or big-box retailer like Wal-Mart labels itself as “THE Low Price Leader;” it’s made a positioning promise.
A USP is also a way of summarizing and telegraphing one of the chief benefits, often the chief benefit of the business, product, or service being marketed.
In the early 1990s, Chrysler was making much out of being the only American car maker to include driver’s-side air bags as standard equipment. That briefly worked for them as a USP, but competition quickly caught up.
A few years back, the Subway chain enjoyed great success repositioning itself as a weight-loss business, first with the story of Jared, one of its customers, and currently by comparing the number of fat grams in its sandwiches to those from McDonald’s. How long the company could sustain this was open to question at the time.
Your USP may express the “theme” of your business, product, or service. Think: Which coffee is “mountain grown”? Which beer is made with “the cold, clear water of the Rockies”?
These examples show that a USP can be based on just about anything: price, product, ingredient, positioning. There are USPs based on color, size, scent, celebrity endorsement, location, hours of operation, and on and on.
As you concentrate on developing a new USP for your enterprise, you’ll be newly aware of the-USPs of other businesses, and you can learn from their examples. To hone your marketing mind, you need to become USP-sensitive and ask these questions about every business, product, and service you encounter in your daily activities:
- Does this business have a USP?
- If not, can I think of one for it?
- If so, is there a way I can think of to improve it?
- Is there any idea here I can “steal” for my use?
A good source of ideas is the public library. There, free of charge, you can wander through Yellow Pages directories and newspapers from cities all across the country, as well as hundreds of consumer, business, trade, and specialty magazines. Another source of ideas is the Internet: As you roam cyberspace, visit Web sites within and outside of your business category in search of inspiring USP ideas. Then you can boldly go where few others go, into the marketplace with a really exciting USP of your own!
Dan S. Kennedy is the provocative, truth-telling author of thirteen business books; a serial, multi-millionaire entrepreneur; trusted marketing advisor, consultant and coach to hundreds of private clients running businesses from $1-million to $1-billion in size; and he influences well over 1-million independent business owners annually through his newsletters, tele-coaching programs, local Chapters and Kennedy Study Groups meeting in over 100 cities.
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