Marketing Tactics

Brand marketing strategy: Establish your unique selling proposition

Communicating your business's core value should be an essential part of your brand marketing strategy.

Published: December 21, 2015
Updated: January 19, 2017

In a marketplace crowded with competitors, failing to communicate the unique value of your product or service can turn your offering into a commodity, and then the only way you can compete is on price — a risky strategy.

Your unique selling proposition (USP) can set you apart by demonstrating to customers how your business will solve a problem in a way your competitor will not. Finding and communicating your USP should be at the heart of your brand marketing strategy.

A USP has driven some of the most successful brand strategies. For instance, Nike took the sale of an everyday, commoditized product—sneakers—and built a mystique around them with innovative designs of its durable and high-quality footwear. Its famous "Just Do It" slogan, and its distinctive swoosh logo differentiate its products from the competition. The Nike brand was based on a philosophy that everyone is an athlete and Nike has the footwear and apparel to help people realize their ambitions. Despite Nike's premium prices, it became an iconic global brand.

Michelle Dellavalle, founder and owner of Dellavalle Counsel, a Pennsylvania marketing and consulting firm, says marketing that merely enumerates unique features of a product or service misses the point. "A selling point has to mean something for the customer," she says. "Remember that your customer wants to be recognized and treated like an individual. Figure out what problem they face in your field, and then decide how your business solves that problem."

Find your brand's selling proposition

Discovering a USP takes a bit of psychology and detective work. It requires you to place yourself in customers' shoes and understand their motivations — what you think is your product's or service's main benefit may not be what the customer needs.

To find your USP, survey your high-volume and repeat customers to ask what motivates them to buy from you and what may be lacking in your offering. (If you're a new business, survey potential customers in your ideal target demographics, and create detailed customer profiles.) Then study established competitors and discern their USP. A gap between what your competitors are offering and what their customers are actually saying could be opportunity for you to set yourself apart with a unique selling proposition. For example, FedEx seized on customer dissatisfaction with the slow rate of package delivery by the U.S. Postal Service by developing an efficient, rapid-fire overnight package delivery service that clearly and uniquely set it apart in the marketplace. The one-time upstart generated $47 billion in revenue in 2015.

Use your USP to your advantage

Marketing should underscore what makes your product or service different, helping to keep you from being considered just another "me too" offering. Commoditized products and services are often at the mercy of the lowest price, unlike differentiated products that stand out in the marketplace and can often command a premium price.

Once you've identified your USP, distill it into a memorable phrase. "I recommend taking your USP statement and focusing it into a customer-centric tagline," says Dellavalle, adding that your USP should be communicated in every piece of marketing material, from brochures, to direct mail, to websites, to social media platforms.

A successful USP goes beyond a catchy tag line, however. It's a promise made to current and future customers. Your products or services must fully support the promise of the USP. In some cases, this may mean altering business practices to better align with the promises put forward in the USP.

You know what makes your business unique. By communicating that through smart marketing, you can ensure the marketplace recognizes your USP.

Learn more about how to differentiate your brand as part of your overall business planning. The Business Plan Center can help.