What is a USP? How 1 Sentence Can Make or Break Your Business

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Imagine this. . . .

You’re in a marketplace in an old city.

You’re perched on top of a building. Looking down, you see a giant herd of people browsing the marketplace.

Armed with only a megaphone, you have one shot to get their attention and entice them to visit your booth on the far side of the square.

You can yell out one, maybe two, sentences before they decide to ignore you or keep listening.

So what do you say?

You probably see where I am going with this.

In a sea of businesses and products, traffic comes in, and you only have a visitor’s first impression to convert him/her.

The ‘megaphone’ in your hand is your website.

And, the words you choose to scream are your value proposition—the statement that will make or break your website.

A truly great value proposition tells your visitors what you do and why it’s valuable.

But getting it right is the ultimate struggle.

So what’s in a value proposition? Let’s break it down.

Definition of a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

You’ve probably been to a site before that instantly caught your attention. You read the first line and thought, “aha, that’s exactly what I need.”

As you scrolled down or clicked around, you became more intrigued with this company and their product.

You may have considered buying from them—simply because they have caught your attention and shown you value in a short time span.

That’s the mark of a good Unique Selling Proposition.

Here’s our definition:

“A Unique Selling Proposition is a clearly stated statement that explains what your service does and why it’s different. It is what sets you apart. It tells your prospect why they should buy from you—and not someone else.”

It’s what you do differently that makes your selling proposition ‘unique.’

We are all unique in some way.

But what is it that sets your business apart?

Your Unique Selling Proposition should clearly define and communicate this to your prospects to secure their interest.

What Does a Clear USP Mean For Your Business?

Let’s look at the facts—users often leave web pages in 10–20 seconds.

But pages with a clear value proposition can hold visitors’ attention for much longer than the average visit.

To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds.

Get it right, and you will see visitors stay for longer.

Chances are some of those visitors will turn into leads—they’ll give you their email address or express interest by taking action.

A good value proposition is essential to hold your visitors’ interest.

Get it wrong and visitors will slip through your funnel. The ones that do stay probably won’t buy.

A strong value proposition is your surest bet for converting more customers.

*Stay tuned to the end of the article where I give you a shortcut to define your own value proposition.*

For now, let’s look at websites that don’t have well-defined USPs, so you’ll know what common pitfalls to avoid.

USPs that FAIL (A.K.A. Don’t Do This . . . )

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At first glance, InvoiceDude may not look like it’s doing anything wrong.

But it is.

“Online Billing and Invoicing Software” isn’t quite a value proposition.

It is a clear statement of what they provide, but there is no value or unique differentiator.

As a person who’s looking for a service with online billing and invoicing, would you be likely to sign up?

Probably not. In that crowded marketplace, visitors would walk to another stall.

Remember, a strong value proposition integrates a valuable unique selling point. This is what makes a visitor interested in you.

How can InvoiceDude improve their USP?

A statement like, “A 100% free online billing and invoicing software that helps small businesses smooth operations” conveys more value.

The word “free” may set them apart from the competition if competitors sell their services.

In summary, this value proposition isn’t descriptive enough and has no unique value.

Now, take a look at this bad value proposition from StrikeBase:

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The headline “One place for you & your team to Get Things Done” doesn’t convey a strong value proposition to their audience.

This is because once you hear it, some questions come to mind:

  • Why is it the “one place” (and is the audience even looking for one place to store all their information?)
  • What does “Get Things Done” entail—does it mean managing tasks, sending out emails, or scheduling social posts? It sounds cool, but it’s unclear.

It doesn’t make it better that it’s followed by a list of features without any benefits.

In short, this USP leaves much to the imagination—which is exactly what it shouldn’t do.

Now that you’ve seen some real-world mistakes, let’s examine some value propositions that work.

Two Useful Examples of a Compelling USP

1. ConvertKit

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What’s so great about ConvertKit’s value proposition?

It’s specific, unique, and short.

“Email marketing for professional bloggers” is unique in its own. They don’t do email marketing for everyone, thus a unique selling point.

If you’re a professional blogger looking for email marketing tools, would you opt-in? I bet the answer is yes.

At the very least, your interest would be peaked enough to explore the site further—to find out more about what they do.

As we stated before, this is how a solid value proposition can increase the length of visitor time on your website.

This value proposition also gets it right in the simplicity department.

It’s short enough that it’s memorable and immediately communicates value to its reader.

Let’s say an hour later I ask you, “what does ConvertKit do?”

You would likely be able to cite their value proposition.

Those 3 elements come together to make one bonafide USP.

2. Stripe

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This USP is a little longer than the ConvertKit example.

Let’s explore why this one also works.

The actual USP is in the paragraph of text below the headline.

Here’s what it says:

Stripe is the best software platform for running an internet business. We handle billions of dollars every year for forward-thinking businesses around the world.

It works in part because it’s very specific—“software platform for running an internet business.”

It also communicates the unique value of their service—they “handle billions of dollars every year for forward-thinking businesses around the world.”

They have set themselves apart from the competition in the eyes of the prospect.

If I’m considering an online payment merchant, Stripe is sounding like a good bet.

By being very specific about their target market (online businesses), their Unique Selling Proposition speaks directly to their ideal prospects.

The short headline also works to reinforce the USP.

They use the word “new” to channel the shiny object effect. “Online payments” defines what they do.

Now you’ve seen the bad and the good—the unclear and the ultra-specific value propositions that can set you apart from the competition.

But what can you do right now to craft your own compelling value proposition?

The Formula to Craft Your Best USP

Don’t worry, I’ve saved the best for last.

I wouldn’t let you walk away without a formula you can implement today to define your own Unique Selling Proposition.

Follow these steps:

  • Be clear
  • Be concise (1–2 sentences)
  • Make it a statement the rest of the copy on your site can support
  • Don’t use jargon (speak your customers’ language)
  • Describe the end-result in a headline and use the subheadline to give more specifics on the “how”
  • It should be clear who the USP’s target is—either by the language used or by directly stating it (e.g. “sales funnels for service businesses.”)

Once you have a USP rough draft, boil it down.

Make it extra-specific. See where you can ditch words or lose vagueness.

And boom.

You have a compelling Unique Selling Proposition.

Conclusion

A unique selling proposition, or USP, is crucial to catching your visitors’ attention.

Without one, there is nothing to separate your service from competitors’.

You are just another stand in a marketplace.

And visitors will keep walking by.

With the right USP, you’ll notice people stopping. You’ll attract more customers and people who are interested in your expertise.

If you’re still defining your USP, keep working with that formula.

You’ll hit it eventually.

What is your current Unique Selling Proposition? If you use the tips in this post, include your new Unique Selling Proposition in the comments—and I’ll tell you what I think!

Keep Hustlin’, Stay Focused,

—Matt

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