Here’s Why Startups are Using a Unique Selling Proposition

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Are you struggling to reach your growth goals? 

Do you feel the more you polish your marketing messaging, the more you sound like your competitors?

You may be an early-stage entrepreneur or a marketer at a billion-dollar unicorn. No matter your experience or location, your growth is likely lagging because you don’t know what sets your product apart from the competition. If you’re not clear what differentiates your product, how do you expect potential customers to know the difference?

Your customers are already overwhelmed with options.

Forget a New York minute.

In the last 60 seconds on the Internet, there were over:

  1. 156 million emails.
  2. 16 million texts.
  3. 3.5 million searches on Google.
  4. 1.8 million Snaps created.
  5. 452,000 Tweets.
  6. 95,890 posts made in WordPress.
  7. 46,200 Instagram posts uploaded.

What will help you rise above the noise to make you more sales?

Is it your price? No, your competitors can drop their price in two minutes. Maybe your money-back guarantee? No, that’s easy to steal too. What about your unique features? While also valuable, your competitors can copy that as well.

What are you able to promise better than any other competitor out there?

A unique selling proposition (USP) tripled Anacin’s revenue

In the 1950s, the ad executive Rosser Reeves did both the remarkable and unthinkable. 

In 18 months, he tripled Anacin’s revenue from $18 million to $54 million by advertising a unique selling proposition (USP). 

This wasn’t a fluke, “viral” campaign that Reeves got lucky with, either. 

Have you heard M&M’s, “melts in your mouth, not in your hand” slogan before? How about Colgate toothpaste’s “cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth”? Reeves was the mastermind behind these campaigns, too.

Why USP’s still work for startups today

For almost 20 years, GEICO has had the largest market share growth in auto insurance:

You may even know GEICO’s USP: “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance.”

In 2019, my agency Growth Ramp created a USP for Decibite: “15% or faster web hosting, guaranteed.” This USP helped them double their annualized revenue in six months.

Then there’s Domino’s USP, “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” The last time Domino’s gave their signature 30-minute USP guarantee was in 1993, unless you live in Colombia, Vietnam, Mexico, China, or India. 

Yet 24 years after Domino’s ended their guarantee, customers still want free pizza. If that’s not sticky, I don’t know what is.

Perhaps their USP explains why Domino’s retail sales have been dominating Pizza Hut and Papa John’s from 2014 to 2018:

Why do USP’s still work today?

At its core, every business promises value to its customers in exchange for money. You may have heard this as a value proposition. 

For clarity, a unique selling proposition is a value proposition. That said, not every value proposition is a unique selling proposition. I’ll explain why in a moment. Even a strong value prop can create massive growth.

Jeremy Moser grew uSERP.io’s MRR to $50,000 in three months. I asked him how a strong value prop helped uSERP.io grow so fast. Moser said, “Startups want guaranteed results to grow search traffic fast. Other SEO agencies take months to pitch sites, create content, and negotiate a deal before getting a handful of links.”

Moser continued, “At uSERP.io, we cracked the code to guarantee almost limitless white-hat links on high authority sites. And while it can take up to three months, sometimes links go live in 2-6 weeks.”

To create a value proposition, ask your customers why they chose you. Once a pattern emerges, use this formula: “I help [audience] solve [problem] by [our solution].”

Almost every business in your industry has the same value proposition. For example, Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut all offer, “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door.”

What did Domino’s do to turn their value proposition into a unique sales proposition to accelerate their sales?

The difference between value propositions and unique sales propositions

A strong value proposition states your specific value. Without a specific value, companies find themselves in a race to the bottom.

Web hosts are a dime-a-dozen, many of which fail to communicate a specific value. “Many web hosting companies attract new customers with a low introductory price. However, according to our research, renewal costs are usually 2x to 3x higher,” says Brad Smith from Hosting Facts

Instead of competing on price, we positioned Decibite to offer a specific value: fast hosting. If I stopped at fast hosting, any web host could offer the same value prop. 

To turn a value prop into a USP, I added a specific claim of the value: 15% or faster web hosting speeds.

Look at the USP examples I gave again:

  1. Decibite: “15% or faster web hosting, guaranteed”
  2. Domino’s: “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.” 
  3. GEICO: “15% or more could save you 15% or more on your car insurance.”

Each uses a specific claim. Papa John’s and Pizza Hut do offer “Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door.” Domino’s was bold enough to give a testable claim: “…in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.”

unique value proposition

unique value proposition

A specific claim gives your customers a clear picture of the value they will get. Furthermore, the company bears the risk, not the customer. 

If Domino’s doesn’t ship their pizza in 30 minutes or less, they lose money. Your pizza is late, but at least it’s free. Since Domino’s can’t grow by giving away pizzas, they’ll improve their operations to deliver on that promise.

Let’s say you order at Pizza Hut and the pizza arrives 15 minutes late. You look like a bad host. Pizza Hut isn’t out any money (though the delivery guy may lose his tip). Is getting your pizza late a risk you’re always willing to take?

Visually, here’s how a value proposition fits your brand messaging:

brand messaging hierarchy

brand messaging hierarchy

To turn your value proposition into a USP, look at your data. You may find your USP becomes an ideal goal you work towards. If GEICO only saved customers 15% or more money 70% of the time, I recommend they improve their operations before advertising their USP.

Once you have a USP, this can become the foundation of your brand messaging on any of the 12 major marketing channels. Here’s an example of Slack advertising a USP using Facebook ads:

slack

slack

When done right, a unique sales proposition increases your sales by reducing your customer’s risk with a specific claim.

Why a unique selling proposition can create breakthrough growth

Your competitors are spending thousands of dollars to win over potential customers.

To set yourself apart, talk to your customers about why they bought from you. Then create your value proposition by stating a specific benefit. 

Once you have your value prop, you can turn it into a USP by making a specific claim. A number is an easy way to change most value props into a USP.

Finally, once you are clear on the specific value delivered, advertise, and market it on every marketing channel you use. This will give potential customers a clear and compelling reason to choose your business over the competition.

Perhaps, as a result, you’ll outperform Anacin’s triple-digit growth.

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