A guide to the unique selling proposition
If you’ve heard the term “unique selling proposition” or “unique selling point” thrown around lately but aren’t quite sure what it means, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll provide a clear unique selling proposition definition and answer some of the most common questions people have about USPs. We’ll also show you 10 unique selling proposition examples to jumpstart the tricky process of crafting the perfect one to increase sales.
What is a unique selling proposition?
Customers today are flooded with options. With a simple Internet search, they can instantly find the products and services they need. Getting noticed in this sea of options isn’t as simple as having the best product or service. Consumers want options that seem tailor-made specifically for them. They don’t want something that’s for everyone, they want something just for them. It’s sales psychology 101.
Unique selling proposition definition
A unique selling proposition—or USP—is a statement of what makes your business stand out from the competition. It’s also casually called a “selling point.” Your USP might speak to a unique quality, feature, or price. (Allbirds is particularly good at this.) Maybe it’s your customer service, speed, safety features, convenience, customization, or environmental consciousness. Whatever it is, your USP is generally focused on a singular quality that your company does better than anyone else in your market.
Keep in mind, a USP is not the same thing as a slogan. Your USP statement doesn’t have to appear word-for-word in your marketing materials or fit into a commercial jingle. Your consumers may never see your full USP (although they might). But they should be able to sense your USP in advertising, sales, and customer service interactions.
Unique selling proposition vs. value proposition
Value proposition and USP are sometimes conflated because they’re so similar. They both have to do with messaging, but the value proposition goes into a long explanation of the benefits and value you provide. It’s a description of the actual job your product or service gets done.
To prevent the two from getting confused, think of it this way: It’s possible to share value propositions with other companies, but you will not share unique selling propositions.
How to craft a unique selling proposition
It takes careful thought and consideration to craft the right USP for your business. Communicating your USP is a sales skill like any other, like how to upsell, closing sales, or SPIN selling. It isn’t always easy to answer the question, “What makes my business stand out?” Sometimes it’s obvious, and sometimes...it isn’t.
Here are some steps you can take if you’re having a hard time putting your finger on the pulse of what makes your company unique.
Talk to your customers
Before trying to craft a unique selling proposition, look at the people who consistently buy from you. Are they in a certain age range? Do they live in a specific location? What kind of expendable income do they have? What are their likes and dislikes? Talk to them and see if they can shed some light on what draws them to you instead of the competition.
Look at the problems
Make a list of all the problems your product solves as well as the ones it helps your customers avoid. What are the challenges your customers are facing, and how does your business solve them? Embrace consultative selling.
Say you sell leather purses for everyday use. Purses go through a lot of wear and tear, so you’ve designed your purses to be super long-lasting and durable. If your unique selling proposition clearly states that your purses are constructed to solve the longevity problem, you’ll be more likely to attract high-value customers.
Think about your promise
When you sell a product or service, you’re also selling a promise. Maybe the promise appeals to the buyer’s sense of humanity by affirming a mutual commitment to using only planet-friendly materials. Maybe the promise is about the speed of delivery, for people who need your product quickly. Or maybe the promise is durability, for products that get a lot of use.
Whatever your product or service is, consider the promise you’re making. Promises come from a genuine place, which makes them very powerful when it comes to crafting a standout USP. A sincere promise can help make your marketing personal; it reminds your buyers that there are caring human beings behind the business.
Introspection isn’t easy, especially when business is involved. But it’s necessary. Look at your business from top to bottom and evaluate what makes you unique.
Common USP pitfalls
It’s too wordy
A USP needs to capture a lot of meaning in as few words as possible. This isn’t to save on ink, but rather to ensure that you are as specific and simple as possible. Remember, your USP isn’t a statement you’re just going to print off and slap on your office wall. It’s meant to be used as an inspirational jumping-off point for all of your messaging. Simplicity will help keep it clear and flexible.
In the end, every word of your selling point needs to be true and to the point. Look for unique selling proposition templates online to get a basic idea of how they should sound in tone and length.
It isn’t true
Your unique selling point has to be something that every team member can defend. If your marketing team decides to craft a catchy line that your sales team can’t back up, you’ll come across as dishonest.
Half-truths or a “sometimes it’s true” won’t cut it either. Your USP needs to be so fundamental to your business model that every person in your company should be able to state it proudly to anyone.
Anyone can use it
Your unique selling proposition has to be something that only you can use...that’s why it’s unique! If your USP includes phrases like “always 50% off” or “the highest quality,” your competition can easily say the same.
Your USP is a promise that only your business can fulfill. When it’s implemented consistently throughout your marketing and sales process, it becomes a key part of your company’s identity. When crafting your unique selling point, check in periodically to ask yourself, “Is this something my competition could say?” If the answer is yes, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
It’s only in the headline
Once you’ve written a solid USP, it must be woven into the fabric of all the content you put out. It isn’t enough to simply craft it into a headline that looks nice at the top of your website. The message of your unique selling proposition should continue to crop up everywhere your customer turns. Otherwise, there’s the danger that they’ll think it’s just a catchy slogan that you don’t intend to back up.
10 unique selling proposition examples
Below are 10 brilliant unique selling propositions currently being used in the e-commerce world. Most of these phrases appear in some form on the company’s front page. But keep in mind that businesses won’t ever highlight their USP and say, “Hey, look! This is our unique selling proposition!”
Unlike a slogan, a USP isn’t always meant to be front and center. It’s meant to be everywhere and in everything. It should be able to give you a good idea of who a company’s ideal customer is.
1. Brevite Backpacks
To parallel the simplicity of their product’s design, Brevite’s unique selling proposition is equally simple: they make camera backpacks for everyday living.
Both the look of the website and the message of the unique selling proposition are meant to attract photographers who want a simple, safe way to transport their camera equipment and other valuables.
A quick glance at the site reveals this USP reflected in each image and piece of text.
- “Premium backpacks that were designed to accent the lives we actually lead.”
- “The most fun and functional camera backpacks designed for far more than just your camera.”
- “A non-camera backpack designed for how you live and work today.”
2. Hydroflask Water Bottles
Every single image and written word on Hydroflask’s website screams adventure. Photos show happy and well-hydrated adventurers exploring extreme environments with their trusty Hydroflasks close at hand. The website promises that those Hydroflasks will keep liquids colder or hotter for longer than the competition can.
The rest of the copy on the site is clear. These bottles are for people who love being able to have their water, coffee, or wine wherever their adventures take them.
- “Outdoors is our everything.”
- “Mother Nature is the best designer there is.”
- “We make thoughtful, beautifully designed gear that moves people. Towards nature. Towards happy.”
3. Fresh Sends Floral Delivery
With just one glance, you know that Fresh Sends provides original and fresh floral arrangements. Someone looking for modern and unique floral arrangements will no doubt be drawn to Fresh Send’s anti-cookie-cutter approach and promise of fresh blooms.
- “Setting out to freshen up the cookie-cutter floral industry.”
- “Modern arrangements paired with custom-designed cards delivered directly to your doorstep.”
- “Unlike traditional florists, we focus on freshness and seasonality to ensure our recipients receive the most beautiful arrangements possible.”
- “Don’t forget to add your personal message (which we’ll handwrite on your behalf!)”
4. Prose Hair Care
Prose creates personalized hair products, customized to work with every lifestyle and hair type. Rather than selling a one-size-fits-all product, Prose leads visitors through a series of questions to find the perfect blend of ingredients for their hair type and color. (Read more about asking the right sales questions.)
The Prose founders observed that consumers were tired of using hair care products that weren’t right for their hair types. And they stepped in to fill the void.
The message is clear and to the point: Prose offers haircare designed just for you.
- “Transform your hair with custom care.”
- “We believe that beauty is personal.”
- “Think of us as your partner in haircare.”
- “Luxury comes in one size. Yours.”
5. Allbirds Shoes
Anyone looking for sustainable, comfortable shoes is bound to stumble across Allbirds at some point. Allbirds’ messaging is obvious across its site: the company’s shoes are planet-friendlier than the competition’s, while still being comfortable. Their ideal customer is clearly someone who cares greatly about the environment and wants to put their money where their mouth is—without sacrificing comfort.
- “Earth-friendly. Run-ready.”
- “Made from nature, for nature.”
- “We craft with planet-friendly natural materials, like merino wool and eucalyptus trees, because they’re our best chance for a sustainable future.”
- “No flashy logos. No senseless details. Just the world’s most comfortable shoes, made naturally and designed practically.”
6. Accoya Wood Decking
Accoya offers a durable product as well as a seamless sales process. The company promises superior sustainability to people who are looking for beautiful wood decking, without the hassle of constant upkeep.
- “For a low-maintenance decking that withstands wear and tear in any climate, Accoya is the answer.”
- “Ideal for extending your living space to the great outdoors—barefoot and fancy free.”
- “Accoya is the most barefoot-friendly decking material available. Keeping it cool while resisting cupping or splintering.”
7. Third Love Lingerie
Third Love offers custom lingerie products that are designed to give the customer the right fit. The lingerie is cute and playfully designed. But looking through the website, it’s clear that the company's unique selling point is the customization of each garment. Third Love promises that every purchase will be perfect for each customer’s body, no matter their size.
- “Any way, shape, or form.”
- “Thoughtful designs that never sacrifice style for comfort.”
- “In-between cup sizes—not too big, or too small, just right.”
8. Brex Corporate Card
Right on its front page, Brex offers refreshingly easy all-in-one finance for every business. Brex’s ideal customer is a business owner looking for a way to handle all of their finances from one place. Every image and piece of text on Brex’s website promises to give them just that.
- “95% of customers say switching to Brex is easy.”
- “Brex lets you send free ACH and wires worldwide, get higher card limits, earn money-saving rewards, and track expenses easily.”
- “Brex is built to help you grow.”
9. Muse Meditation Band
Muse is a meditation headband that gives users real-time feedback about their brain’s activity. This product isn’t just for people who like meditating. It’s for people who want to know exactly what their brain is doing so they can track and improve their habits. Muse offers customers a way to get the most out of their meditation, every time.
- “A sleep lab from the comfort of home.”
- “Muse S lets you understand and track how well you focus, sleep, and recharge so you can refocus during the day and recover each night.”
- “Meditation made easy.”
10. Death Wish Coffee
If it wasn’t already implied in the name, Death Wish offers the world’s strongest coffee for those daring to try it. This isn’t coffee for the faint-hearted—it’s for people who need a serious kick from their morning brew but don’t want to sacrifice flavor. Everything about Death Wish’s website is bold and daring, and their tone is just as strong as their coffee.
- “Death Wish is here to fuel your passion—basic brews not invited.”
- “Coffee that naturally brews double the strength of the average cup.”
- “We live to rebel against blah beans—and a boring lackluster life.”
Unique selling proposition benefits
Having a strong unique selling proposition gives you a competitive advantage by letting you build a stronger customer relationship. Consumers aren’t a monolith, and they don’t like being treated like one. Having a USP that speaks directly to your ideal customer lets them know that there are real people standing behind your mission—not just someone trying to make a sale. This establishes trust, relatability, and comfort, and it’s the first step to building a long and profitable relationship with your customers.
USP in sales and USP in marketing
It might sound like a unique selling proposition falls strictly in the realm of marketing, but that isn’t necessarily true. It’s at home in a sales presentation, too. Yes, your marketers can use your USP to craft personalized messaging in their ad campaigns. But your sales reps can also use it to build strong relationships with your customers.
A USP in sales is a powerful tool that lets your sales reps have a ready and truthful answer to the question, “Why should I buy your product instead of theirs?”
If it’s simple and honest, your customers will trust it.