What Does it Take to Create a Strong USP?

Julia Cupman
B2B Marketing
Current average rating    
5.00
Key Takeaways
  • A unique selling proposition is the one thing that signifies your business offer, differentiates you from your competitors, and forms the foundation of a strong brand. 
  • Trying to satisfy everyone risks not pleasing anyone at all, ​​and firms must tailor their USP to the target audience that values its products and services the most. 
  • Once the clarification of a target audience has been achieved, the next step is to decipher the key purchasing drivers and what these potential customers value above all else. 

A unique selling proposition (USP) is the one thing that signifies your business offer, differentiates you from your competitors, and forms the foundation of a strong brand. In an over-crowded market, a well-thought-out USP often makes the difference because if your current and prospective customers cannot pinpoint what is unique about your business, they won’t have any reason to choose you over alternative suppliers.

In B-to-B markets, most firms are aware of the importance of having a compelling USP, but according to our research, many U.S. companies are struggling to define one. Indeed, the findings highlighted that American firms only give themselves an overall score of just 6.2 out of 10, on average, when rating their confidence in the strength of their USP.

Clearly, many U.S. B-to-B companies have room for improvement. Here are five main actions that firms can put in motion to help develop a winning USP.

1. Use segmentation to find a specific target audience. ​Trying to satisfy everyone risks not pleasing anyone at all, and firms must tailor their USP to the target audience that values its products and services the most. To find this group of potential clients, an in-depth customer segmentation process is required.

In many markets, the needs of businesses will cross over to the extent that it’s not enough to group them by simple firmographic characteristics. When it comes to segmentation, many B-to-B firms often start by looking at the basic groupings of customers: according to company size, geographical location or revenue, for example. Although there is nothing wrong with this approach, firms need to use segmentation to focus in greater detail on customer needs to find the key target audience. This method identifies and groups customers on common desires and what they’d like to see a product or service offer, enabling segments that cannot be profitably satisfied to be deselected. By honing in on precise requirements, a business can achieve long-term dividends in terms of profits and customer loyalty since clients that are getting exactly what they want tend not to look elsewhere.

2. Identify the key purchasing drivers. Once the clarification of a target audience has been achieved, the next step is to decipher the key purchasing drivers and what these potential customers value above all else. Many would immediately think price, but according to our research, only 20% of any B-to-B market prioritize price over all other factors, which means that the vast majority—so-called “value buyers”—do not.

The remaining 80% are becoming increasingly discerning, focusing on elevated needs around service, brand and consultancy instead of price. This provides a great opportunity for businesses to formulate their USPs around more explicit, longer-term benefits of a product or service. Companies should assess the advantages of their offering—such as quality, design, company ethos or customer service—in alignment with customer demands, and communicate benefits to the target audience that are as specific as possible. 

3. Always position against the competition. In-depth research should not just be limited to customers. Competitor analysis is just as integral when it comes to developing a strong USP. Through comprehensive customer positioning, a business can identify a gap in the market and realign itself while strengthening the features and benefits that make the offering unique. It’s vital to note that only when a business understands its strengths and weaknesses—and those of its competitor—is the intelligent creation of a USP possible.

4. Be concise and memorable. Once a firm understands its marketplace and customers fully, the USP needs to be both succinct and memorable. The best USPs are those that can be expressed in a single sentence, or even better, in just a phraseif a business claims multiple benefits, its message can become confused, making it hard for an audience to remember or understand it. As one of a company’s biggest assets—estimated to be worth 5% of a company’s stock value, on average—a USP provides credibility, supports price positioning and differentiates the brand so that it’s essential, clear and unforgettable.    

5. Reinforce your USP in everything that you do. Ultimately, a USP is the essence of the business and should be deeply embedded into all aspects of the organization. This means having it top of mind, not just in terms of the product or service, but in marketing and promotion efforts as well as in sales and customer support services. Avoid treating it as a one-off or as a slogan in a campaignit must be considered a part of the company’s identity in order to be strong enough to stand out.

Overall, thoroughly researching the market and fully understanding the customer base is essential for a business to derive a successful USP. While in-depth market research is key, firms must use that information intuitively to create a USP that’s memorable and embed it completely into the heart of the organization before success can really be achieved.​


This article was originally published in the July 2015 ​issue of B2B Marketing​.​​


Author Bio:

https://auth.ama.org/PublishingImages/Julia%20Cupman.jpg
Julia Cupman
Julia Cupman is vice president at White Plains, N.Y.-based global B-to-B market research agency B2B International.
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