Crafting a unique selling point (USP) is a way for startups to make a clear statement to their audience, customers, potential investors, stakeholders, and employees.
A USP states: “This is who we are, what we do, and who we’re for!”
Unique selling points don’t need to be complicated. Founders should follow a simple formula when crafting a USP.
Although we are only talking about a sentence at most, your USP is one of the most important pieces of text you will create. A USP should define your startup’s purpose and position in the market.
Your USP impacts everything from your sales and marketing strategies to your investment and exit potential because it shows you know your customers and can establish demonstrable brand value.
What is a Unique Selling Point (USP)?
A unique selling point, also known as a unique selling position or value proposition, is what differentiates your company from its competitors.
A USP is a clear statement of what you stand for, the service you provide, and how your company is unique.
Every company has one — or should have one. And yet, few businesses create a strong statement on which to build a definable brand.
When we consider global consumer brands, we only have to think of a brand name or see a logo to know what they stand for. Starbucks, Nike, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Google are good examples.
Brand equity is built over many years. Brand values permeate everything these companies do, from their marketing and advertising to their products and customer service.
Startups don’t have this brand equity in the beginning. It takes time, money, and effort to scale a startup to the point where it becomes a household name.
This process starts with crafting a unique selling point or value proposition.
Make it obvious what you do, who you do it for, and how you create value.
Why is a unique selling point essential for startups?
As a founder, one of your main concerns should be building brand awareness. If potential clients, investors, and employees don’t know you exist, how can you grow?
Crafting a compelling USP is mission-critical for attracting customers, staff, stakeholders, and investors.
Here’s why you need a USP:
- It sets a clear vision and mission for your company.
- It demonstrates an active understanding of your customers and how you add value. In other words, It shows you have Product-Market fit (PMF) figured out.
- Building on this, crafting a USP is an integral part of creating your ideal customer profiles (ICPs). Knowing who your prospects are, how to sell to them, and why they need your product or service is a vital first step toward achieving your growth targets.
- Once you have a USP, a clearly defined and market-tested value proposition, and ICPs, you can create actionable sales and marketing strategies. Customer feedback and interactions are useful at this stage because they allow you to see whether your messaging resonates with your target audience/customers. If they fail to see value in your product or service then you might need to rethink your USP. It may take several iterations before you get it right.
- Employees, contractors, advisors, and other stakeholders also need to know what your USP represents. If you want people to make a valuable contribution to your company, they need to understand what you stand for — your vision, mission, and goals — and why the market needs your product or service.
- Investors want to see a simple, unambiguous statement outlining what your startup does, how you add value, and who you serve. Investors receive hundreds of pitches every month. The right USP helps you get noticed and improves your chances of securing the funding you need.
Examples of high-impact unique selling points
A unique selling point helps your startup or content website stand out. A USP is integral to your brand, how customers perceive you, and how valuable your company could become.
Just look at Canva, a SaaS design platform founded in 2013. Canva has a simple and powerful USP: “Canva makes it easy to create and share professional designs.”
Figma is another SaaS platform for designers (recently acquired by Adobe for $20 billion). Figma’s USP stands out: “Figma connects everyone in the design process so teams can deliver better products, faster.”
In both cases, these platforms state who they’re for and what you can achieve with their product.
Here’s another example from Rankings, a successful US-based SEO firm that works with law firms: “The SEO agency of choice for personal injury lawyers and other elite law firms.”
As you can see, a strong USP is noticeable and differentiates a startup from its competition. More importantly, it gives a company an impactful vision, boldly stating, “this is why we exist; this is why you need to work with us.”
A formula for crafting a high-impact unique selling point
Every company is unique.
Your industry sector and customer base will influence what you say and how you say it. This is also known as your brand’s tone of voice (ToV).
In every case, the approach for crafting a high-impact unique selling point is the same. The aim is to make an unequivocal statement: “This is who we are, what we do, and who for!”
Here’s a best-practice formula you can apply to any sector:
We do X + Our service solves problem Y + for Z clients in A, B, and C sectors = USP
It’s that simple. Let’s break down the Rankings example from earlier:
- What do they do? SEO services.
- What problem do they solve? Notice how they use the words “agency of choice” and “elite” — implying Rankings get results. They are not cheap. A subheading on their website spells this out in more detail: Law firms “trust us to deliver the rankings, traffic, and cases other firms can’t.”
- Who for? Personal injury lawyers and other elite law firms.
Crafting a unique selling point takes time and effort. It requires a clear understanding of your customers, their pain points, and how you solve their specific problems.
Be unique and transparent about what you do and for whom. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. It won’t work.
A niche go-to-market strategy is more effective than trying to deliver every possible service to every client across too many sectors.
Think about it.
How often would you choose a buffet that offered a range of dining options from around the world if you wanted a high-quality Italian meal? Chances are, you’d go to a reputable, independent Italian restaurant and pay the extra money for the quality of experience and food you want.
Approach your startup’s USP and sector-specific offerings with the same considerations in mind.
A USP should define and demonstrate your knowledge of your target market so you can attract your ideal audience.
With the right USP, you will stand out, appeal to customers and investors, and drive your marketing and sales campaigns forward.
Your target audience will know what you stand for, what you do, and why they should come to you to solve their problems.