Category: Business Support

I have to say, one of the hardest lessons I had to learn when I set up my business was determining what my USP was to be … it had to be tangible, something that my potential clients would be drawn by. I’m the first to admit that I’m still learning and my USP is ever-evolving, just as we are … so I loved this article by Corbett Barr, who promised the Ultimate Guide to finding your unique selling proposition/point.

I hope you find it useful reading!



The Ultimate Guide To Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

~ by Corbett Barr


Hands down, the question I get most from readers of Think Traffic is “how do I make my business or website unique?” I’ve talked to at least 10 of you over the past couple of months about that very topic.

In marketing speak, this is known as the unique selling proposition, or USP.

Note: as a follow-up to this original post, you might also want to check out these 10 killer unique selling proposition examples from around the web.

And it’s a fantastic question because deciding on a USP is possibly the most important decision you can make about your business.

If you make your business stand apart from the crowd, everything you do will be easier. Customers will be easier to come by. Adoring fans will gladly spread the word about what you do because they love it.

On the other hand, if you don’t develop an effective USP, building an audience or getting any customers to pay attention to you will be a constant struggle.

Your USP can mean the difference between success and failure.

And every time I have that discussion with one of you, you say “you should really write a blog post about this.” That’s a great idea, so here we go.

What is a Unique Selling Proposition?

First off, if the word “selling” turns you off, you can think of it as the “unique market proposition” if you’d like. It’s not about selling, it’s simply about differentiation.

Your unique selling proposition is what makes your business stand out. It’s what makes you different and earns you a special place in the minds of your potential customers.

Now, before any of you marketing geeks out there get on my case about the definition of USP, hold on. I know there’s another concept known as the Point of Difference (POD), and that there are probably a dozen of other different academic marketing terms with nuances they taught you in grad school.

Whatever you want to call it, that’s fine with me. The point is, differentiating your business is a Good Thing, whether you’re talking about the business itself, your products or your marketing.

I like to think of your overall USP as your reason for being. Think about it from your customer’s point of view. With tens or hundreds of potential options out there, you have to answer the question, “why should I buy from you?” Or, “why should I read your blog, when there are millions of other blogs I could be reading?”

If you don’t answer that question quickly, your potential customers or readers will move on. It’s really pretty simple.

It’s Not About Being the Best

Having a great product or superb content is probably not enough of a difference to make your business stand out. In most markets, having a great product is just the price of admission.

When you’re small, it’s hard to compete on product or content quality alone. You need to change the conversation. Instead of screaming “hey, look at me, I have great stuff too,” you want to confidently say, “hey, I’m all about X, we do things differently. If you’re into X, we’re the only place you can get it.”

Cal Newport wrote recently about what he calls The Superstar Effect over at the 4-Hour Workweek blog recently. Cal showed why it’s a losing game to try to win by being the best at something everyone else is also trying to be the best at. Think about getting into an Ivy League school, for example. Virtually everyone who gets in is a valedictorian with perfect SAT scores. How do you compete against that?

The answer is that you don’t compete at all. Instead, you become the best at something no one else is attempting.

That’s how Michael Silverman got accepted to Stanford, despite his middling SAT scores and G.P.A. Michael focused his energies on a series of environmental sustainability projects, and earned a reputation and press coverage for his accomplishments. He became the best at what he did, and stood out amongst 32,000 applicants to Stanford earning a unique place amongst the 7.2% who were accepted.

Instead of playing a game he couldn’t win, he changed the game.

That’s the power of a unique selling proposition. You want to be the best at something, but you can make it far easier if you define your competitors yourself.

Promotion is Only a Small Part of Marketing

When I started planning to create this blog, it struck me that most people get traffic building all wrong. At it’s essence, “building traffic” is really synonymous with marketing. Only, I knew that the world needed another boring marketing blog like it needed a hole in the ozone layer.

I decided to use the word “traffic” in the site’s name because I knew that’s what every website owner craves. You want more traffic. The trouble is, getting traffic isn’t about what you think it is. Most people think getting traffic is about promotion, but it’s really about holistic marketing.

Promotion is an important part of building a big audience, there’s no question. But promotion alone can’t entirely make up for a crappy product, mediocre content or the lack of a unique selling proposition. That would be like putting lipstick on a pig, as one of my old bosses used to love to say.

Building a high-traffic website or successful business starts with your point of view. It begins with your thesis, how do you see the world, how you care for and help your customers, and extends through to your content, products, customer interactions and then finally to your promotion.

Attracting customers isn’t something you “bolt on” in the end. It’s something you work on at every stage of your business, and your unique selling proposition is the first stage.

How to Find Your Unique Selling Proposition

So, you’ve bought into the idea that a unique selling proposition is important, but how do you define yours?

There are a lot of different approaches you can take. Your USP might end up being a combination of things. There’s no one right answer. And depending on what business you’re in, even a small amount of differentiation could lead to a much greater shot at success.

Here are a few simple ways to differentiate your business. These aren’t the only ways, but it’s a starting point to get you thinking.

Use Your Personality

If you’re running a very small business (like I do), or are are the primary owner of your business, sometimes your personality alone can be a powerful difference.

You have to have a personality that resonates with some people to pull this off, but by putting your personal stamp on many aspects of your business, you create something no one can directly compete with (there is only one you, after all). Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example of this approach.

Explore the Intersection of Ideas

Interesting things happen at the intersection of ideas, as Adam Singer likes to say, and plenty of ideas haven’t been combined before. Merge Manhattan-bred customs with African-inspired music and you get the band Vampire Weekend. Mix collective buying power with the social web and you get Groupon.

Think about the topic your business is about, and what you could add to the mix to make it more interesting and unique. It doesn’t require inventing something new, just combine two things you already know about.

Narrow Your Target Audience

Here’s another technique that’s pretty easy to pull off. You can choose a narrow target audience who has never had a business like yours cater specifically to it. For example, become a web designer for plumbers, or a plumber for recreational vehicles, or write about online marketing for dentists.

Think about this from the customer’s standpoint. If you were a dentist and needed help with online marketing, wouldn’t you be inclined to choose the business that specializes in dentists?

The other benefit of specializing in a narrow market segment is that promotion becomes much easier. You know where to find dentists together at conferences and where they hang out online, so you know how to target them.

Narrow Your Topic

Finally, you can also specialize narrowly in one particular aspect of your topic. Instead of being a web developer, become a web developer who translates visual designs into working WordPress websites. Instead of being an auto mechanic, become an auto mechanic who specializes in American-made electric vehicles.

Remember, You’re Not Trying to Appeal to Everyone

When starting out, creating a USP might seem like you’ll be leaving out some potential customers. It’s a natural tendency to want to please everybody.

But when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing no one. The goal of your USP will be to connect more strongly with some people, and not so much with others. This is what you want because when you connect strongly with a smaller audience, your influence can spread much more quickly.

Have you heard the tale of the old man, boy and donkey? I read this in Michael Port’s excellent Book Yourself Solid. This might help:

An old man, a boy and a donkey were going to town. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked. As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding. The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.

Later, they passed some people that remarked: “What a shame, he makes that little boy walk.” They then decided they both would walk!

Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey.

Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey. The boy and man said they were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed the bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned.

The moral of the story? In Marketing, if you try to please everyone, you might as well… Kiss your ass good-bye.

Branding, Design and Messaging

Once you’ve developed a unique selling proposition, your job is to communicate it clearly and often.

That’s the role of branding, design and messaging. A great name, tagline and design can really tie this whole concept of uniqueness together.

And remember that the USP isn’t a one-time decision. You have to constantly remind people of what you stand for. Tell them in no uncertain terms on a regular basis why your business is different.

Be Unique, But Not For It’s Own Sake

Being unique is an important marketing strategy, but beware of being unique for it’s own sake. Being the only business who sells waterskis in the desert makes you unique, but it doesn’t mean there’s a market for your product.

Your unique selling proposition only works when you’re addressing some demand. It’s not necessarily about defining an entirely new market with unproven demand.

Being unique also requires clarity. If the unique selling proposition you come up with takes someone minutes or hours to understand, it probably won’t be effective. Being clear is another essential aspect of building a successful business or popular website.

Can you succeed without a dynamite USP?

Yes, of course it’s possible to succeed without a great unique selling proposition. It’s possible, but definitely not as easy. And success without a good USP requires better product development and promotion, along with some outside factors (maybe a little luck).

Sometimes there is so much demand in a market that multiple (virtually identical) businesses can succeed without working hard to differentiate themselves. In these cases, as long as you have a great product and a way to reach the market, you might be able to break through.

Look at the WordPress themes market, for example. There are lots of successful players in that market, and not too much difference between them.

Another example is the tech news + social media blog space. Back in 2005, Mashable, Read Write Web and TechCrunch all became giants, and did so by focusing on content and promotion more than starting with a unique angle. Of course, Mashable had Pete Cashmore and TechCrunch had Mike Arrington. Remember that a strong personality can be a USP in itself.

In terms of audience building, a USP is really the foundation of your efforts and will have a multiplier effect on your product and marketing.

You can always create a great product and rely on good old fashioned hard work to grow your business, but by adding a solid unique selling proposition you’ll reach your goals faster.

What if your business doesn’t have much of a USP?

So, you have a website or business, and now you’re thinking, shit, I didn’t really think about this USP stuff before I started. What do I do now?

Don’t do anything rash, first of all. You can refine your unique selling proposition without scrapping your entire business, and still make a big difference. The important thing is that you now understand how to use uniqueness to your advantage.

And here’s a word of caution. All of this can seem a little daunting at first. I’ve seen plenty of people get hung up on the concept of the USP for weeks or months. But remember that research and planning with no action won’t get you anywhere. It’s better to start working on your idea and refine it as you go along than it is to get stuck contemplating the perfect USP without doing anything.

What’s your unique selling proposition? Have any great examples of dynamite USPs? Share in the comments!

And coming next week, I’ll have a post with some great examples of websites with kick ass USPs. Stay tuned for that.

(c) Corbett Barr – All Rights Reserved

Article discovered at:


New Book : Healing the Corporate World by Maria Gamb

arrives Tues Oct 12th 2010

~ by guest author, Lynn Serafinn

It’s staggering to think about it.

The American Institute of Stress calls stress “American’s #1 Health Problem.” They estimate “75 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems” and that “Job Stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults.” The New York Times quoted Steven L. Sauter (Chief of the Organizational Science and Human Factors Branch of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) as saying, “workplace stress costs more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work and stress-reduction” and “workers who report that they are stressed incur health care costs that are 46 percent higher, or an average of $600 more per person, than other employees. And in the UK, nearly half a million people expressed they felt work related stress was at a level that was making them ill in 2008, and these figures appear to be increasing rapidly every year.

But in spite of all this, to my shock, all too many sites I found during my research provide tips on how to “deal” with stress, rather than trying to change “what is.” One site even talks about being “stress hardy” to make us better able to survive what we believe we cannot change. In other words, it seems that all too many have thrown in the towel, and given into the idea that being stressed (and unhappy) at our work is simply a part of life, and that the best we can do is to learn how to cope.

But Maria Gamb, former Fortune 500 executive with over 20 years of experience in the corporate world, and author of the new book Healing the Corporate World: how value-based leadership transforms business from the inside out, has a different idea altogether.

By all accounts, Maria was experiencing a highly “successful” career for many years—at least to the naked eye. But inwardly, Maria, a highly sensitive and intuitive woman, with a great belief in the human spirit, knew something was intrinsically wrong with the way businesses were being run in our modern world. Stress wasn’t the problem; it was merely the natural symptom that arouse as a result of much deeper issues. Competition, fear, blame, feelings of helplessness, and a sense of not being “seen” had become the norm rather than the exception, especially in corporate life. And no amount of stress management would ever make stress go away until these issues were addressed—not only at a personal level, but also at a global level.

It was time to talk about how we were going to transform the business world and heal a seriously ailing system.

Understanding that real change could only come from within, with each person taking personal responsibility for his or her own thoughts and actions, Maria decided to write a book that would be a call-to-action to the business community entitled Healing the Corporate World: how value-based leadership transforms business from the inside out.

Maria wrote this book with a passion to start the ripple of change that will do exactly what the title says: HEAL the corporate world. That doesn’t just mean to rescue our culture from economic crisis, but rather to heal the people and relationships within organizations so they can become healthy, flowing systems for change and creativity that are founded upon values, innovation, personal responsibility and authentic leadership at all levels of the business structure.

And while the title suggests a focus on corporate life, the book is NOT just for CEOs, senior managers or even corporations—it is a book for anyone who works. You might be a middle-manager, or a new employee on a team. You might even be self-employed, or the owner of a small business. The principles in this book are applicable to anyone who wants to create a more human-focussed society by transforming the way we do business.

The official Amazon launch of Healing the Corporate World starts at 12:01 AM Pacific, Tuesday October 12th.

To celebrate the release of this “inspiring and visionary book” (Ernest Chu, bestselling author of Soul Currency), when you purchase Healing the Corporate World on the day of its launch, you can receive a complete library of personal development gifts from dozens of leading authors, business professionals, speakers on the subject of business and self-improvement.

To purchase the book can claim your bonus gifts, just go to

There you will find links to purchase the book from Amazon and instructions on how to claim your bonus gifts.

When you look at all the bonus gifts, don’t worry about not having enough time to download them all. As long as you purchase the book during the launch, you’ll have access to the download page until October 31st.

I hope you’ll check out Healing the Corporate World on Tuesday October 12th, so we as a society can begin to apply these values-based principles in our work-place, and help start the process of healing for everyone.

Lynn Serafinn
Author, coach, book promotions

… if you are a CAM practitioner or spiritual healer, you may be interested in reading

The Psychology of Undercharging