Jun 132017

What Is Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

You may have heard the term USP or Unique Selling Proposition thrown around in the context of marketing and startups. What is it, and what is your USP?

Simply put, your Unique Selling Proposition is a description of what makes you, your company and your product and service offering unique in the market.

So, what is your USP?

Are there aspects of your business and your offering(s) that make them unique in the marketplace?

In case you’re having trouble answering this question, let me ask it in a different way. What are you known for, or if you’re a startup, what do you want to be known for, by clients and prospective clients in the marketplace?

In other words, what is your “promise” to the market?

The question then becomes whether you can consistently deliver on that promise.

Let’s look at some examples, good and not-so-good, to clarify what we’re talking about when we look at the Unique Selling Proposition in terms of your “promise” to the market.

We’ll look at FedEx, Your Local Drycleaner, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Grammarly (couldn’t resist, as it popped up in my email as an excellent example, as I was writing this article)!


When I say FedEx, what’s the first thing you think of? For me, it’s reliability. In my opinion, their promise to the market is that they will get your package where it needs to go, by the time they say it will get there. They give you online tools to monitor and verify that the package will arrive on time, and they give you alerts when they think there’s something, such as weather, that would interfere with fulfilling their promise. They know that’s the “golden goose,” so to speak, and they will do everything possible to protect it.

Your Local Drycleaner

I don’t know the name of your local drycleaner, but I can give you an educated guess of their USP in terms of their promise to you, the customer. Their promise is that they will give you back your clothing clean, pressed, and undamaged, on time, every time. While it’s not necessarily “unique” in the traditional sense of the word, they can differentiate themselves through consistency and through offering you a pleasant and friendly transaction each time you drop and pick up your clothing. Today, there is not much that is truly “unique” in this world, so in many markets, in order to avoid commoditization and its undesirable effect on pricing, you must deliver on your “promise” of consistent quality, delivered in as human a way as possible.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

If you watch TV, when I say Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the first thing that probably pops into your mind is, “We’ll pick you up”. It’s been their catchphrase for a while. How many other rental car companies do you know that will pick you up to bring you to their rental counter so you can rent their cars? There may be others, but none come immediately to mind. So, it is actually unique, which is somewhat miraculous in such a mature market. I know from experience that they also deliver on this promise. Perhaps more importantly, though, is what “We’ll pick you up” conveys to current and prospective customers. When I hear this phrase from a rental car company, it surprises me. Really, they’ll pick me up? If they’re willing to go to that length to help me, then I’m going to assume (they’ll then have to prove it, of course) that they are really focused on and concerned with the needs of their customers.


Ok, I had no intention of using Grammarly as an example here, but as I was writing this, I received a marketing email from them that I think really illustrates the idea of the Unique Selling Proposition! It’s quite brilliant, actually. Here’s how it looks, with my commentary on the key sections of the graphic included in the email:

I guess I should’ve realized it, but it didn’t really occur to me that Grammarly was tracking and helping me improve my writing on an aggregate basis. I just assumed it was for each one-off piece I wrote. So, I see this email about my writing for the week of June 5 to June 11 and it piques my interest.

My main reaction to the above was, “wow, that is a lot of words – I had no idea”. And I couldn’t help but think, I’m glad Grammarly helped me check all those words.

This made me think, “man, I know I can do better than that,” but then I rationalized it saying, “but almost all my writing that Grammarly sees is stream of consciousness, before I’ve gone back to check and edit it”. It’s good I know how to use the word “rationalization”.

My thought, “nice, I used quite a few unique words – I’m not sure that means I have a big vocabulary – but I’ll take it”. Thanks, Grammarly. Maybe we can have a beer sometime. It sounds like we have a lot in common.

And finally, the kicker…

My thought on this one is, “wait, I thought I had a good vocabulary; ok, I suppose that doesn’t mean that I don’t still make plenty of mistakes”. Ok, I feel you, Grammarly, maybe I’ll buy the first beer.

So, I have to give it to Grammarly here. This is quite clever. It’s an excellent sequence of emotions they take me through there, before trying to close the sale for an upgrade. I really like the approach.

More germane to this article, though, this approach also very cleverly illustrates their Unique Selling Proposition: we will help you write better, period. We’ll do it for free, to a certain point, but if you want the advanced stuff, you’ll need to pay. And by the way, we’re in a unique position to deliver on our promise, and more, as given how much you’ve allowed us (and no one else, presumably) to help you with your writing, we have a tremendously informed perspective on how to help you further. Brilliant.

I’m sure that, based on the above examples, you get the idea on what we’re getting at with the USP from the perspective of your “promise” to the market.


So, tell me, what is the Unique Selling Proposition for your business?


I look forward to your thoughts and questions.


Paul Morin