5 Proven Ways to Create a Blockbuster Unique Selling Proposition

You’ve heard of USP. A strong unique selling proposition can produce more sales because it works to engrain new long-term memory. A proven way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is through repositioning your copy and design. If you haven’t examined your USP lately, there’s a good chance you’re not leveraging your unique strengths as strategically as you could. Here are five proven ideas to help you refine your USP and create a blockbuste

You’ve heard of USP. A strong unique selling proposition can produce more sales because it works to engrain new long-term memory. A proven way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is through repositioning your copy and design. If you haven’t examined your USP lately, there’s a good chance you’re not leveraging your unique strengths as strategically as you could. Here are five proven ideas to help you refine your USP and create a blockbuster campaign.

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate what repositioning a USP can do to skyrocket response. For client Collin Street Bakery, a number of years ago, we repositioned the product from what is widely called fruitcake to a “Native Texas Pecan Cake.” Sales increased 60 percent over the control in prospecting direct mail with a repositioned USP. For client Assurity Life Insurance, repositioning the beneficiary of the product, through analysis of data, increased response 35 percent, and for another Assurity campaign, response increased 60 percent (read the Assurity case study here).

First, it may be helpful to clarify what a Unique Selling Proposition isn’t:

  • Customer service: Great customer service doesn’t qualify because your customer expects you’ll provide great customer service and support in the first place.
  • Quality: Same thing as customer service. It’s expected.
  • Price: You can never win if you think your USP is price and price cutting (or assuming that a high price will signify better quality).

A strong USP boosts the brain’s ability to absorb a new memory because you’ll be seen as distinct from competitors.

Identifying your position, or repositioning an existing product or service, is a process. Most organizations should periodically reposition their products or services (or in the case of a non-profit, reposition why someone may be moved to contribute to your cause).

Here are five approaches I’ve used to better understand buyers, and create a repositioned USP to deliver blockbuster results:

  1. Interview customers and prospects. Talk directly with customers about why they have purchased or supported your organization. And for contrast, talk directly with prospects about why they didn’t act. You can interview by phone, but a better approach, in my experience, is in a focus group setting. Focus groups are an investment, so make sure you have two things in order: first, a completely considered and planned discussion guide of questions; and second, an interviewer who can probe deeply with questions. Key word: “deeply.” Superficial questions aren’t like to get what you want. Ask why a question was answered in a specific way, then ask “why?” again and again. Your moderator must be able to continually peel back the onion, so to speak, to get to a deeper why. Knowing the deeper why can be transformational for all concerned.
  2. Review customer data. Profile your customer list. A profile can be obtained from many data bureaus to review more than basic demographics, to more deeply understand your customer’s interests and behaviors. You need to understand what your customer does in their spare time, for example, what they read and, to the degree possible, what they think. Getting a profile report is usually affordable, but the real cost may be in retaining someone from outside your organization to interpret the data on your behalf, drawing inferences and conclusions, and transforming raw numbers into charts and graphics and imagining the possibilities. If you have someone on your staff who can lead that charge, another option is to have open discussions with your team as you review the data and to commit to describing the persona of your best customer. Make this an ongoing process. You’re not going to completely imagine and profile your customer in a one-hour meeting.
  3. Analyze only your best customers. As a subset of the prior point, consider analyzing only your very top customers. You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, where 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. Over the years, I’ve conducted many customer analyses. I have yet to find exactly an “80/20” balance, but I have found, at the “flattest,” a 60/40 weighting, that is, 60% of a company’s revenue coming from 40% of its customers (this for a business-to-consumer marketer). At the other extreme, for a business-to-business corporation, the weighting was 90/10, where 90% of business came from just 10% of customers. Knowing this balance can be essential, too, to creating your position. If you were the organization who derived 90% of youir business from just 10% of customers, chances are you’d listen very closely to only those 10% of customers as you evaluate your position. In this instance, if you were to reposition your organization, you have to ask yourself at what risk. Conversely, in the 60/40 weighted organization, repositioning most likely doesn’t have the same level of exposure.
  4. Review prospect modeled data. If you are using modeled mailing lists, make sure you look at the subset of data you’re mailing for the common characteristics of your best prospect. Like the profile of customers (mentioned in the previous point), you need to transform the data into charts and graphs, to reveal trends and insights. Then have a discussion and arrive at your interpretation of results.
  5. Conduct a competitive analysis. Examine a competitor’s product or service and compare it to your offer. Be harsh on yourself. While conducting focus groups, you might allocate some of your discussion to your competitors and find out who buys from whom. As you look at your competitor’s products, make sure you analyze their positioning in the market. Much can be learned from analysis of a competitor’s online presence.

Follow these steps to smartly reposition your USP, and you’re on the way repositioning your own product or service that could deliver a new blockbuster campaign.

Marketing Data: Do I Own My Own Name?

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the position taken by some privacy advocates that each of us owns our own information—and thus has some form of property rights derived from this information—and that marketers shouldn’t have use of that information without first having permission and providing compensation

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the position taken by some privacy advocates that each of us owns our own information—and thus has some form of property rights derived from this information—and that marketers shouldn’t have use of that information without first having permission and providing compensation. To this, I say—hey OK, but let’s be pragmatic.

Certainly, if I’m a celebrity, where my name and likeness has commercial value, perhaps as an endorsement, such an “ownership” rationale is a valid one.

But in the exchange of customer data for marketing purposes, this argument lacks merit, in my opinion. The value of my name on a mailing list, for example—mail, email, telephone, otherwise—has nothing to do with “my” name being on the list or, for that matter, “your” name being on that same list. (Even when we are both see ourselves as celebrities.)

Rather, the value of both our names being on the same list is by knowing the shared attribute that placed us both there—alongside the thousands of others on that list. In the world of response lists, it’s the sweat equity of the business where you and I both chose to become a customer that deserves the compensation in any data transaction, as it alone built the list by building a business where you and I both chose to become customers.

Yes, that marketer must provide notice, choice, security, sensitivity, marketing data for marketing use only, and perform other ethical obligations that are part of the self-regulatory process that have governed this business for nearly 50 years—recognizing that customer data is our most important asset, and that consumer trust and acceptance serves as the foundation of the data-driven marketing field. Privacy policies, preference centers, in-house suppressions and DMAchoice collectively serve the consumer empowerment process by enabling transparency and control in this data exchange.

In the world of compiled lists, where third parties assemble observed data for marketing purposes, again there is the sweat equity of the entities assembling and analyzing that data to “create” or “discover” the shared attributes of that data. Knowing these attributes is where the combined data derive their value. Marketers deploy activity based on these attributes to generate commerce. While the relationship between individuals and these third parties may be indirect, we still have the same ethical codes and opt-out tools governing the process. Recently, in the case of Acxiom, we’ve seen such a data compiler working to establish a direct relationship with consumers, providing individuals with the ability to inspect the data the company holds and to suggest corrections—as if the firm were a (highly regulated) credit bureau. (It is not.)

The fact that my name—Chet Dalzell—is on both response and compiled lists, to me, doesn’t entitle me to anything except to expect and demand that these movers of data act as responsible stewards of this information using well established ethics and self-regulatory methods. (Granted, in the US, there are legal requirements that must be met in such sensitive areas as credit, personal finance, health and children’s data.)

This flow of data, as the Direct Marketing Association most recently reaffirmed, generates huge social and economic value—and, in my view, my own participation as a customer in the marketplace is my agreement to allow such data exchange to happen. In fact, were it not for such flows, I might never have been provided an opportunity to become a customer in the first place. Benefits to consumers accumulate, while harm is nowhere part of the marketing ecosystem—other than to protect from identity theft and fraud. I find it fascinating some would-be regulators fail to grasp this truth.

That’s why inflexible government regulations—and opt-in-only regimes—and technology strictures that interfere with my interaction with brands are so troublesome. Such restrictions may claim to be about privacy; more often than not, they’re really motivated by political grand-standing, anti-competitive business models, and the forced building of new data siloes that do nothing to advance consumer protection—and potentially ruin data-driven marketing.

Yes, I own my name—and by choosing to be a customer of your brand, so do you own your customer list. Of course, I am the ultimate regulator in this process. For whim or reason, I can choose to take my business elsewhere.

Now, what about my Twitter, Facebook, Google and Yahoo! profiles?