What Is A Unique Selling Proposition And Why It Matters In Business

A unique selling proposition (USP) enables a business to differentiate itself from its competitors. Importantly, a USP enables a business to stand for something that they, in turn, become known among consumers. A strong and recognizable USP is crucial to operating successfully in competitive markets.

Understanding a unique selling proposition

A unique selling proposition allows a business to stand for something specific that they become known for among their consumers. 

This is in direct contract to businesses that stand for nothing in particular.

They take a generalist approach to marketing and product development and thus do not allow a point of difference to develop in the market.

In attempting to become known for everything, they become known for nothing.

A strong USP which encompasses a specific consumer benefit has the ability to:

  • Attract (and retain) new customers, reducing customer churn rate.
  • Build customer loyalty.
  • Reduce costs associated with customer acquisition.
  • Focus core marketing strategy and subsequent messaging, branding, and copywriting.

Elements of a strong USP

If nothing else, a USP must answer every consumer’s question when encountering a business: what makes this business different from the competition?

It’s important to note that simply being unique is not a valid characteristic in itself.

The point of difference must target something that resonates with the target audience.

The USP must also be bold and assertive in its point of difference, informing consumers that the business has the confidence to stand behind its brand

Lastly, the unique selling proposition should be more than just a slogan.

Often, slogans are catchphrases whose benefits are vague and hard to put into practice.

If a business must use a slogan, then it should ensure that every aspect of the business operation can embody its message in reality.

Read: Marketing Strategy: Definition, Types, And Examples

Examples of successful unique selling propositions

Death Wish Coffee

There is no shortage of competition among coffee merchants.

However, Death Wish Coffee has managed to make a mark in this industry with their claim of selling the world’s strongest coffee.

Death Wish Coffee backs up their claim by showing how their coffee is made and where it is sourced from.

But they also offer dissatisfied customers a full refund.

In this way, the success of the company is directly tied to its ability to deliver on its USP.

Importantly, the business embodies this USP through every aspect of their branding and marketing strategies.

Voodoo Doughnut

A similarly competitive market can be seen in selling donuts.

Boston donut business Voodoo Doughnut has created a unique selling proposition through a diverse and varied menu.

The company’s USP is further strengthened by its vintage pink décor and late-night opening hours.

While two varieties of donut that contained cold and flu medication attracted attention from the Food and Drug Administration, the overall exposure to the Voodoo Doughnut brand was beneficial. 

Unique selling proposition vs. value proposition

A value proposition is about how you create value for customers. While many entrepreneurial theories draw from customers’ problems and pain points, value can also be created via demand generation, which is about enabling people to identify with your brand, thus generating demand for your products and services.

Where the unique selling proposition is primarily customer-facing.

Thus, it serves the purpose of signaling to your customers how your brand differs from all the others.

The value proposition is more internally focused. Where it does translate into the way final customers perceive your product, but as a side effect of how the value proposition is ingrained into your business model.

Indeed, the value proposition informs how the product should be developed, launched, and distributed.

And as a result, how customers should perceive it.

Where the unique selling proposition looks at differentiating the product in the eyes of the customer.

So really putting into a more clear message targeting your audience about what the company stands for.

Key takeaways

  • A unique selling proposition defines what a business stands for in relation to its competitors. The point of differentiation must involve benefits the consumer can identify with.
  • A strong and compelling USP resonates with the target audience by selling benefits and is an accurate representation of how an organization does business.
  • Confident, bold, and assertive unique selling propositions sometimes allow businesses to penetrate extremely competitive markets.

Related Business Concepts

Business Development

Business development comprises a set of strategies and actions to grow a business via a mixture of sales, marketing, and distribution. While marketing usually relies on automation to reach a wider audience, and sales typically leverage a one-to-one approach. The business development’s role is that of generating distribution.

Sales vs. Marketing

The more you move from consumers to enterprise clients, the more you’ll need a sales force able to manage complex sales. As a rule of thumb, a more expensive product, in B2B or Enterprise, will require an organizational structure around sales. An inexpensive product to be offered to consumers will leverage on marketing.

Sales Cycle

A sales cycle is the process that your company takes to sell your services and products. In simple words, it’s a series of steps that your sales reps need to go through with prospects that lead up to a closed sale.


RevOps – short for Revenue Operations – is a framework that aims to maximize the revenue potential of an organization. RevOps seeks to align these departments by giving them access to the same data and tools. With shared information, each then understands their role in the sales funnel and can work collaboratively to increase revenue.

Revenue Modeling

Revenue modeling is a process of incorporating a sustainable financial model for revenue generation within a business model design. Revenue modeling can help to understand what options make more sense in creating a digital business from scratch; alternatively, it can help in analyzing existing digital businesses and reverse engineer them.

Customer Experience Map

Customer experience maps are visual representations of every encounter a customer has with a brand. On a customer experience map, interactions called touchpoints visually denote each interaction that a business has with its consumers. Typically, these include every interaction from the first contact to marketing, branding, sales, and customer support.

AIDA Model

AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. That is a model that is used in marketing to describe the potential journey a customer might go through before purchasing a product or service. The AIDA model helps organizations focus their efforts when optimizing their marketing activities based on the customers’ journeys.

Social Selling

Social selling is a process of developing trust, rapport, and a relationship with a prospect to enhance the sales cycle. It usually happens through tech platforms (like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and more), which enable salespeople to engage with potential prospects before closing the sale, thus becoming more effective.

CHAMP Methodology

The CHAMP methodology is an iteration of the BANT sales process for modern B2B applications. While budget, authority, need, and timing are important aspects of qualifying sales leads, the CHAMP methodology was developed after sales reps questioned the order in which the BANT process is followed.

BANT Sales Process

The BANT process was conceived at IBM in the 1950s as a way to quickly identify prospects most likely to make a purchase. Despite its introduction around 70 years ago, the BANT process remains relevant today and was formally adopted into IBM’s Business Agility Solution Identification Guide.

MEDDIC Sales Process

The MEDDIC sales process was developed in 1996 by Dick Dunkel at software company Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC). The MEDDIC sales process is a framework used by B2B sales teams to foster predictable and efficient growth.

STP Marketing

STP marketing simplifies the market segmentation process and is one of the most commonly used approaches in modern marketing. The core focus of STP marketing is commercial effectiveness. Marketers use the approach to select the most valuable segments from a target audience and develop a product positioning strategy and marketing mix for each.

Sales Funnels vs. Flywheels

The sales funnel is a model used in marketing to represent an ideal, potential journey that potential customers go through before becoming actual customers. As a representation, it is also often an approximation, that helps marketing and sales teams structure their processes at scale, thus building repeatable sales and marketing tactics to convert customers.

Pirate Metrics

Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.


The general concept of Bootstrapping connects to “a self-starting process that is supposed to proceed without external input.” In business, Bootstrapping means financing the growth of the company from the available cash flows produced by a viable business model. Bootstrapping requires the mastery of the key customers driving growth.

Virtuous Cycles

The virtuous cycle is a positive loop or a set of positive loops that trigger a non-linear growth. Indeed, in the context of digital platforms, virtuous cycles – also defined as flywheel models – help companies capture more market shares by accelerating growth. The classic example is Amazon’s lower prices driving more consumers, driving more sellers, thus improving variety and convenience, thus accelerating growth.

Sales Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Enterprise Sales

Enterprise sales describes the procurement of large contracts that tend to be characterized by multiple decision-makers, complicated implementation, higher risk levels, or longer sales cycles.

Outside Sales

Outside sales occur when a salesperson meets with prospects or customers in the field. This sort of sales function is critical to acquire larger accounts, like enterprise customers, for which the acquisition process is usually longer, more complex and it requires the understanding of the target organization. Thus the outside sales will cut through the noise to acquire a large enterprise account for the organization.


A freeterprise is a combination of free and enterprise where free professional accounts are driven into the funnel through the free product. As the opportunity is identified the company assigns the free account to a salesperson within the organization (inside sales or fields sales) to convert that into a B2B/enterprise account.

Sales Distribution Framework

Zero to One is a book by Peter Thiel. But it also represents a business mindset, more typical of tech, where building something wholly new is the default mode, rather than building something incrementally better. The core premise of Zero to One then is that it’s much more valuable to create a whole new market/product rather than starting from existing markets.

Palantir Acquire, Expand, Scale Framework

Palantir is a software company offering intelligence services from governments and institutions to large commercial organizations. The company’s two main platforms Gotham and Foundry, are integrated at enterprise-level. Its business model follows three phases: Acquire, Expand, and Scale. The company bears the pilot costs in the acquire and expand phases, and it runs at a loss. Where in the scale phase, the customers’ contribution margins become positive.

Consultative Selling

Consultative selling is a sales approach favoring relationship building and open dialogue to adequately meet the needs of a prospective customer. By building trust quickly a consultative selling approach can help the customer better meet her/his expectations and the salesperson hit her/his targets more effectively.

Unique Selling Proposition

A unique selling proposition (USP) enables a business to differentiate itself from its competitors. Importantly, a USP enables a business to stand for something that they, in turn, become known among consumers. A strong and recognizable USP is crucial to operating successfully in competitive markets.

Read: product development frameworks here.

Read Next: SWOT AnalysisPersonal SWOT AnalysisTOWS MatrixPESTEL AnalysisPorter’s Five ForcesTOWS MatrixSOAR Analysis.

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