When marketing teachers talk about your "Unique Selling Proposition" or "USP", they nearly always assume that you have one, but just haven't figured it out yet.

But what if you don't have one? What if you really are just another "me too" marketer? Should you just give up and go back to your day job, or is there a way for you to succeed?

Before we attack that question, let's review what a USP is. In a recent article about headline writing, Clayton Makepeace wrote:

According to Rosser Reeves, the "father" of the USP, a Unique Selling Proposition must meet three criteria:

  1. It must contain a proposition (a benefit that people are willing to pay for) ...
  2. The benefit must be unique (not the same thing a competitor says about his/her product), and ...
  3. It must sell (be powerful enough to move the masses).

Oh yeah "“ I see tons of heads that shout a benefit, and in most cases those benefits are something prospects are willing to pay for. But heads that differentiate the product by presenting a truly unique benefit are as rare as hen's teeth.

And by "unique benefit," I mean a benefit that prospects are willing to pay for "“ and that your competitors can't (or don't) promise.

So how do come up with a USP? Let me offer some suggestions:

Pick an Unadvertised Benefit

One possibility is suggested by two words in the last sentence I quoted from Clayton: "(or don't)". Even if you don't have anything to offer that no one else can offer, if you can find a benefit that people are willing to pay for that no one else is offering, you can build a USP around it.

It may be that your competitors are ignoring a benefit because it's not the most powerful selling point. That doesn't mean it can't sell. On the day when a customer is looking for that specific benefit, it will be the most powerful selling point, and you can be the only one telling them about it.

It may be a benefit that's not important to the product's primary target market. Since it doesn't speak to the largest group of customers, other sellers ignore it. But if there's a smaller target market for whom it's critical, you can own that group of customers.

Create a Benefit

Just because you don't have a unique benefit now, that doesn't mean you can't create one.

If you're promoting a product as an affiliate, create a bonus that's closely related to the product, and offer it to anyone who buys through your affiliate link. (For ClickBank products, you can save yourself the trouble of verifying purchases and delivering bonus products using Instant Affiliate Accelerator's Affiliate Bonus Delivery System.)

How do you create a bonus product?

  • For an eBook, you might take notes while reading, add your own insights and experiences, type them up, and save them as a PDF eBook. Or you could record yourself reading them and save them as MP3s.
  • For a software product, you could type up a set of tips or tutorials, or make screencast recordings demonstrating how to use it.
  • If you can think of a companion product that would go well with the product you're promoting, but don't know how to create it yourself, you could hire someone inexpensively on a site like VWorker.com to do it for you.

However you create your bonus, remember that it's not only useful as a bonus. You can also sell it as a standalone product.

Be the Benefit

If you are unique, find a way to make that a benefit of buying from you. For example, you could have an exclusive forum or mailing list for your customers where they can hear from and/or interact with you.

Ask Someone Else

If you don't think you don't have a USP -- if you've tried and tried to find one, but have come up dry -- maybe you just need to ask someone else.

Why? Because you're too close to yourself and your product. "The Curse of Knowledge" is preventing you from recognizing what's uniquely interesting about what you have to offer.

Have you ever heard the story of how John Carlton came up with the hook for his famous "one legged golfer" ad? Check out this video where he tells the story.

The guy he was writing the ad for had this amazing USP -- a secret that even a one-legged golfer could use to hit long, straight drives -- but he didn't realize it, because he couldn't see it the way a customer sees it.

Of course, just asking someone "what's my USP?" isn't always going to get the job done.

You'll need to ask someone who's insightful enough to see it. And you may need to spend some time talking to them about the product, how you got the idea for it or created it (if it's yours), how you or someone else has used and benefited from it, etc.

If you don't already have a clearly defined USP that's working to make sales, now may be a good time to take some of the time and energy you're spending trying to sell without a USP, and use it to develop one.

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