usps – unique selling points
USPs (unique selling points/propositions)
The strongest benefit for a given target sector is often represented by the term USP, meaning unique selling point or proposition (for many companies no real uniqueness exists in their USPs, so the term is often used rather loosely where the word ‘strongest’ would be more apt). Real or perceived uniqueness is obviously very important because it generally causes a prospect to buy from one sales person or supplier as opposed to another. If there were umpteen WebTVs on the market, the ones that would sell the best would be those which had the strongest unique selling points.
Price is not a USP; sure, some people only buy the cheapest, but most do not; most will pay a little or a lot extra to get what they want. As with the example of the WebTV, an advantage that produces a money-saving benefit is different to straight-forward price discounting. A low price is not a benefit in this context, and any product that is marketed purely with a low-price USP will always be vulnerable to competition which offers proper user-related benefits, most of which may come in the form of a higher value, higher price package.
What makes it difficult to succeed all the time with a fixed USP or series of USPs is that one man’s USP is another man’s dead donkey – USPs by their nature fail to take account of a prospect’s particular circumstances and detailed needs. The name itself – unique selling point – says it all. Purchasers of all sorts are more interested in buying, not being sold to.
Each type of prospect has different reasons for buying. Market sectors or prospect types with smaller houses and fewer rooms are more likely to respond to the space-saving benefit of the WebTV as the product’s main USP. Market sectors or prospect types with big houses and lots of big rooms are more likely to regard the time-saving benefit as the key USP instead. A sector which comprises people who are not technically competent or advanced, may well respond best to a USP that the supplier could fail to even mention, ie., installation, training and a free technical support hotline. Where does that leave the sales person if his marketing department hasn’t included that one on the list?..
UPBs (unique perceived benefits)
This leads us to the UPB, meaning unique perceived benefit – a modern selling concept naturally evolved from FABs and USPs.
The UPB acronym and concept was originated by The Marketing Guild, and it is proper to mention this when using the term in training.
A UPB is essentially a customer-orientated product offer.
The problem with USPs and FABs is that they are largely formulated from the seller’s perspective; they stem from product features after all. So if instead of looking at the product from the seller’s viewpoint, we look at the need, from the customer’s viewpoint, we can build up a UPB-based product offer that fits the prospect’s situation and motives much better than any list of arbitrary FABs and USPs.
First it comes down to knowing the target market segment, or the targeted prospect type, extremely well. This implies that we should first decide which sectors or segments to target, and it also shows why the planning and preparation stage in the selling process is far more significant and influential than it ever used to be.
Each targeted segment or prospect type has its own particular needs and constraints, and these combine to create the prospect’s or target sector’s very specific buying motive. So if we can identify and then formulate a unique perceived benefit to meet or match a known or researched sector’s specific buying motive, we can create a very well-fitting and easily recognisable product offer indeed.
For instance, a likely attractive target sector for the WebTV could be families with limited space and little technical confidence. With children at school learning how to use computers, their parents (the decision-makers) would likely be interested in improving their children’s access to internet services at home, given no requirement for extra space, and in a way that didn’t put pressure on their limited technical know-how at the time of installation and for ongoing support. If the package enabled the parents to upgrade their TV as well for not much more than the cost of a conventional TV, then we’re certainly likely to get their attention and interest, and we’re a short step away from creating some real desire. The UPB for this particular prospect type might look something like:
“You can now give your children important educational access to the Internet at home, if you know nothing about computers, and don’t even have room for one.”
The product offer above is described so that the prospect type in question identifies with it, and can immediately match it to his own situation. The WebTVs relevant benefits – ie., you save space and you don’t need to spend time understanding the technicalities – have been translated to match exactly why we believe that the prospect might be motivated to consider buying it. The ‘important educational’ reference is an example of developing the UPB further, ie., that your children’s education will be improved. The trade-off is that more words reduces impact and attention; only by using the UPB in various forms can we see what works best.
It’s now clear to see the difference now between a basic technical feature (‘a TV with internet connectivity and remote qwerty keypad) and an unique perceived benefit (your children will be better educated). The feature does nothing to attract the buyer; the UPB does a lot.
There’s another important reason to use tailored perceived benefits, rather than focus on FABs and unique selling points: it’s easy for prospects to compare and put a price on what a product is (FABs and even USPs), but it’s very difficult to value a real UPB. This means that sales people who sell UPBs are far less prone to competitor threat.
Developing strong meaningful unique perceived benefits is not easy – it requires good insight and understanding of the prospect or sector to be approached, and a lot of thought, trial and error to arrive at something that works well.
Remember that it is important to adapt the product offer (UPB, sales proposition or however you define it) according to its use in the selling process. For example:
- When cold calling, the proposition is generally broad, concise, and more strategic in nature, and amounts to no more than a long sentence.
- In sales brochures and enquiry follow-up letters the product offer or proposition is more detailed, perhaps running to a few sentences or bullet points.
- In formal proposals and detailed presentations the proposition can often extend to several paragraphs.