Marketing Strategy, USP

What’s a USP, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?

USP for small businesses

With marketing being such an integral part of running a small business, you’ve probably heard people talking about their USP – or unique selling proposition.

Defining who you are and who you want to do business with is the first step to attracting your ideal client. And having a solid USP will help you with that – and more. So let’s have a look what this is all about!

What is a USP?

Lidl logo Waitrose logoA unique selling proposition (or unique selling point as it is also called) is something to set you apart from your competition. And it can be anything: You can be the green local taxi company with lots of hybrid cars and other environmentally friendly services. Or you can be the gym for women only, creating a haven for sporty ladies without the iron pumping gents around.

If you are the only one in your target area to offer that, excellent! You are one lucky chap and you probably know it. But your USP doesn’t need to be truly unique, you just have to be the only one shouting about it.

A USP also creates and defines your niche or your audience. Look for example at British supermarket chains. They basically sell food. All of them. But when you have a closer look, Waitrose doesn’t quite compare to Lidl, right? That is because every single one of them has claimed a niche for themselves, along with a suitable USP.

Waitrose is the up-market, high-quality version of a supermarket for people with higher income and foodie genes. They don’t have the Royal Warrant for no reason and their slogan ‘Out of the Ordinary’ fits the bill perfectly.

Lidl, on the other hand, has chosen the opposite end of the price scale and claims to be the place ‘Where Quality Costs Less’.

So your unique selling proposition is all about your positioning in the marketplace, defining how you do business and with whom.

Why do I need a USP?

Woman holds a photo cameraImagine you are at a networking event. You have been to several similar events and you have met your share of, let’s say, photographers there. Their respective ‘elevator pitches’ have been fairly straightforward: I take photos, I do weddings or headshots for your website, whatever you need. Fair enough. But what if one of the photographers said: I specialise in food photography?

He or she might not get the job for your niece’s 10th birthday party. But he is memorable, more so than the other non-descript photographers. And he just established himself as an expert in his area instead of doing a little bit of everything. So when you next talk to a restaurant or cafe owner who needs a new website with lots of photos of their fantastic food, who do you think of?

By defining your niche you position your small business among your competitors. It makes it easier for people to remember who you are and helps you target exactly the right people for your small business.

It also gives you an expert status because your clients feel in good hands. They are not just hiring anyone, they are hiring a specialist!

Check out these 8 great examples of USPs for your small business.

How do I define my USP?

Infographic: Define Your Small Business USP in 5 Steps1. Check out the competition

First of all, have a look at your competition:

  • How are they representing themselves on- and offline?
  • Do they communicate a slogan or a specific USP in their marketing material?
  • Who are they targeting?
  • What do they offer and at what price?

This way you know what choice your potential customer is confronted with when looking for the service you and your competition offer. And shows gaps in the market you can use to set yourself apart. Sometimes simply having a USP – no matter what kind – can set you favourably apart from other businesses.

2. Define your target groups

Then have a look at your target groups:

  • Who do you want to do business with?
  • Who will benefit from your service or product?
  • What do they need and want?
  • How do they use your product or service?

At this point, it is very important that you don’t describe who you can do business with but who you want to do business with. Of course, if you just started your small business you want to get as many clients as possible without being particularly picky. But defining your ideal client will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

3. Analyse your products and services

Now have a closer look at what you are offering:

  • Are you cheaper or more expensive than your competitors?
  • Is there anything you offer that they don’t?
  • Or the other way around?
  • How do you deliver your service or product?

Additionally, make a list of your product features and benefits. The features describe what your product or service does (for example your alarm clocks wake your customers up at a time of their choice), the benefit is what they get from it (in this case being woken up reliably, on time and never be late to work).

4. Describe your values

Finally, have a think about your values and strengths:

  • What is important to you?
  • How do you want to be perceived in the market?
  • What do you want to stand for?
  • Have you e.g. always been a promoter for a healthy lifestyle or saving the environment?

Then make sure your marketing, products and services reflect that – using your small business’s USP. For example, if you are a plumber and you have never been late in your whole life, for what it is worth, shout about it. People will love you for it.

5. Pick your USP

Now have a look at all the information you have gathered:

  • Is there anything that stands out?
  • Anything that is so particularly you that nobody else offers it to their clients?
  • Something that your competition doesn’t seem to have covered yet?

Always keep in mind: Your USP is as much about setting yourself apart from your competitors as it is about representing you and how you do business. And: The best USP is worth nothing if you don’t deliver on your promise.


If you are interested in reading more about this topic, have a look at these:
8 Great Examples of USPs for Your Small Business
What’s a Marketing Strategy, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
Small Business Brand: What Is It, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
The 5-Step Guide to Find a USP for Your Small Business [Infographic]