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If you are struggling with marketing your business, it could be because you aren’t giving potential customers a good enough reason to do business with you, instead of with the competition.

Because competition is fierce, the only way to increase your share of the available business is by offering customers a benefit that no one else is providing. You need a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP.

Your USP is a sentence or phrase that explains what makes you special. It differentiates you from your competitors and enables you to grow your business more quickly than the industry is expanding.

Without a USP, you are a "me too" operator. Even if you do have a compelling point of difference, your potential customers won’t know about it. Your marketing won’t work and the business will inevitably stagnate. That you must have a USP if you want your business to succeed goes almost without saying, but, amazingly, 90% of businesses don’t have one.

The easiest way to understand what a USP is and what it can do for your business is to look at an example of a really good one. Domino’s Pizza in the US used a Unique Selling Proposition to become the market leader in a fiercely competitive business.

Domino’s incorporated key benefits into a compelling and punchy USP. It is:

"Fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed"

The focus is on convenience, freshness and quick delivery – all important benefits to people living rushed lives. Notice that the USP says nothing about Domino’s and focuses only on benefits that the customer gets.

Domino’s has included their USP in all the marketing and public relations they do. As a result, there is a strong awareness in the market of what you can expect if you go to Domino’s Pizza. Their USP has enabled Domino’s to carve out and take ownership of a piece of the market – people who want quick delivery of fresh, hot pizza.

The USP answers the question of why people should buy Pizza from Domino’s. The answer is, of course, call them if you want fresh, hot pizza delivered to you within 30 minutes. Note that the USP is very specific. It doesn’t say "it will be there soon" or "it will be delicious". It simply says that you will get fresh, hot pizza delivered to you within 30minutes, guaranteed!

The USP is like a promise to your existing and potential customers. You can imitate Domino’s and make a compelling promise to your customers. First, you have figure out a USP that will appeal to your target market. Then, you need to announce it in a way that attracts attention. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you must make sure that your USP is delivered on.

Now you know what a USP is. The trick is to develop a USP that will attract your target market and that your business can deliver on. Next month, we cover how to go about developing a Unique Selling Proposition that will give your business a competitive advantage.

This Marketing article was written by Mark Munday on 2/11/2005

Ryan P. Allis, 20, is the author of Zero to One Million, a guide to building a company to $1 million in sales, and the founder of Ryan is also the CEO of Broadwick Corp., a provider of the permission-based email marketing software and CEO of Virante, Inc., a web marketing and search engine optimization firm. Ryan is an economics major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is a Blanchard Scholar. [learn more.