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Unique Selling Points are......POINTLESS!

By TIM COE Published 3rd Sep 2013
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What’s a USP? A ‘unique selling point’ or ‘unique selling proposal’ they’ll all tell you. But why is it so self centred on the seller? Surely the whole point is to woo a buyer?

Let’s take the word ‘selling’ to begin with. I don’t like that word, do you? What does it make you feel when you hear or say it? Knots in stomach? Not good feelings that’s for sure. Having to cold call someone or having a car salesman pressure you into a test drive are not the experiences we take pleasure from.  

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing the selling or being sold, it’s not a pleasant experience for most people whichever side of the fence you’re on. You have to smile though … two people locked in negotiation over a purchase, both wishing it was over.  

So I was thinking an update on the old USP acronym was long overdue. I have redefined it to suit my own purposes and to make it something I feel captures the essence of business today:


This now places the prospect and customer at the centre of the offer, where they should be. We are not starting with an idea of selling. The spotlight is quite rightly trained on the buyer and what is important to them.


You can’t do better than this and it is all there, total, complete and absolute. When it is this good it is not just ‘unique’, but it is the best and unsurpassable. ‘Unique’ doesn’t necessarily mean it is good quality. I can cover my product in pink spots. Now it is ‘unique’ but is it any better than before? ‘Utterly’ is describing a ‘proposal’ in this instance, so let’s make this proposal all-encompassing, all-inclusive, highly compelling and altogether irresistible.


Also meaning enticing, alluring and mouth-watering if you get it right. That’s the way you should aim to market your business yes? You want to give yourself the highest possible chance of making higher value and more frequent sales so you owe it to yourself, your company, but most of all your customers, to grab your market’s attention and make the competition look outdated, mean and overpriced.

If you are honest from a buying perspective, being ‘seduced’ is how you’d like to buy surely? You like to buy from someone who has thought the whole thing through and made an appealing offer. That’s professional and makes for a silky and effortless buying experience. It’s smooth and natural when it simply just feels the right thing to do to make that purchase. No uncomfortable moments or thorny life changing decisions to make. We all like to buy but hate to be sold. So seduce your buyer.


This word could have been ‘pitch’ but I find that word even more vulgar than selling. Who on God’s Earth wants to be ‘pitched’? It’s not even a pretty word. Dragons’ Den talk about candidates’ pitches, but I see no tents being erected in the Den!

So, ‘proposal’ instead of either ‘proposition’ or ‘point’. The word ‘point’ is not even worthy of a discussion here. In the context of USP it is, quite frankly, POINTLESS!  And the word ‘proposition’…this conjures up images of a difficult decision, pressure and anxiety. It sounds like you’ll be asked a question and with a deadline for your answer.

‘Proposal’ on the other hand is warmer. A proposal is the offer of marriage [I’m assuming this marriage is a beautiful thing and full of the joys of spring of course!]. A proposal sounds like the person receiving it has control and time to consider the choice that they now have.    

I believe the aim for any business should be to create for their customers, not for themselves, the very best UTTERLY SEDUCTIVE PROPOSAL possible. As Brian Tracy once said [I can hear his voice so I think it was him], “The only reason whatsoever to be in business is to service your customers”. So, with that in mind, make your USP fit the buyer and what they’d want. Start looking at your product or service through their eyes and not from your office or shop floor as that’s completely irrelevant to the prospect.

Let’s get rid of Unique Selling Points and start filling the world with UTTERLY SEDUCTIVE PROPOSALS… what do you say?


Unique Views: 2700 | Total Page Views: 3204
280 weeks ago, by James
'Unique' is completely overused in marketing and, for small business, it can be dangerous territory. If no-one has done something before it may be because it's a really bad idea.

I think 'utterly' is fine. All the boxes are ticked and I'm left in no doubt that I've made the right decision. No 'post purchase dissonance' risk.

'Seductive' isn't my cup of tea at all. It makes me think of some unctuous sales type creeping up and trying to get one over. But then I think 'passion' is overused too. It all makes me think of Swiss Tony; 'Selling a car is very much like making love to a beautiful woman'.

I think the point of 'point' is that it's a specific thing. It's clear. However, I do like your idea about putting the decision into the hands of the buyer. If I feel as though I'm being sold to I will walk away unless I have literally no alternative.

Your key message is an important subject and anything that makes you consider it is useful.
280 weeks ago, by Tim
Thanks for the feedback. I have not seen much of Swiss Tony so have no problem with that image in my head.

I suppose I should be asking people about their TV viewing habits BEFORE deciding which USP to hit them with.

[I thought you'd pick up the typos before publishing it, obviously not.]
280 weeks ago, by John
I think you've got something there Tim, you could use that as a theme for a book, spin it out for 150 pages or so, and call yourself a guru...
280 weeks ago, by Tim
Funny you say that John, that's exactly what I am currently doing! It's reassuring to hear you say that. Thank you.
280 weeks ago, by Mitch
Good idea, Tim.

I think we should also encourage the prospect to, instead of saying they'll buy, bend over and shout "Do me!"

Or am I taking this a bit too far?
280 weeks ago, by Tim
Not at all Mitch. If they were to make this extra stage/bonus available it would be clear evidence you'd done a superb job on the seduction process.

Maybe you have now proposed the idea of a brand new standard we should all be aiming for? You have raised the bar.
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