On our previous post we talked about the five elements of a highly converting landing page and actually promised we'd expand on each item on the list. So here we are. Fulfilling our promise.

Let's start then with the all-important, business-defining, potentially game-changing, Unique Selling Proposition or USP (also called Unique Selling Point or Unique Value Proposition). This is a well known concept in Marketing and, again, on our previous post we defined it as:

"...what you have to offer that others don't. It's all about what your product or offer is, what its benefits are, and how these benefits positively affect your customers."

The key lies on the first sentence above: "what you have to offer that others don't"—that's differentiation for you. This is the key, core idea behind the USP concept, what makes you different and/or unique to the rest.

Just for the sake of completeness, let's pitch in another, way more formal, definition of the Unique Selling Proposition, as found at Entrepreneur:

"The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition."

You might have already realized that the USP has profound implications for your business: it pretty much defines why the buyers should give you their hard-earned cash in exchange for your offer.

This is not to be taken lightly.

You want your business to stand out and, therefore, you need to put some real thought into it and come up with a unique selling proposition that will help your business reach its goals.

Moreover, you need to know how to seamlessly and effectively integrate that much thought-out USP into your landing page.

And one other thing before we proceed: there are truckloads of sites out there giving you tips and directions on how to create unique selling propositions in lots of steps. Here we will streamline the process and give it to you in just three main concepts.

How to create your USP in a nutshell:

A Unique Proposition for Unique Customers

The first step toward differentiating your product is getting to know who your customers are: define a target audience that would be interested in your product in the first place. There's no use in coming up with a radical new business idea if in the end there's no one to sell it to (like trying to sell ice buckets in the North Pole).

A completely new, 100% original business idea is the ideal starting place for a highly appealing unique selling proposition—it pretty much defines the USP all by itself—but what happens when your business is already competing in a crowded market with other similar offerings? Well, that's where you give it its unparalleled edge with a carefully devised USP.

Say you're in the market for fried chicken—not precisely a breakthrough idea, is it? So, how do you make it stand out? Think of a new audience, experiment with flavors, settings, and presentations that could be appealing to certain kind of people. Chicken for hipsters? Why not? It's just one of a possible million combinations of ideas.

The folks at Fizzle put it nicely when they tell you to narrow your target audience:

"[...] become a web designer for plumbers, or a plumber for recreational vehicles, or write about online marketing for dentists."

And there you have it once again: differentiation. Be unique and make sure everyone knows it.

A Unique Proposition for Unique Desires & Problems

Once you've got your ideal customers pinpointed you should apply a little bit of psychology (although the concepts behind that are way beyond the scope of this article). However, there are many tools available for the purpose of getting to know what your customers want, from the more traditional surveys (both offline and online) to devising customer personas, to all manners of highly-specialized consumer analysis tools.

Those kind of tools can help you out in determining desires and motivations, but bear in mind that there might also be problems or "pain points" behind your customers' needs, that is, all kind of issues they want to solve and might be already looking for a solution. When you grab a complete understanding of your customers you can determine what their problems are and offer solutions or reliefs for their pain points.

Over at Wordstream they use this great example:

"Take the cosmetics industry, for example. Companies in this space don’t just sell make-up – they sell lifestyle ideals; glamour, confidence, and style. Think about this in a problem-solving context; people who may not feel glamorous, confident or stylish will if they use a particular product."

As you can see, you can approach your prospective customers from many different angles and whatever tool you choose for determining your customers motivations, learning what they desire and/or want to solve is a rather important step toward offering the right product or service.

Don't Forget Your Key Benefits

You've already paid attention to your customers. You got them defined, know what they want, know the problems they want to solve, etc. Now, it's time to let them know what you got in store: the benefits of your product.

As part of your unique selling proposition you have to make sure you're not only offering something that's unique per se, but that it also has specific end-benefits and features.

The focus here must always be on the benefits: these are user-centered, whereas features are always product-centered. When people want a solution for a problem, they're often primarily interested in what the product or service can do for them, not as much in how it does it. Features can be left for product descriptions or technical data sheets.

When you're creating your USP, be as specific as possible about what your product or service has to offer. Take a look at PayPal's landing page for online payments:

What's their unique selling proposition here? An easy and safe way to shop online, with just an email and password, no card numbers of personal info needed. They give that information right there on the lead paragraph, just below the simple and catchy headline, "Check you out."

Below that they add three numbered bullet points clearly, and very simply, stating the benefits once again:

1) secure shopping,
2) simple login, and
3) fast checkout.

Nailed it.

How Your USP Fits On Your Landing Page

So, you defined your perfect customers, identified what they want and need, and clearly stated your benefits for them all. Beautiful. What next?

Get it all working on your landing page!

First off, it is a well-known best practice to place your unique selling proposition above the fold, that magical area of your landing page that can be seen without scrolling at all. The first thing you see when you land there.

See the screenshot above from PayPal again. That's what you see above the fold. There's more info below the numbered list of benefits, that is, below the fold, but the most important pieces of information can't be missed where they are: the USP and its benefits, the visually-pleasing hero shot, and the call-to-action. Once again, this is a perfect example of a well-crafted unique selling proposition on a website.

Over at Unbounce, they precisely describe the features of an outstanding USP in the following list:

"1. Have a short but powerful headline that helps summarize a key aspect of your UVP (in less than 10 words).
2. Have a supporting sub-headline or short paragraph to help explain or clarify your UVP.
3. Have a short bulleted list of the benefits/advantages of using your product/service, with supporting visual imagery (for example, icons, badges, or a hero shot).
4. Show all of the elements above the page fold (the area that visitors can see initially without having to scroll)."

Another important consideration when it comes to USP's and landing pages is to keep things sweet and short. Avoid long paragraphs loaded with technical jargon at all costs (unless, of course, your product and target audience are high-tech, but even then, don't go over the top, keep it simple). And always focus on the customer, avoid centering your message on you and/or your company (avoid using "I" or "we" on the text).

Let's take a look at another example from one of our favorite apps, Evernote:

Here you can see another perfectly simple USP: "For everything you'll do, Evernote is the workspace to get it done."

See how they connect the name of the app—Evernote—with the possibility of using it for everything. The hero shot consists of a girl surrounded by images denoting she's into business administration stuff: planning, banks, budgeting, metrics. They're targeting a productive professional. And although it can't be seen on the screenshot, the hero shot on the page actually changes dynamically, portraying different types of people, with different possible uses for the app as a workspace for collecting and acting on information.

In A Unique Nutshell

To summarize what we've learned so far, in order to craft a conversion-driven Unique Selling Proposition you need to know:

  • who your ideal customers are,
  • what they want, and
  • what their problems are.

That way you'll be able to differentiate your offer and make it stand out among the crowd by catering to those needs or helping solve those problems.

Also, explain your key benefits and features, in a concise way, but always focusing more on the benefits (customer-centered) than on the features (product-centered).

When it comes to the actual USP on the landing page, remember to place your USP above the fold, using a simple, customer-centered language devoid of jargon, corporate-drivel and complicated language in general. Take care of the USP layout: short, summarizing and compelling headline, followed by a short paragraph or sub-headline for more details and a short bullet list of key benefits, plus the hero shot and CTA—all above the fold.

Hopefully this information will prove valuable for you and your landing page creation process, so keep tuned in for more. In our next post on this series, we will be talking about the Hero Shot. In the meantime, feel free to add you thoughts, questions and/or experiences with the USP in the comments!