Marketing Strategy: What Makes You Special?


What makes you different to everyone else? Seek internal agreement on your unique selling proposition and ensure that it’s at the core of everything you do. The average b2b company perceives its USP strength to be mediocre, with an overall rating of just 6.2 out of 10.

Developing a Unique Selling Proposition

Developing a unique selling proposition

We need to be very clear about what we are selling. This is to state the obvious but it is amazing how often a company’s products and services look grey – they are indistinguishable from those of the competition. We need a customer value proposition. What a terrible phrase that is! We are referring specifically to our offer, whatever that may be. The term “customer value proposition” or CVP is now in widespread use and so we must use it.

Clunky though it may be, there is some sense behind the term. Customers buy value. They acquire products and services for a price against which they judge there to be a number of benefits. This, in their eyes, represents value. Some products are highly valued and people will pay a lot for them. It goes without saying that products which are seen to have little value will not sell or at least they will only sell at a very low price.

Building a customer value proposition is important within any marketing strategy. Working out what people value about the products and services that you are selling has to be one of the earliest considerations in a marketing plan.

The following framework could be helpful in developing the CVP:

Headline Answer these questions
Target audience Who is the customer?
Value What can we offer the customer that they value?
Superior What can we offer that is better than the competition?
Profit How will we make money out of this?
Banner headline What would we say to a customer if confronted by the elevator test?

At this stage we may ask the question, “how is a customer value proposition different to a unique selling proposition (USP)?” The answer is “not a lot”.

The term USP, or unique selling proposition, has been in use for longer and, as the phrase suggests, the focus is on the word “unique”.

In developing customer value propositions, most people make the mistake of overloading their offer, with the result that customers becomes confused. The fewer benefits in the CVP, the better, but they must pass the 3D test.

  • They must be desirable for otherwise the product or service will not be in demand. The more desirable, the better.
  • They must be different to benefits offered by other companies for if they are not, the offer will look very “samey”.
  • They must be defensible in the sense you can prove, with good evidence, that your claims can be substantiated.

Desirable, different and defensible. If you can build a customer value proposition that passes this 3D test, you will have an offer that is very distinctive indeed – a unique selling proposition.

To learn more about this topic, please visit the following publications:

The Power Of Industrial Brands, chapter 6, Stripping Back To The Core Values

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