William Yates
William Yates 1 March 2016

USP And Differentiation In Online B2B Marketing

The unique selling proposition (USP) or unique selling point is a marketing concept first put forward as a hypothesis to describe a blueprint for successful advertising campaigns in the 1940s.

The theory asserts that USP advertising campaigns should promote unique propositions to a target audience, persuading them to buy a specific product or service because of its unique nature. The term was coined by top TV advertising whiz Rosser Reeves, then of agency Ted Bates.

Specifically targeted B2B benefits

To be successful, USP marketing communications must be constructed on one guiding principle: single or multiple highly specific and unique B2B customer benefits must be clearly perceived as competitively exclusive, exceptional and therefore inimitable in the eyes of your target marketplace.

Driving this assertion is the premise that your product or service is completely different from competitive products, and of significantly greater benefit to your prospects and customers than anything else available in the marketplace today.

Added value in business marketing communications


And this means moving away from the marketing communications comfort zone of bland marketing corporate-speak into a world where content actually tells the true story of differentiation, placing your products or service ahead of other highly competitive offerings.

But there are two issues to be addressed with this tactic. The first relates to moving to the use of powerful USPs and making clear and unequivocal marketing claims about your products that must be robust and precise enough to be legally proven if ever challenged.

This first issue will take time and careful research before you can make a unique claim or claims, but in terms of your market positioning potential, it is well worth the investment, as your product or services will become unassailable.

Marketing segmentation

But even unassailable, USP-focused communications can produce sub-optimal, scatter-gun performance unless precisely targeted and actually resonant specifically with target market needs, which of course vary widely, even for an identical product in different markets.

And it is this second issue – if correctly taken care of – that will deliver the required motive power to drive your USP-focussed campaigns, and that issue is segmentation.

Segmenting your target audience by known metrics and buying personas, and delivering the USP that means most to targeted personas will turbo-charge your regional campaigns.


Deceptively straightforward and not necessarily simple

Here’s a geographical example: imagine you’re a market-leading domestic freezer distributor rolling out new, tiny, back-pack versions of your kitchen freezer range and designed to deliver the same luxurious -18°C, freezing performance as your popular kitchen-based units, but for people ‘on the go.’

Surely that’s going to be easy isn’t it? After all, you’re the market leader in kitchen freezers, and your USP just needs to hit the regions with a simple ‘our leading freezer technology, but now for people who need cold stuff on the go’, right? Well, no.

5256df5dea82e_1_500x333.jpgBlowing hot and cold

So now imagine that through local marketing success with one-dimensional local USPs, you decide to develop your international markets, and your next target audience is around

Aziziya, Libya, where temperatures can reach +58°C so a new USP like ‘ultra-cool mint tea while on the fly’ would be very welcome, I’m sure.

But I’m not sure that would go down so well in your next market, as you head north to Oymyakon, Russia. Here temperatures are often around -71.2°C, and the locals would probably want something completely different from your innovative back-pack freezer for their Russki Chai – literally meaning Russian tea, and their slang for vodka.

And to be successful here you’ll have had to adapt your USP to resonate with local market needs under such extreme low temperature conditions. You’d probably sell quite a few – at a sizzling -18°C operating temperature – if your USP was changed to ‘lovely, warming Russki chai while you’re on the fly.’

Don’t make USP mean Undersold Selling Proposition

As can be seen, USPs are not simple, one-size-fits-all marketing communications, and as is made obvious, what works in one market may be a complete turn-off in another. And this fundamental may not be confined to regional differences as I have demonstrated here.

There are two sides to this marketing coin: a USP is only as good as the resonance with your target audience it creates, and if it isn’t relevant, doesn’t resonate and there’s no in-market aspiration, it can be as unique as chicken’s teeth, and won’t fly, either.

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