A Guide to SaaS USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

You’re digging, searching the trenches looking for some specifics on how to generate more activity for your SaaS:

  • increased high-quality traffic,
  • better more productive leads,
  • killer landing page metrics… all that jazz! 

When times are tough and you’re facing another proverbial Mt. Kilimanjaro, getting back to basics does a couple of really important things for your ‘place of mind’ (far different from peace of mind, which is something you don’t want when growing a new SaaS brand):

  • Helps you further cement and solidify your understanding of your business and its place within this crazy mixed-up world of ours.
  • Basics and fundamentals improve your psychology which leads to more of the things we all yearn for – inspired ideas, confident moves, and fulfilling attitudes.
unique selling point

The basics we’re covering today are all about the USP – Unique Selling Proposition – and the USP is very heady.

It’s pure psychology when you…think…about it. 

As a concept, the USP has been around as long as modern marketing, but you could easily argue the core mechanism of the USP is much…much…much older.  We just tend to use it in purely commercial senses of the word these days, not in terms of selling say a religion or perhaps a form of government. 

So, let’s look at what it is today, as we sink our nails into the 2020s. 

What Is Modern USP?

First, let’s get to brass tacks about what it’s NOT. 

Your USP is not your marketing offers. These can come and go, change, and evolve by the day. They aren’t concrete, but fluid marketing advertisements. Telling someone you’ll ship their order for free isn’t unique – neither is anything else all your competitors are saying. 

Marketing offers aren’t selling points, they’re points of selling. 

Nothing that you essentially use to try and sweeten the deal can be considered a USP. 

To begin approaching what a USP is, let’s start from ground zero.

A unique selling proposition refers to the unique benefit exhibited by a company, service, product or brand that enables it to stand out from competitors. The unique selling proposition must be a feature that highlights product benefits that are meaningful to consumers.

Wikipedia

From there, we need to put it into context with two other marketing basics that also fall under the umbrella of, 

Things we want to properly and effectively communicate to our market.” 

1- The Positioning Statement

This has more to do with your product or service’s marketing, both now and in the future, than the product itself. How you will position it within the overall market in relation to competition, demand, etc. Most of the time the only folks really looking at positioning statements are insiders, not customers or users. 

A good positioning statement is a guidepost for your marketing efforts. It helps you maintain focus on your brand and its value proposition while you work on market strategy and tactics.

2- The Value Proposition

This is the marketing term most often confused with a USP, but generally speaking, Value Props are going to be longer, more in depth, and deliver far more information in one sitting.

Another way to look at it is, a USP is going to typically be ‘above the fold’ on your core SaaS website’s homepage, while the value proposition copy will be either further down (taking up most of the rest of the home page), or have a page all of its own to really show the value of your SaaS to the user.

Read more on value proposition.

3- The Unique Selling Proposition

No matter who you are, one quick effective way to wrap your mind around what a USP is, is to consider your shoes.

We all have them. We all use them. And there are zillions on the market at any one time to pick from. 

unique selling proposition examples
  • Why did you choose your primary shoes, sneakers, tennies, etc.?

We’re not talking about dirt-cheap shoes here, okay, but the last pair of quality shoes you bought for yourself. Hopefully you’ve had at least one pair of decent shoes…we’ll assume so. Now, since they’re quality shoes there’s going to be a brand associated with them (vs knockoffs).

Ask yourself, what was the branded USP that sold you on those particular shoes? 

Sure, the style may be unique, but how is that tied to the brand’s unique position in the vast market of shoes?

Now, and here’s the secret, take the way you describe to yourself in basically a sentence or perhaps a quick slogan-like medley of words why you bought them, and that’s your USP. It might not be the company’s USP, but it’s the USP for you.

If they were a pair of city-trekking shoes, you might say something like,

The right fit and the right function at the right price for city-trekking shoes.

Sounds like a slogan; a tagline; a jingle or a catchphrase almost, right? 

When companies put a core USP together for a SaaS product or even shoes, they’re trying to capture something like that which applies to as much of their core audience as possible. All that’s missing is a differentiator. 

  • What differentiates the shoes you chose from the others you were weighing and considering?
  • Why should folks buy those city-trekking shoes over any other of similar price-point and features?

After all, the essential word in USP is none other than, Unique!

“What’s the ultimate point of differentiation between you and your competitors that makes your company the one worth doing business with? – And yes, there will be a SINGLE need or desire that your company’s offering will speak to most powerfully; the goal of your USP is to discover what that one thing is. In offering up this key selling point, you’ll immediately alert your prospects to why your business has the best offering out there, and why they should choose you over all the alternatives.”

ZoHo Academy

What Should Your SaaS Use As A USP?

When the dust settles, the type of person you want to talk to about this is a professional copywriter. 

Quick Refresher: Copywriters specialize in word crafting. They’re typically commercial (vs fiction or nonfiction information products in general) and involved with high-level content creation. They’re the ones usually being paid to create the USP. Not always, but working with words for companies is their professional skill so they know far more than someone who simply studies marketing concepts alone. 

How do copywriters go about it?

What’s their process of finding that ultimate saying or USP-like phrase that hits the market’s psychology like a parched man spotting an oasis?

Truth be told there’s a lot of approaches. Tons in fact. You can start Googling around online and you’ll find TONS of basic how-to articles and blogs put together by CONTENT WRITERS (these are not the same as copywriters, not even close)…but it’s much harder to find something put together by a trained copywriter. 

Each individual copywriter will approach things in their own way, but we can absolutely give you some pointers directly from copywriters we know and work with. 

  • It all begins with ‘seed copy’ or any kind of product-related content that’s used internally or externally to explain what the product is (the Positioning Statement for example).
  • The copywriter then bombards their mind with as much content about the SaaS product as possible, ideally being able to see and get a feel for it, etc. The goal is to understand it as well as someone who can just spout off about the product like a hardcore-dedicated user would.
  • The two most powerful kinds of content that a copywriter is looking for in terms of crafting USP-level copy are a) user reviews, or personally-compiled explainer content that’s written, verbal, or video, and b) verbally speaking with users and critical executives like CEO, CMO, Product Managers, Product Marketers, and so forth. 
  • Copywriters will begin compiling lists of potential slogans and one-liners. To the layperson, they might look like weird notes or half-finished partial sentences.

What you end up with is a lot of words, pages, and pages of them. Then it takes a trained eye and ear to see and hear the golden nuggets when they pop out or come together. 

For example, how easy would it have been for a copywriter to read or receive this feedback,

I like M & M’s because their candy outer shell makes it so the chocolate melts in my mouth and doesn’t get all over my hands.”

And with it create…

The candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hands.

Remember that one, a classic, from M & Ms? 

unique selling proposition examples

Speaking of which…

Never Forget The Golden USP Rule

One of the driving goals of your USP is to help users remember your solution if your solution happens to be in a competitive market. And this is where the more creative, word-cloud-type approach to USP creation comes into play. 

It might be natural to start sprinkling the usual high-caliber USP examples in here you can find all over the internet, but we have a better idea. 

Just look around you, wherever you happen to be right now, whether at home or out and about;

  • See how long it takes you to spot a USP in your environment. 
  • See how long it takes you to spot something that you already know the USP by heart.

And this leads to why an argument can be made that the vintage USP concept is outdated. Because of how much the marketplace and consumers have changed, the USP has changed. 

Not many folks respond to slogans the way they used to – marketing & advertising copy. 

Customer psychology hasn’t changed, but consumerism has. So before wrapping up today’s article, let’s draw upon a 2017 Medium article written by a Mr. Ben Byrne. 

He calls the new USP, the Unique Selling Personality, and predicted, 

“…that you will see more companies adapt a unique personality to their brand. We’re in the very early stages of this but it’s becoming more and more commonplace.”

Source

A Note on the Unique Selling Personality

Well, he sure called that one, but it wasn’t difficult to see.

No one needed a crystal ball to foreshadow how the internet would force more out of companies than just a great slogan. Back when there were only so many options, consumers understood clearly the difference between high-quality and low-quality. 

Now, there’s instant communication and so many choices stuffed into massive eCommerce platforms along with the greater internet…it’s forcing new adaptive pressures.

Regardless, the three specific things no competitor can ever truly copy are:

  1. The ‘Personality’ associated with a brand (including its USP), which can extend now to employees and overall company actions, not just the color scheme.
  2. The unique way you Position your SaaS in the marketplace, and this can be completely creative – while needing to remain relevant of course. 
  3. The unique Relationship you, your team, and your SaaS form with the market. And this happens one user or customer at a time.

When you combine these concepts, the conventional USP with the more personally-branded and direct relationships in full swing, you can get a better idea of where copywriters will go with your copy.

Now, to cap this off here are three quick USP tips, again, from the perspective of what a copywriter would likely tell you in a meeting. 

Melody: Slogans are musical tunes, even when spoken. All you need to keep in mind is, some are like whole notes and sound beautiful and flowing (they often rhyme too), while others create a sense of off-note tension… but they become sounds you never forget!

Feeling: At the end of the day, a SaaS brand is the feeling users experience when they interact with it. We’re not thinking beings, we’re feelers. We act on feeling! What feelings is your USP capturing or projecting? You can be deliberate here. 

Authenticity: To reiterate, one of the absolute best resources for USP material is your good and BAD reviews. In fact, negative or ‘bad experience’ reviews are usually going to be more honest and authentic without any brown nosing or rose-colored glasses.

Most Importantly: Deliver on your promises

Good Unique Selling Proposition and Unique Value Proposition are must-haves, but the most important point is to follow through with your promises.

No matter how good your USP and UVP are, if you don’t deliver what you promised, people will call your false claims with bad reviews and word of mouth, adversely affecting your growth significantly.

To deliver on the claims you’ve made, you’ll need to pay attention to 2 points:

1- Have a solid product

What do I mean by a “solid product”?

I mean a product that delivers on all the promises you’ve made, that can possibly solve all your users’ problems they’ve adopted your product for. For this part, the burden falls on the product team; especially the product managers and developers.

No shortcuts, no reductions, whatever you promise should be included in the product experience you offer.

2- Have a solid user onboarding experience

You might just thought, oh great, another task for the product team to handle.

But nope, this one’s on you!

Every team is responsible for creating the best user onboarding experience possible, highlighting a clear and direct path to value for users to follow.

Your USP and UVP might be top-notch, and the product can be everything your customers ever dreamt of, but if you can’t get your users to understand your platform it will all be for nothing. Almost every customer who fails to adopt your product will quit or churn.

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Wrapping Up

Hopefully, this has turned on a lightbulb or two for you, sparked some interesting ideas, or just provided the empowerment which simple basics can provide.

What do you think, are we without question going more in the direction of the Unique Selling Personality?

It sure seems that way.

unique selling proposition usp

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Mert Aktas

Mert is the Marketing Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that helps teams scale user onboarding and boost user engagement.

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