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Unique Selling Proposition: Your Visitors Are Asking Why

I'm plugging my queries into Google. I'm moving fast. I'm on a mission. Gonna get me one of those all-in-one printer/scanner/copier beasts. And when I land on your site, the first thing I want to know - even before I bother to find out anything else - is why I should buy from you. That is my Number One Most Pressing Question.

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"What a wonderful site! You know how to put the powerful academic principles of marketing and sales into practical language. A great asset for getting past the current day hype in marketing."
Professor Allen Weiss
, Marketingprofs.com


You need to answer it for me, competently and succinctly, within seconds, or I'm moving on to the next search result in a list of 6,620 entries. How? Easy! You're going to tell me your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

It's not just me. Every one of your visitors is asking the same thing. It's the biggest "What's In It For Me?" (W.I.I.F.M.) question your visitors have: why you? Yet lots of businesses online and off don’t provide an answer - and very few online ones make sure that answer appears on their landing and home pages. If you can’t cut through the clutter, grab attention and communicate immediately that you offer value nobody else has, your visitors are gone to someone who can.

Your USP is a strong, concise, simple statement about your business or brand that tells your prospects why you are the only alternative for them. Two, three sentences at most. Not an advertising slogan (although that's one use for your USP), but an answer to The Implicit Question.

Haven't got around to your USP yet? Then it's time to roll up those shirt sleeves.

The Grok’s How-To-Create-Your-USP

Write down every possible reason you can think of why someone would want to do business with you. If you want the best results from this exercise, involve everybody in your company in a high-energy brainstorming session (yeah, everybody - you’ll be amazed where some of the best ideas come from).

Don’t be afraid to get professional help on this. Your survival can depend on it. Afterwards, review the list and eliminate everything that is also true of your competitors. If a competitor can make the same claim, it's not a "unique" proposition. Some quick guidelines:

1. What is unique about your product, service or brand compared to your direct competitors?

2. Which of these factors are most important to your prospects?

3. Which of these factors are most difficult for your competitors to imitate?

4. Which of these factors can be understood most easily by your prospects?

Now create a memorable message out of these unique, meaningful qualities. Make sure it’s a message that speaks to the need your prospective customers feel, not some self-centered stuff about you. And here’s the extra discipline part: keep editing and distilling until it’s at most 2-3 concise sentences.

It might surprise you, but good service, good selection, fair prices and honest dealing are NOT effective components of your USP. Why? These are things your prospects already expect. “Declaring” them gives folks that same queasy feeling you get when a used car salesman says, “let me be honest with you…” So there were times he was lying? Besides, they’re “me-too’s.” Anybody can (and does) say them.

Sample USPs

· Future Now, Inc.: The Conversion Rate Specialists: Persuading your prospects to take ACTION!

· Avis: We Try Harder.

So, do your homework. Come up with a crisp, powerful statement that answers your visitors' implicit question and engages their imaginations and emotions. Position it prominently on your home page, and watch that conversion rate improve.


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Déjà vu: Engineers and Customer Metrics

It happens every time. We at Future Now start talking to a client who's keen to improve conversion rates, and we ask if there are any site-tracking statistics we can evaluate. "Oh, geez, yeah!" the client exclaims. "We've got tons of tracking data." And they do. Reams of it. Except none of it is particularly helpful to us because none of it really reveals what is actually happening as customers use the website. We always find ourselves back at Square One - it's the inevitable result when systems are assigned higher priority than customers.

My friend Jim Novo, former VP of Programming & Marketing at Home Shopping Network, has seen it all before, repeatedly, and is suffering a serious case of déjà vu. I'd like to share his thoughts and experiences with you.

Dear Grok,

If you build it, they will come. They just don't stay. This is the legacy of "engineering-first" innovation in consumer services, where every metric is devoted to tracking how the physical business is running, and none to tracking customers. How hard would it be to set up customer reports in the beginning? But it never happens. What always happens is there is a spurt of intense growth (accompanied by hallucinogenic stock market valuations), then the business flatlines and rolls over on its back. I saw it in cable TV. It Happened again in TV Shopping. Now it's happening with the Internet.

When I joined the cable industry in the early 80s, it was all engineering-driven. The "truck-chasing" days, we called it. All you had to do was show up with a cable truck, start stringing cable, and people would run out of the house yelling, "It's cable! Cable is here! When can I sign up?" All sales-driven, and all about miles per day of cable, amplifier density, and number of "drops" and "traps". Everybody talked about drops and traps. Customers? Nah.

You know what a drop is? A line from the main cable plant to a customer household. I could get reams of reports on drops. Nothing on customers.

Me: How many customers do we have?

Engineer: We have 12,239 drops.

Me: How many former customers do we have?

Engineer: Why would you count inactive drops? There's no hardware there.

Traps? These are the filters used to control who got HBO and who got Showtime. I could get reports on how many HBO traps we ordered and how many we had left. But how many had Showtime too? How many former HBO customers were there? No way to tell. All we had was the "net HBO traps" - I ordered this many, I have this many "in the barn", so the difference is how many HBO customers I have.

Me: Well, how many "dual" customers do we have, HBO and Showtime?

Engineer: We have 6,783 HBO traps and 3,872 ShowTime traps "in field".

Me: But how many customers have both?

Engineer: What difference does that make? Costs the same to install one or both, as long as we do it at the same time.


Metrics based on hardware, inventory and so on that mean something to the people keeping the architecture operational. So valuable to engineering. So useless to marketing. Who are my best customers? Who are my former customers? And they wonder why penetration had stalled at 40% and customer churn was growing every day. The good news was I fixed it. It took 6 years.

Then I went into TV Shopping. I'm thinking here's a business immune from the anti-customer reporting bias. An electronic business, built by IT engineers, completely and totally dependant on computers to operate. No computers, no TV shopping business. Perfect! Every nuance of every transaction captured. Time of day. Category of merchandise. Method of payment. A goldmine of data. Not like cable TV.

So I asked for reports. The first day, the stack of greenbar was over four feet high! I'm in heaven, it's a data-driven marketer's dream! I dig in.

Sales report. Sold 10,000 bracelets yesterday, broken by style, color, length. Awesome! How many customers bought the 10,000 bracelets. Hmm. Not on this report, must be on another one. Oh, look at this - sales per minute by category and by time of day. Wow! How cool is that? How many customers? What percent were new customers? Hmmm. Must be another report.

And so it went. Calls per minute, returns by price point, check fallout by time of order. Hundreds of metrics - every one of them based on a transaction: merchandise, capacity, throughput, inventory, logistics - and not a single one at the customer level! We're counting every neuron that's firing, but nobody knows what the brain is thinking.

That took 10 years to fix.

Now the Internet. I think, "Here's my chance. They'll listen this time, because, if nothing else, engineers are logical. I can show them the math." I write a book. Put up a website. Lay out the whole thing - here's exactly how you do it. Collect this data. Here are the metrics that matter.

And what do people decide to track? Hits, page views, browser types, files downloaded - machine stuff. As bad as cable TV. The net retailers tracked just enough to fulfill (barely) the orders - usually SKU's with no further detail. Worse than TV shopping! But customer level data? Nah. Furthest thing from their minds.

Why does this keep happening over and over? Is there any way to get in front of it? What will it take for the engineers to realize, in the midst of their heady glee with being new and innovative, that the same things always happen to these technology-driven services:

1. They don't set up customer-oriented reporting.

2. They don't know what customers are worth, or how they really use the service.

3. They way over-project long-term profitability.

4. They invest in infrastructure beyond what is needed.

5. The customer side catches up with the hardware side and the business rolls over nearly dead.

6. The engineers call marketing to fix it.

7. Marketing tells the engineers it's going to be a long hard road because they screwed it up so badly already.

Any ideas? Anyone? How can we stop them from hurting themselves again?


Jim Novo

We're always thinking about the ideal tracking system at Future Now (see "The Ideal Tracking System,") and helping you rethink how you collect the data that will allow you to identify and remedy obstacles in your website's conversion system (see "Measuring Your Sales Success,"). We even offer a free, downloadable suite of calculators to get you started. Because at the end of the day, your goal is to build a business, not a house of cards. Right?


click here for a printable version of this entire article

P.S. If you enjoyed this issue, why not share it with your colleagues and friends? They'll appreciate it.

GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledge and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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