What’s Your Unique Selling Proposition When it Comes to Content?


Me too articles are the bane of the Web today. For each topic or keyword you get myriads of superficial ones. Just follow one keyphrase of your choice on Topsy for a while to see how much is going on. Of course most of these articles are repetitive once you know a few things about the topic of your interest. Thus

people become choosy when it comes to selecting what they actually read, bookmark, save let alone share and recommend.

  • Why spread an article that has the same headline a dozen of other already had prior to this?
  • Why share insights everybody knows about already?
  • Why repeat something many others have already said?

Reinforcing existing opinions may be a successful tactic for a while but it’s not a strategic approach. After a while even those who have been attracted to your content will get bored with it.

I am not very supportive of the hyped term content marketing because much of it is just SEO and content strategy is the better term for a more holistic approach. On the other hand I’d like to talk about a marketing and sales term many of you know probably but not yet in connection with content creation: unique selling proposition.

It’s the secret sauce only you or your business offers.

A unique selling proposition may be:

  1. The thing you have more of than the others. (When GMail offered 1GB of space e.g.)
  2. The important aspect that is better than the competition.
  3. The next big thing you have developed, discovered or improved.
  4. The unbeatable price (This is why Walmart has flooded the US with Chinese products)
  5. The celebrity endorsement nobody else has. (Remember the Air Jordan sneakers?)

Writer, photographers, videographers who create their works need to have a unique selling proposition to rise above the noise level. Additionally businesses that aim to reach not only the anonymous crowds but also potential customers need to stress their unique selling proposition by their content.

So we have two things we need here:

  1. content pieces that have a unique selling proposition themselves
  2. content pieces that highlight the existing unique selling proposition of your business

You are probably more used to the second one. You will try to stress your advantages over those of the competitors most of the time. When it comes to content that is not created for landing pages but clearly to entertain, inform or “wow” audiences you need the first thing, content that comes with a built in unique selling proposition.

When people write about “content marketing” for example they in many cases just rephrase what’s already been said a thousands times.

“You need great content, content is king, it’s about quality not quantity, content is good for SEO, you need a content marketing strategy.” Some of them will say that’s it’s true, others will contest it but they will deal with the same clichés over and over.Whether they agree or not they are trapped in the stereotypical point of view and mind frame. It happened to me too so I am not only blaming other people.

There are also articles introducing techniques you haven’t heard of yet.

They are very few so you have to dig deep to discover them sometimes. In other cases the people recognize the unique value in them and propel them to instant fame.  In any case you’d rather try to offer a unique selling proposition in your content than just to add more of the same to an already crowded market of Internet content.

Some things are even easier here compared to the overall unique selling proposition of a business as a whole.

As content is mostly free as in free beer you usually don’t compete by the price. There are other possible USPs though.


The “Ultimate” USP

Some people try to compete by the sheer size of their articles. This may get rewarded by social media audiences but isn’t always as useful as the shallow popularity metrics of “likes” show. Trying to write the longest and most essay-like resource or tutorial can backfire: people on the Web do not have the time to read let alone implement too extensive guides.

Writing or filming the “ultimate guide to x” will get you a lot of attention in the short run for sure. Maybe you will even get visitors for long periods of time.

Getting readers to read through it all and make them actually implement the suggested advice will be a challenge. So it’s one possible unique selling proposition (USP) for your content, having the most comprehensive and thorough resource on a given topic. In case you are after the popularity and not truly interested in people following the advice you may choose this way.


 The “Keep it Simple” USP

Google wasn’t the first search engine on the Interned by it’s the dominant one by now. One key component of their success was simplicity. People hated the cluttered interfaces of other search engines and the ad-infested result pages. Google was clean and simple and to the point. Now they are as bad as the other were 10 years ago but as a monopoly they don’t care anymore.

The simple solution wins over the complex one.

Why would you bother reading a 20 pages tutorial PDF on a topic where someone else offers you a short script snippet you can implement in a minute? The “ultimate” USP doesn’t always work on the Web. It doesn’t in cases where the easier, simpler, less time-consuming solution is available as well. Make it your USP to offer the shortest possible article on how to solve a problem.


The “New” USP

The German word for curiosity is “Neugier” which literally means “greed for something new”. Whether it’s news as in journalism or novelty in products we all fall for it. It might look the same as the last one but the iPhone 5 must be better than the iPhone 4 people on the street assumed when an interviewer showed them an iPhone 4 claiming it’s the new iPhone 5.

Sometimes it’s enough to say something nobody else as yet.

The “new” USP is pretty simple once you an idea nobody else has capitalized on yet. In many cases the idea already exists but the current implementation is not good enough. Many people assume for example that Apple has invented the touchscreen phone while there were many such smartphones before the iPhone on the market. They weren’t even bad but the humongous media power the largest global computer manufacturer by capitalization has made people forget all the other attempts.

So in case you’re not the first person or publication to publish something at least offer the best version of it and get people to believe you are first by spreading it far and wide.


The “Research” USP

People all over the world listen up when a news item starts with the words “American scientists have found out that”. The phrase is by now so common that it has become a running gag in Europe. Each time something weirs or downright evident has been “discovered” by scientists or American scientists it’s a good occasion to laugh.

Research that constitutes some kind of empirical proof, even a statistic (and we know how easy to manipulate or misinterpret those are) works perfectly as USP.

People are heavily biased towards proof by numbers. Others still believe what they like but both of the,m will want to read your article or paper whether they support the outcome or not. Research is a magnificent USP as long as you have researchers of course. Making up shallow study results often results in the opposite reaction. People are disappointed and contest the validity of it. So be cautious and get your data right before publication.


The “Expert” USP

True research is often beyond our means. The next logical step woudl be to ask experts from outside to express something or confirm your opinionj. You know it from TV: everytime something awful happens you’ll see lots of experts trying to explin that or rather to use that for their purposes. Many experts you see on TV are just lobbyists waiting for their time.

The expert USP can work properly in case you are able to get more than one experts to express their opinion

even if it’s not the same one each time. Again I don’t mean a TV like debate here. On the Web the group interview of experts works best where a 12 of people replies to the same question/s via email and the replies are then published alongside each other.

Personally I like the crowdsourcing approach, when asking my followers, many experts among them a question and including those that makes sense to me or are representative of a trend.


The “Different Angle” USP

The “different angle” USP is one of the easiest ways to get the attention of the people interested in a given topic or news item. Don’t just repeat what others have said, add your own two cents. The demise of Google Reader was a prime example of this. Some companies have taken advantage of this both at content level and on the product level. The prime examples of the news-jacking approach were Feedly and Digg.

Simply reporting about the news was completely redundant.

While Feedly has been preparing an alternative to Reader for some time and stepped in with a hands on instructions how to seamlessly move to Feedly Digg attempted to catch attention with a simple announcement that they will one day provide an alternative.

In both cases the “different angle” USP has worked out. Feedly was the big winner of the Google Reader shut down announcement and Digg still managed to get a lot of links from all kinds of publications with several follow ups. As you see the combination of unique selling proposition in the content itself plus in the product yields the best results.


Of course the unique selling propositions on the content level are not exclusive. You can combine more than one of them to make them work even better. Additionally there also other ones. These above are just the common ones I encounter a lot on the Web today.

The smaller and more “niche” your publication is the more unique your selling proposition has to be.

  • Your angle has to be really different to get noticed
  • you need to invite more experts to get a few replies fro them
  • you need to unearth and digest more research and maybe provide an infographic to visualize it
  • you need to take photos while your plane crashes to make the news
  • your simplicity must be simpler to use than those by the market dominant actors
  • your ultimate resource must be larger and more comprehensive then everything else.

Make sure the USP is there and visible by making it unmissable. What’s your unique selling proposition when it comes to content?

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