“When it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight.”
“Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”
“The right one is worth waiting for.”
These three statements are synonymous with the companies that coined them.
As unique selling propositions (USP), it’s hard to do better than FedEx, M&Ms/Mars, and Tiffany & Company. But why do they work so well, and what can development offices learn from these giants of corporate marketing and communications?
In putting together the answer to these questions, we must first consider that each of these companies has a specific purpose.
- FedEx delivers goods B2B and B2C with an extraordinarily high rate of precision and competence.
- M&M/Mars makes candies that are part of the public zeitgeist in ways few of their competitors can claim.
- Tiffany & Company creates high-end luxury gifts including engagement rings and has done so for nearly two centuries.
Each specific purpose speaks to a specific audience, and it is with these customers in mind that the unique selling propositions were created. Each is customer-focused in a way that many mission statements are not. Note that there is no mention of corporate culture, or process, or the origins of the company in these statements. Each statement simply lays out, in a single sentence, the ideal customer experience.
As you read each of the USPs at the top of this article, you likely knew at least one, if not all three, of the companies they represented. Each statement is so memorable that it has, collectively, become part of the public conversation, a kind of shorthand for the product or service it represents. While your nonprofit’s proposition may never achieve this level of collective recall, it should be memorable for the people who both support and benefit from the work you do.
Each of these statements paints a clear picture in the reader’s mind—of packages promptly delivered, of melting chocolate candy in your hand, and engagement rings lovingly presented. These clear and distinctive mental images provide the last piece of the puzzle solving why they are each so effective.
The lesson here traces back to the origins of the concept of USP: Jerome McCarthy’s groundbreaking work, “Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach.” Written in 1960, this book provides the starting point for marketers in every field who are contemplating the creation of a USP for their organizations.
Marketing and communications professionals working in higher education, human services, medical, and faith-based nonprofit organizations can begin the process of developing a USP by answering two questions McCarthy posed more than 60 years ago:
- What do we offer that others do not?
- What do my customers (donors, clients, communities) already want that they don’t know they want yet?
Answering those questions, and distilling the answers into statements that are targeted, tangible, and memorable, leads to the creation of unique selling propositions that entire marketing and communications plans can be built around.
Understanding your organization in such a deep and real way takes time, energy, and effort, but the rewards are immeasurable. Donors, clients, and the public will all have a better understanding of the work you do and the motive that drives you, each and every day, to make a difference in the communities you serve.
Let Us Help
At BWF, we help nonprofits around the world find what differentiates them from the competition while maximizing the impact they can have on the lives of those they serve. We’d welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your USP, or any communications challenge you may be facing. Contact Jay Wilson to start a conversation today. It’s a privilege to help.