USP stands for unique selling proposition. It means your product or service has a certain feature that your competitors don’t have. Crafted into a short, declarative sentence, your USP should stand out in each and every PR and content marketing project you have going.
Silicon Valley is waking up to the fact that marketing today focuses on PR and content marketing. Conventional sales calls are so yesterday in today’s fast paced technology marketing and sales; customers buying all sorts of electronics chips, software, network systems, medical electronics and even products built on tomorrow’s technologies don’t answer phones unless it’s their bosses.
So, there we are. What customers do instead is check out Google and other search engines; they go online to read pertinent articles to get educated on certain technical issues or learn from technology tutorials in those publications. Or, they hear industry leaders talk about technology issues at major conferences. Once customers have a good foundation about a company, its technologies and its products, they’re ready to undertake the next level in the sales funnel, the possible buy.
Let’s back up a bit. So, what they read in those publications or hear at those conferences, did it actually sink into customers’ minds? Were they able to distinguish or differentiate one competitor’s product from another’s? Silicon Valley offers a vast array of technology products from a variety of vendors. For most customers, they all appear to look alike with similar features and functions. How is the customer to determine what’s best for his or her application?
Come on in USP
This is where the USP comes in, figuratively speaking. Let’s say it’s standing at the door waiting for you to let it in. In many cases, here’s what’s happening. Yes, some Silicon Valley companies are embracing content marketing in their PR activities. Yet, there are issues that need to be overcome to let USP in.
Here are a couple of them: confusing advertising copy writing with content marketing writing; and a disjointed, unorganized, non-strategic content marketing program with or without a USP.
For starters, some marketers think of content marketing writing as advertising copywriting. It’s highly promotional tinged with hyperbole and superlatives and the text flaunts product features as the best in the industry. So, how can you get your USP in advertising copy and still be credible?
Content marketing writing, meanwhile, follows the tenets of AP style newspaper writing: short active voice sentences, straight facts, zeros in on a customer’s technology issues and offers a helping hand with educational and tutorial content. A USP in content marketing is considerably more credible since in all cases it can be embedded in contributed byline articles that get a tacit editorial endorsement.
Number-two issue is trying to effectively embed a USP in unorganized, non-strategic marketing content. It’s virtually impossible. A tech company may have settled on a USP. However, it’s not being applied properly because people from all sectors of the company are writing content and throwing it at the webmaster to post on the website or getting it to customers as eBooks or white papers. In virtually every case, the USP is completely absent since most of these individuals don’t know a thing about a USP.
In a similar scenario, a company hasn’t developed its USP. Again, a number of people in a company are chipping in their own versions of marketing content. Those different versions come from various marketing groups, outside PR agencies, social media marketing, web marketers and even from execs. One tech company marketing exec put it best by saying, “It’s creating content for the sake of creating content, and it’s highly annoying.”
Content differentiated with USP
So, how do you turn this ship around and head it toward creating and sustaining an effective USP in your PR content marketing writing? You do it slowly and methodically. You don’t want to abruptly stop all that incoming non-USP content by pontificating your case. All that does is alienate the content contributors.
Leave the status quo alone and slowly start making incremental and positive steps to institute USP and an overall strategic program. Eventually, your marketing colleagues will get it and join in with you.
First off, nail down that USP. That’s done by taking the initiative with a trusted team of marketing and sales leaders in the company. Collaborate, talk about the key product or service differentiators and then by process of elimination zero in on the one key feature or item that no other competitor has. Write that differentiator on the board. Then write out the USP in a short declarative sentence. For example, “XYZ feature performs this function that provides customers blank benefits.”
From this point on, your new USP is the key factor differentiating not only your product, but all your marketing content because you want to embed it in each and every piece of marketing content: byline articles, blogs, web content, white papers, etc.
When content writers from other parts of the company come to you with their great works, spend time educating them and politely send them back with clear instructions to factor in the USP that your marketing organization has adopted.
Once you have a consensus on the USP, plan out your content marketing topics with each topic having the USP embedded in it and obliquely written into the text so it’s not so obvious. Then, start the subject matter expert interviewing to get the necessary content, which will serve as the foundation for your content marketing campaign.
A contributed byline article campaign is the best USP and content marketing driver. For starters, each article is a piece of the proverbial “good press.” It’s good press because it’s expertly written to comply with editorial requirements, but also to convey your company’s product and technology messages in several ways, but not blatantly.
Crafted properly, a contributed article hands you the flexibility and freedom to cleverly embed your USP. In many cases, you can frame the USP so it appears several times in an article you ghostwrite.
For instance, it can be in the lead paragraph by creating an issue the reader is confronting, and your USP is written as a way to resolve that issue. Further into the body of the article, you can once again plug in your USP by wording it a certain way to describe a possible solution. And thirdly, once you’ve detailed the issue well into the text—say 400 to 500 words—then it’s time to punch in the USP once again written very differently from the earlier times.
As we’ve said here, when the right USP is absent, your PR story lacks the linchpin for differentiating the essence of your product and technology from competitors. Therefore, it’s best to huddle with marketing, sales and your execs to skillfully produce that USP and embed it into all your contributed articles, press releases and other PR assets.
Dan Garza is a marketing PR professional and veteran observer of Silicon Valley PR.