The Key Ingredient to Success (Have You Defined Yours?)

As I sit here laying the foundation for my authority website, I realize my plans cover almost everything: design, content, traffic, and monetization – four key elements to almost any successful money-generating website.   As critical as these elements may be, I still felt like I was missing something – my unique selling point/proposition (USP).

Great design and content provide a good reason to visit and revisit a website (in general), but what about when competition is fierce?  What about when you’re one of thousands within your niche?  Defining and properly executing your USP can be the difference between success and failure.

So I sit here and ask myself, “Why are people going to want to read and continue to visit my authority website?”  Before I pinpoint an exact answer, I thought I would brainstorm some potential types of USPs that can be applied to almost any business or website.  Pick your favorite(s) and run with it.

The Key Ingredient to Success: Your USP

Knowing that your USP is important is really nothing new – it’s Marketing 101 for many people.  But knowing you need one and actually formulating a good one are two completely different things.  There can be several different ways to answer the question “What makes me different?”  But it’s about more than just being different.  It’s about being different in a way that people will actually care about and notice.

Here are some potential types of USPs that I was able to brainstorm.  I’m sure they’re not all great, but I figured I’d share everything I thought of, and let you decide which ones you like.  Some of them can be combined, but I wrote them as if they were all completely independent of each other.

1) Define your “dream” client or visitor and cater to them.  These are the people who fully understand your mission and are willing to take action when they see something they like (i.e. conversions, or money in your pocket).  By narrowing your focus, you’re shutting out a lot of people, but putting your effort into those who will have the greatest impact on your bottom line.  It’s the classic 80/20 principle.  The “unique” part of this idea is that this relatively narrowly-defined group of people will feel like your website or business really speaks to them, on multiple levels.

2) Use video extensively. This is obviously nothing new in general, but for a lot of niches, it’s a unique approach.  Most websites use some video, but in most niches, few use it extensively.  It’s one way to stand out and it’s one way Gary Vaynerchuk found success.

3) Offer a free, valuable service or product. There are a lot of possibilities here, but the point is to offer something valuable beyond your content.  Ideally, this will be something that doesn’t require much effort or cost to you (because otherwise, it’ll be nearly impossible to scale) and it will be something that ultimately drives conversions for products or services that you sell.  The more creative/unique the service or product, the more powerful it will be as a USP.  One example: A blogger in the MMO niche offers free blog setups to newbies, in exchange for hosting purchased through an affiliate link.

4) Write with a unique “voice” or perspective. This is a common USP for blogs, as it often flows naturally from the author.  An excellent example is Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income site.  Although he’s successful for a variety of reasons, he’s made a name for himself in a highly saturated niche by offering a uniquely transparent perspective.

5) Interact extensively with readers/followers/customers. Social media has allowed this to become more commonplace (and less unique), but it’s been proven time and time again that customer-centric businesses tend to be more popular and successful.  Regularly responding to an e-mail, comment, tweet, or any other type of interaction is core to this USP.  Zappos is the poster child for this type of USP.

6) Add convenience via compilation. With this USP, convenience is key.  Instead of offering a unique service or product, the value here is provided by being a “one stop shop” for something.  YouTube does it with video, Digg does it with website bookmarks, and Groupon does it with coupons.  The key is, the business or website provides the infrastructure to compile content or products, but doesn’t actually create the content or product.

7) Make everything revolve around your story. People tend to warm up to new websites and businesses when they can connect to them on a personal level.  One way to build this connection is by sharing your story – how you got started, why [insert niche here] is your passion, and why you’re someone who should be listened to (maybe because you’ve made many mistakes or you’re now an “expert” in your field).  Weaving your story into your content, products, and/or services will make you stand out amongst the many others who may be in your niche.  If you’re obsessed with something, make sure your readers/customers are aware of it – as long as it’s a healthy obsession!

8 ) Be charitable. People love to see a sense of humanity in those from whom they make purchases, so this could be another way to stand out.  TOMS Shoes is a great example of this – with every pair of shoes you purchase from them, they donate a pair to a child in need.

9) Try crossing niches to really narrow your focus. I’ve discussed this before on my blog and in my newsletter, but one way to find a narrow market to dominate and stand out in is to create one.  I don’t mean that you need to literally create a new product or type of product, but you want to target your efforts on a specific intersection of two or more niches.  Do you like pets?  Do you like sports?  Then maybe you start a photo blog showing pets playing sports, or dog training program to teach dogs how to play sports.  That idea may be a stretch, but you get my point.  The pet and sports niches are highly saturated/competitive on their own, but when you intersect them, you might have a unique niche to dominate.  The key is obviously making sure that your target niche actually has a large enough potential audience.

Conclusion

The fastest way to eliminate competition is to put yourself on another level.  The way to do this is through your unique selling point/proposition.  I know that for my authority website, formulating a killer USP will be crucial to my success.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in a highly competitive niche.  My guess is that I will need to combine two or more of the above items in order to really stand out.

I know that I haven’t thought of everything here (and probably haven’t even scratched the surface) – what are some good USPs that you can think of?  Please share them below!

I’d greatly appreciate it if you could share this post on Twitter or Facebook! Thanks! :)

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31 Responses to “The Key Ingredient to Success (Have You Defined Yours?)”

  1. Wow – this is a fantastic post and one that actually brings up some excellent marketing information that applies to some projects I’ve been mulling over. It’s one thing to build websites for AdSense or affiliate sales, but getting actual products or placing yourself in a market is much harder and I appreciate the information here. I’ll definitely be bookmarking and taking notes.
    Master Dayton recently posted… The Keyword Academy Review

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, Master Dayton, I appreciate it!

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  2. I really find number nine to be a revealing and important aspect. With a narrower niche a site can get more targeted and more focused costumers. With that costumer retention and repeat visits can be inevitable. A few engagement and real care for them could make a win win situation.
    Marco Lee recently posted… An Informal Business Plan Guide for Blogs- Why Blogging Means Serious Business!

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Absolutely, great point Marco.

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  3. GREAT, thanks for this, and I found exactly when i needed it, contemplating a strong USP for my online business!
    Alex Young recently posted… Drive – Daniel Pink Review

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Awesome, glad to hear! Thanks for the comment!

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  4. Great post chuck full of good info Eric. I am in the process of re-visiting a niche site I set up a while ago that gets about 1,000 visits a month. But I haven’t done much with it at all. I figured I would try to build it up as an authority. Working on newsletters and other content now.

    I would add forums to social interaction with customers. That is a path I am thinking of taking. Answering people’s questions and eventually promoting the site and paid information.
    Eugene recently posted… Active vs Passive Income- A Strategy that Works

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Sounds like a great plan, Eugene. Anything you can do to help your site stand out is going to make you more successful in the long run.

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  5. My newbie niche sites is ranking on Google. I am loving that. out of 7 niches sites are ranking on top 2 pages. Well from next month onwards. I will start monetizing them. I am going to make some decent passive income in few months for sure.
    Thanks
    Rahul recently posted… Niche Website 1-3 And My Old Niche Website earned me 20 cents WOW…

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    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s great, Rahul, I’m happy to hear you’re starting to see good results! :)

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  6. The definition of success is variable, and it differs from one person to another. Same is with USP. However, for each individual, it is required to have the right USP and one thing that is certain that he should identify his correct audience and cater to its needs, in order to have maximum benefit.
    Maria Pavel recently posted… How to Renew an Expired CNA License

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  7. A lot of these points are interlinked. Finding your unique voice and telling your story are very connected with building a loyal following. I think if one can get these three things right, much of everything else will fall into place.
    Richard recently posted… Social Media Zombification- Death to the Individual

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Great point, Richard, and you’re absolutely right – most of these points are related in one way or another. Sometimes it helps to break them up in pieces so that you can try to at least think about each one individually, but at the end of the day, they all come together to help form your USP. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Great post! It’s nice to see these important internet marketing points summarized in a post like this. In addition to the Niche/Amazon stuff, I’m also working on an authority site. Slow going! But it’s good to be reminded of these important things, and also to feel a part of some kind of community.

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks for the comment Sean! What type of authority site are you working on?

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    Sean Reply:

    It’s a music education site (with, hopefully, some fun and attitude). I’m still working on the free giveaway and my first product (both ebooks). Here’s the domain if you want to check it
    http://www.theinstantrockstar.com
    I feel like I’m still on the run way, gathering speed.
    Sean recently posted… The State of Things

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Looks pretty cool, Sean. Looking forward to hearing how it goes once you start getting some good traffic.

  9. Wow, i envy people like you that are able to make such a plan and think about everything.
    My plans usually consist of 1. manage to get out of bed 2. try to actually work something before the day ends.
    Ok, i’m overreacting a little, but i get what you say about the competition, the one with the best plan eventually takes the lead.
    Antonia recently posted… The Power Of Conversational Hypnosis Review

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Well, making a plan and actually sticking to it are two completely different things, unfortunately. :) Planning does help though, as long as you don’t spend ALL your time planning.

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  10. Eric,

    Thank you for the Awesome Post!

    It’s really a must the we find our unique voice in the blogosphere because it’s the only way we can create loyals leaders.

    It’s like this, why do people love Mr. Bean?
    Why do we love watching Glee? Why do Lady Gaga have Millions of hit records?

    It’s because of the uniqueness that they bring to the table.

    Same thing with blogging, Find your unique voice.

    Armand Polanski
    Armand Polanski recently posted… Important Business Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Great comment, Armand, and right in line with what I was thinking.

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  11. @Eric – While I am trying to figure out a way around it, this particular post almost compels your readers to point out the obvious by beginning their comments with a variation of “Good post”.

    Well, it is. That’s because there are so many different triggers all combined into it.

    I’ll just mention one, the title. You use the phrase “key ingredient” Singular and not plural.

    “What is it? Do I have it? Am I on the right track?” Are all questions that went through my mind.

    And, then, when you actually get to the post, you have a list of ingredients. All of them compelling.

    Again, in the title you use the word “Success”. Not “make money”, “build a list”, “rank higher”. This one word, “success” let’s your readers define what it means for them and draws them into the post.

    One more thing about the title. The parenthetical question “Have you defined yours?” again triggers thoughts that almost make us read your post.

    The overall structure of the title primes the reader and let’s them know that they will learn something from this post. I know I did.

    Bravo
    Bryan recently posted… Free Social Bookmarking Submitter

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Bryan, I really appreciate the comment. Good titles are key in blogging! 😉

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  12. In any endeavor that we will take, it is important for us to consider not only the business perse, but also the other things that may affect business as a whole. I like your point with paying attention to customers/readers since without them, business process won’t be complete.
    Adrian recently posted… DIY Chicken Shed Plans

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Absolutely – thanks for the comment Adrian.

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  13. Hell yeah, everyone falls for something free! It doesn’t even have to be valuable if you make it look valuable. You can sell a useless book, but if the client is new to the niche, he’ll gladly take it.
    I find this to be the best method of making people happy and willing to return next day.
    Martin recently posted… How To Get Your Commercial Driver’s License

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Great point, thanks Martin. :)

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  14. Wow, what a fantastic post, such great advice and information, I will definitely be come back. Thank you.
    Chloe (2kids1cat) recently posted… Perpetual Embarassment

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    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Chloe!

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  15. You’re the first one i hear telling people to use video extensively. In my opinion this is a golden move, but keep in mind Google still needs content in the form of text to make miracles.
    People will love your videos, but they first have to get to them.
    Amit recently posted… Forklift Operation and Safety Training

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  16. I understand #2, but i personally find videos to be a waste of time, literally. I prefer reading a 500 words article than watch a 2 minutes video, because i can selectively read what i’m interested in, but i can’t do that with the text.
    But like i said, this is just my personal preference, i’m aware most people enjoy videos. I don’t have the time to watch them.
    Richard recently posted… Graco Magnum X5 (262800) Airless Paint Sprayer Review

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