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.
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!
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