It’s Word Carnival time again! In this month’s episode we learn all about the dreaded Unique Value Proposition (or USP), why it’s so deceptively hard to figure out, and how you can nail it without having an emotional breakdown.

Jargon is for jerks. Ninnies. Lazy marketers.

Telling me your company’s product or service will create synergistic buy-in with all possible stakeholders?

Please. What does that even mean?

So it’s no wonder your eyes glaze over when folks mention “critical-to-your-business-success” terms like Unique Value Proposition.


Where you get tripped up is thinking this promise must be contained in a single sentence or tagline.

It can’t.

Those are merely starting points. Places where you begin to tell the stories (plural!) of how you solve a particular problem and why you’re uniquely suited to be the one to do it for a particular type of person.

Do you know what your promise is?

You wouldn’t be the first one to stammer in response to that question.

No, it’s not a promise like outstanding customer service! Yawn. That’s like saying All our salads include fresh lettuce.

Or, All our pencils come with erasers.

We’re not talking about things that should be a given.

Nope. Your potential customers want to hear something altogether different from you.

They want you tell them about your true value to them.

They’re uniquely different, after all. And they have specific needs all their own.

Usually, those special problems are invisible to outsiders.

But to those who live where they live, the problem looks and feels like a huge GAP. A hollow white space. A hole just big enough to be problematic, but small enough to be ignored by the rest of the world. Especially by your competitors (which is why we’d ever pay attention to what our competitors are up to).

An enticing promise is one that bridges that gap. One that connects previously unconnected dots.

You may have figured out how to fill that hole in your customer’s life.

If so, congratulations! That’s 75% of the battle.

The last 25% is figuring out how to explain the value of what you’ve accomplished in such a way that your right people find you magnetically attractive.

You want to SHOW them, not TELL them.

Showing value requires two things:

1. A clear understanding of the emotional (non-tangible) benefits of using your products or services; and

2. Specific proof to back up your claims.

Let’s look at two fun videos that show us how it’s done.

For each of these video/marketing stories, notice the following structure (see my Copy Writing Starter Recipe for more on this):

1. Name the problem in 10 words or less.

2. Why hasn’t the problem been solved? What stands in the way? Is this even a real problem?

3. What’s possible? Show (don’t tell) how the problem can be solved or disproved.

4. Explain your approach to solving it. < — Is your approach unique? Are you doing it the same way as all the other people who do what you do? Give proof with hard numbers.

5. Include a call to action (buy now, sign up here, etc.)

Ready? Let’s take a look at the first video… (if you’re reading this via email, click here to watch.)

1. Name the problem: There’s a social stigma attached to chewing gum.

2. Question the validity of the problem.

3. & 4.  What’s Possible + “Proof” that problem isn’t true: Experiment as art installation (conflates science with arts)

  • 481 people participated in the experiment
  • 73% favored those who chewed gum
  • Chewing gum gives people a better impression of you

5. Buy and chew (our) gum.

Intelligent folks will see immediately that the twin not chewing gum isn’t smiling. Not even a little bit.

Would the results be the same if they were smiling? Probably not. Does it matter?

Lesson: This video/marketing story talks about the value of chewing gum. But not just for anyone. For those who were previously concerned that chewing gum would make them somehow look bad. It speaks to both an emotional benefit (feeling loved, admired) AND uses specific numbers to back up the claim.

Its specific promise(s) centers around one thing: likability.

You may have already seen video two…(email readers click here to watch):

1. Name the problem: Nothing’s worse than stinking up the bathroom and having everyone know it was you.

2. Why hasn’t the problem been solved: Aerosols don’t work – and they’re not healthy for you; they barely mask the odor.

3. What’s possible: You can make the world believe your poop doesn’t stink.

4. Proof of Why you? Explain your unique approach: Poo-pouri is PROVEN to trap embarrassing odors at the source and save relationships. We’ve sold over 4 million bottles. Over 1K reviews on Amazon rating it 4.8 out of 5 (better rating than the iPhone 5). Comes with “Unconditional Stink-free Guarantee.”

5. Call to action: Buy our product.

This video/marketing story talks about the value of the absence of something. And not just for anyone. For those who specifically worry about embarrassing themselves in the bathroom. The emotional benefit here is a lack of embarrassment. (Or, positively stated, the presence of self-confidence.) They also use hard numbers to back up their claims.

The Specific promise: You’ll never be embarrassed in the bathroom again.

The story is re-told in here in video three with a specific twist for men…(email readers click here to watch):

In all three cases, the marketers use elements of storytelling (showing us real people in real situations and using a bit of drama and/or humor) to talk about their USPs. They don’t rely on just telling us who they are and what they can do for us. They show us.

How do you apply these storytelling elements to your marketing?

Especially if you feel like you don’t have any hard numbers you can point to?

There are ways!

First you need to clearly understand the hole that’s not being filled by your competitor. This requires research. Talking to your existing clients. Or to many, many folks like them. Being observant. Paying attention to their needs. And then comparing those needs to whats available through others in your industry.

In my case, I noticed a few years ago that most online marketing courses and communities (at least the affordable ones) were too large to give newish business owners the specific guidance and accountability they needed to learn, implement and succeed.

My answer: go small. Create an intimate, high-touch atmosphere online. A place that would allow everyone to know everyone else. To build real relationships with each other.

And a place where folks could get specific help and accountability from me.

Thus, the Digital Dining Room was born.

It’s the opposite of pre-packaged, low-touch learning programs geared specifically for the solopreneur. And it solves the problem of providing real value with a just-right investment for the clients.

But it’s not for just anyone.

It’s specifically for folks who are serious about doing the work of figuring out who they are and what’s unique about them.

Who don’t believe in roadmaps or blueprints to quick 6-figures. And who crave a supportive community of like-minded people.

While I’m certainly not the only marketing coach out there, my unique approach centers around storytelling and putting relationships first.  I also tell my stories and use elements of my life and passions (for example: metaphors that involve food and dining).

You won’t get this specific mix anywhere else.

In my sales copy, I point to the emotional benefits of implementing on a plan and the hard numbers of my clients’ success.

I use stories to illustrate all of this — stories in formats we’d call testimonials, case studies, emails and blog posts.

And these are stories you can tell, too. But they need to be your stories.

Your stories are those based on your experiences. That’s what makes them unique.

They are the ONE thing your competition can not copy.

Your stories will also keep you from employing useless industry jargon (and sounding like everyone else).

So, listen to your customers. Really listen to their stories. 

And from there, find the hole that needs to be filled. Fill it like only you can. Tap into the special mix of your history, background, strengths, and yes — even quirkiness.

And once you’ve filled a few holes, share the stories of how you did it.

Before you know it, all the seats at your table will be filled.


Would you like help getting there? I’ve got three timely options for you:

1. The Marketing Mastermind & Storytelling Soiree (happens next month in Portland — if you can’t attend in-person, join us via simulcast!)

2. The Digital Dining Room (we’ve got just 10 seats available and the annual enrollment cost goes up July 1st.)

3. Testimonials Done With/For You (get exactly the right mix of emotional benefits and hard proof you need to back up your promises — I’m beta-testing this service which means you save 50% right now.)


This post is part of the June Word Carnival. Our theme this month is how to talk about the value and worth of the work you do. Read the rest of the fabulousness here.