Unique Selling Proposition 101 - Stand Out In The Crowd


One of the hardest parts of running an Etsy shop is in those early days is hustling like crazy listing product, only to put it out in the world to sell….and watch it fall flat on it’s face.  

(hey, I've definitely been there!)

And while it’s usually not that difficult to fix the actual problem, it IS difficult to pinpoint that actual problem—because it could honestly be any small thing:

  • A typo in your product listing

  • Complicated purchasing instructions

  • Bland copy writing

  • Grainy product photography

  • etc. etc.

There are a million and one things that must work together perfectly in sync to make your Etsy shop see consistent, daily sales, and sometimes the hardest part is figuring out where that weakest link actually is.

But if you’re taking a look at the list above and can easily say that none of those apply to you, then I’ve got one more idea I'd like to run by you:

Your unique selling proposition, or USP.

What the heck is a USP?

Your unique selling proposition, or USP, is what makes you and your shop UNIQUE. It’s essentially the niche your shop fills in the online marketplace, and the driving force behind everything that you do.

There are hundreds of thousands on shops on Etsy, and I’m willing to bet that more than one of them sell very, very similar items to you (and that’s okay—it’s good, actually, because it means that there’s a market for your product and you don’t have to start completely from scratch!).

But it also leaves us with the following dilemma: What is going to make a potential customer choose your item as opposed to an incredibly similar item over in the next shop over.

It's kind of a knee-jerk reaction to think that lower prices might be the deciding factor, but on a boutique marketplace like Etsy, lower pricing has a lot less to do with it than you think (check out my article here if you’d like to learn more about pricing your products super-smart!). Basically, you don't have to lower your prices to make sales-- make sure you are valuing your work at what it's worth!

So you’re going to have to come up with something different if you’re going to stand out.  And don't worry-- I'm going to walk you through it so that by the end of this blog post, you have a clear idea of what a USP is, how to write one for your shop, and how to share it with your customers.

How you can find your USP

USP is one of those things that is easier said than done—you can look at dozens of examples and it seems plain as day, but when you sit down to figure it out for yourself, that blank piece of paper seems to be taunting you (similar to that AP Calculus class you took in high school…)

Over the course of lots and lots and LOTS of research in my Etsy shop-owning years, I’ve narrowed in on a pretty much fail-proof 3-part system to determine your USP:

STEP 1 | Find out exactly what your ideal customer wants.

Have you already crafted your ideal customer? If you haven’t, then be sure to sign up for my free Sale-A-Day e-course because it’s what lesson 1 is alllllllllllll about :)

With your ideal customer in mind, it’s now time to make a list of all of his/her wants and needs. A good way to do this (and a way that I share in my Sale A Day e-course) is to “ask” your ideal customer a series of questions that give you a better idea of his/her wants and needs.  

Not sure where to start? Here are some questions to think about as you are dreaming up your ideal client:

-What does his/her schedule look like on a daily basis?

-What are his/her worries and concerns?

-What challenges + issues is he/she facing right now?

-What does he/she do to unwind?

STEP 2 | Identify what makes YOUR Etsy shop unique.

So you’re selling soap (I feel like I always go back to this example…) and there are a half million (quite literally) shops out there selling soap as well. How on earth are you going to stand out in a crowded marketplace?

Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you think. You just have to sit down and take the time to think it through.

While most Etsy shop owners don’t even know what a USP is, the few that do tend to focus on the USP of “handmade” and “made in the USA,” which are great USP’s worth mentioning if you host your own shop website or sell on another platform, but on Etsy? Just about everyone and their dog sells “handmade” and “made in the USA” items (obviously, only if you’re from the USA for that last one ;).

So while those qualities are good starting points, they’re not going to make your shop unique against the thousands of other soap-selling shops that feature handmade in the USA products. 

Your USP needs to be even more specific than that—you need to make sure that your products and shop are delivering a unique perspective and unique value that none of your competitors are providing.

If nothing unique about your business instantly comes to mind, then you probably have a little more business planning to do—because if you don’t know what makes your business unique, you better believe that your customers won’t have a clue either.

STEP 3 | Take your customer needs and your shop’s unique trait(s) and combine these into a single statement.

Time to bring it all home :) You’re going to take your customer’s wants and needs (what we talked about in step #1), and combine it with your shop’s unique traits (step #2).

A lot of businesses take their USP and use it as a tagline—which is a great way to make sure that your customer gets a sense of your business from the get-go.

That being said, your USP should be more than just words—it should be the driving force of your company and every business decision you make should reiterate it. It's especially helpful to refer back to as your business grows and flourishes-- because it will keep you on the right track instead of getting sidetracked by things like just making more money ;)


Examples of FANTASTIC USP’s

Now, I don't know about you, but I learn much better by example, so below I've compiled 3 fantastic examples of companies with amazing USP's:

Company #1 | Tiffany & Co

“Since 1837 the masterpieces of Tiffany & Co. have defined style and celebrated the world's great love stories.”

Okay, I’m a sucker for pretty things, so of course Tiffany & Co is one of the first things that pops into my head as one of my favorite companies with a great USP.

Tiffany & Co has created their USP based on the feeling that their jewelry tells the greatest love stories in the world, and if you own something from Tiffany’s, you’re buying the experience of a love that will last forever.

On the surface, it’s just jewelry—albeit, high quality jewelry—but having that USP that evokes those emotional feelings, you know that you’re buying an experience when you purchase from Tiffany’s.

Company #2 | Tom’s Shoes

“With every product you purchase, Toms will help a person in need. One for one.”

Tom’s Shoes turned the shoe market on its head when it introduced its “one for one” shoe donation program—giving away a pair of shoes to children in need for every pair of shoes bought.

Not only did this USP make consumers feel awesome about their purchase, but it also ensured that they wouldn’t blink twice at higher prices for the shoes—because they were getting more than just that pair of shoes out of their purchase.

Company #3 | Solly Baby

“We believe our wraps bring you closer to your little one, physically and emotionally, while simultaneously giving you the freedom and comfort to take on daily life. “

I feel like I always include examples from the baby industry, but that’s because it’s where I’ve spent the majority of the last 3 years hanging out ;)

Solly Baby sells baby wrap carriers—something that dozens of other companies offer (and many offer tons more options), yet they continue to sell more and more every single year because of their USP—they aren’t just selling a baby wrap—they’re selling the freedom and comfort of being able to experience life to the fullest—even if you have a newborn babe.

And guess what? Coming from someone who had a newborn at one point, I’ll take any sort of hands-off freedom I can get when I’m trying to run a business during those first few months :)

So there you have it-- a super simple 3-step formula to help you find your shop's USP and stand out from a crowded Etsy marketplace.