Picture this: you walk into a networking event and someone immediately asks, “what do you do?” At which point you breathe a sigh of relief because you didn’t have to be the one to strike up a conversation first. (Although when you need to strike first, try one of these great networking event pick up lines.)

But now what? How do you answer that question? What you need is a strong unique value proposition (UVP). Later in the conversation, you may need to be able to follow that up with a stronger unique selling proposition (USP), but only when the time is right. 

These two concepts are often described as interchangeable, but they are not. There’s an important distinction between the two and mastering that distinction is important to your business’s success.

Unique value proposition

Your UVP directly answers the question, “what do you do?” It is a short and simple, yet general, statement that sums up your business and the value it offers. It’s your business’s personality, strengths and identity. When we get asked the “what do you do” question, we respond with:

We help owner-managers with business development initiatives.

But while generally informative to the asker, that statement is about who we are and can almost act as a guiding principle for all of our business decisions. What it does not tell the asker is why they should care. That’s where the USP comes in.

Unique selling proposition

Your USP takes that solid UVP and puts it into a language that speaks directly to your target market. And a good USP comes from having a good understanding of who your customer is, what they want and why they want it.

In other words, a good USP comes from listening to the other person’s needs.

Unlike your UVP, you should have multiple USPs for each product or service you offer and responsive marketing to go along with each one. For example, when we’re talking to a prospect that mentions the need for a business plan, we jump in with our business plan USP followed by a story of how we successfully solved this problem for another client. And when we’re listening to a prospect’s tale of woe because their books are a disaster, you can bet we jump in with a stellar bookkeeping-related USP. 

If you try to walk in the door with a USP instead of a UVP, you’ll be telling a potential client exactly what you want to do rather than what that person may want you to be able to do. A good USP encourages the other person to want your product or service; it makes them almost instantly see that they absolutely need to check out your company.


Need another take on when to use your UVP and USP? Check out this blog on multi-level business development. Sometimes selling to mid-sized businesses requires this multi-approach selling tactic.


Speaking of USP, we’re Quickbooks experts and in our next blog post we’ll tell you how to set up Quickbooks to generate the reports that not only show your bottom line, but also help you make effective business growth decisions.

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