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Eating crow: I was (somewhat) wrong on USPs

If you’ve read my book, Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, you’ll see that I recommend NOT developing a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) before you start contacting potential clients for your freelance and consulting clients.


Actually, my book doesn’t much talk about USPs. Definitions of the term vary, of course, but here’s a good one from entrepreneur.com: A USP pinpoints “what makes your business unique in a world of homogeneous competitors.”


The point of my book is how to start making good money quickly. To achieve this requires marketing, and the essence of marketing is connecting with prospects. You can do lots of spiffy marketing activity, such as setting up websites or designing business cards, but it accomplishes nothing at all unless it comes to the attention of appropriate prospects.


I contend that it’s most important to put in place just enough marketing activity to support contacting prospects, quite possibly by picking up the phone.


USP development, I continue to argue, is a poor use of time if it postpones connecting and outreach activity.


Coming up with a strong USP that is truly “unique” to your business alone is daunting. Some of us ponder it for days, months or even years.


We expect a compact phrase to do extraordinary lifting and instantly solve our business problems.


Sometimes we develop a USP but later determine it’s not quite right and go off to develop another one . . . and later yet another.


To sum it up, developing a USP we love is enormously time consuming. If you wait for perfection, you may wait a long time and make little to no money in the meanwhile.


For most of us freelancers, it’s not worth doing at the beginning. For instance, as a writer, I can describe myself with that simple word and get assignments.


Here’s the exception: consultants.


People don’t know what service a consultant offers and they can’t decide that they are even remotely interested if they don’t know more about what you do.


They need some idea of the problem you solve so they know if they need your services.


Job titles such as “marketing consultant” or “communications consultant” or “IT consultant” when used without any context are generally too vague to land assignments.


If you are going to make phone calls to consulting prospects who know nothing about you, consider developing a preliminary USP to get started. It doesn’t have to be super concise and certainly not rhyming or witty. It’s not a permanent decision.


But I suggest you choose a temporary USP . . . and despite the word “unique” it need not be unique to only you. Take your foot off the brake and accelerate your marketing.


Originally posted 9-17-14

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