How Unique Selling Propositions Are Killing Your Word-of-Mouth Marketing

unique selling proposition word of mouth

Even when you’re selling something unique, you need that
perfect talk trigger to separate yourself from the pack.

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When your friend returns from a vacation, he’s probably eager
to tell you about his fun getaway. But which story truly sticks
with you? That the hotel had an amazing infinity pool? That the
local restaurants offered incredible food? What about something
oddly specific — like the fact that the concierge gave away a
different stuffed animal each day?

You might not think that last aspect matters, but those “talk
triggers” tend to remain the most memorable. This makes them
worth their weight in gold—and then some—as part of an
effective word-of-mouth marketing strategy.

When marketers lean on
unique selling propositions
(USPs), they position their
products as effective—but forgettable—solutions. While a USP
seems perfect in theory, too many marketers forget how important
the first letter of the acronym is.

As part of our research for my new book, “Talk
,” we surveyed customers of The Cheesecake Factory.
As you might expect, about 60 percent of respondents mentioned
“food quality” as the first thing they tell their friends
about. Hey, that’s great. But you know who else claims to have
good food? Every other restaurant on the planet. Even when you’re
selling something unique, you need that perfect talk trigger to
separate yourself from the pack.

Moving Beyond USPs

At this point, most marketing professionals understand the
importance of
word-of-mouth marketing
. What those marketers fail to realize,
however, is that their story has to be interesting enough to pass
along. You might offer the lowest shoe prices on the block, but
nobody is going to tell their friends about you unless you make an
effort to remind your customers of this fact.

When companies miss out on these opportunities, the consequences
are costly. According to a study by Engagement
 last year, 19 percent of purchases by U.S. consumers were
the result of word of mouth—and that’s only for consumers who
were aware of it. Who knows how many people were browsing for a new
pair of jeans only to settle on one because they subconsciously
remembered a friend’s story about the brand.

19 percent of purchases by U.S. consumers are the result of word
of mouth. #TalkTriggers

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How to Get Them Talking

This might sound simple, but developing the perfect talk trigger
requires more than coming up with an attention-grabbing slogan. The
following criteria can help you design a talk trigger that starts a
conversation rather than leaves people speechless (in a bad

  1. Make it remarkable.
    Every brand needs to tell a
    story, but that story must be worth telling — this applies to
    both you and your customers. To motivate customers to spread your
    message, that message literally must be remarkable. Shocking your
    customers is fine and dandy, but dropping jaws isn’t the same as
    offering a story worthy of remark. Holiday World is a perfect
    example of a company that connected its brand message to its
    product in a unique and engaging way. Originally known as Santa
    Claus Land, the theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana, included a
    variety of North Pole-themed attractions. The business eventually
    expanded to celebrate other holidays, which led to the name change.
    Even with the change, it was the connection between the location
    and that original name that first got people talking. It’s
    essential to come up with a talk trigger that relates to your
    overall goal. Nobody was going to forget that Santa Claus Land was
    in Santa Claus, Indiana. In the same way, nobody will forget your
    brand if you connect it to a remarkable talk trigger.
  2. Make it relevant.
    Originality is great, but you’ll
    need more than that to bring your talk trigger to fruition.
    Everyone and their mother might be giving away a free smartphone or
    something similar as the grand prize in a contest, but that isn’t
    necessarily relevant to your brand. Instead of copying what works
    for someone else, find something that meshes with your broader
    brand positioning and objectives.Any discount, promotion, or
    special offer must relate to your company’s overarching
    goals. FreshBooks,
    a company that offers accounting and invoicing software, hosted a
    series of events where experts gave free advice to customers.
    Instead of attending expensive conferences — FreshBooks knew a
    large portion of its user base was self-employed — the company
    adapted to its audience and instead hosted its own gatherings
    throughout North America. By adapting to its users, FreshBooks
    strengthened brand loyalty by proving it understood them.
  3. Make it reasonable.
    When your talk trigger starts
    getting around, you want something that is believable. It should be
    remarkable enough to drive conversation but reasonable enough that
    people actually trust that it happened. If your talk trigger
    elicits more skepticism than intrigue, you’re probably missing
    the mark.Consumers are inherently suspicious, so you need to find
    something that almost anyone would believe. Graduate Hotels, which has
    locations near university campuses such as Virginia, Michigan, and
    Nebraska, gives each guest a room keycard that looks like an ID
    card of a famous alumnus of its nearby university. This approach
    delivers a heaping helping of college nostalgia to guests, and it
    becomes a believable talking point when they’re sharing tales of
    their stay.
  4. Make it repeatable.
    When you’re implementing your
    talk trigger, you’re essentially conditioning your audience. Just
    like a parent consistently rewards or punishes his or her child to
    reinforce certain behaviors, consistency is key. Every single
    customer must be able to enjoy the same (or at least roughly the
    same) experience, as it allows each new person to become part of
    the narrative. You might be familiar with magicians Penn &
    Teller and their comedic approach to the world of illusion.
    Audiences have enjoyed the duo’s performances for decades at this
    point, but part of their longevity is a talk trigger they repeat
    regularly: They spend time mingling with fans, posing for selfies,
    and answering questions at the conclusion of every show. Whether
    your talk trigger is meeting with fans, handing out fancy trinkets,
    or something else entirely, you must offer the same experience to
    every customer. An exclusive experience for a select few might seem
    more intriguing, but that approach limits your talk trigger’s
    ability to spread like wildfire.

While it may seem hard to pinpoint the exact talk trigger of
your dreams, by following these guidelines, you can make begin your
journey with this proven formula and be making progress on turning
your customers into volunteer marketers in no time. Experiment to
see what resonates. There is no exact science to marketing—there
never has been. But, Once you find a talk trigger that your
customers are happy to share with their networks, you’ll be able
to sit back and let them handle the marketing for you.

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How Unique Selling Propositions Are Killing Your Word-of-Mouth
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