- Void Deck Writer
- 2023 / 04 - THE IMPORTANCE OF USP - AND IT’S NOT JUST FOR SALES!
2023 / 04 - THE IMPORTANCE OF USP - AND IT’S NOT JUST FOR SALES!
This issue, we touch on USP / UVP and its importance in creative practice. Spoiler Alert - It's not just for sales!
“No one is special, but everyone is unique.”
Heard this one?
It is true though - There might be a thousand other people doing the same thing as you. However, none of them are you. And that becomes your secret weapon to make an impression, find your people, sustain your practice, make sales, and everything else in between.
This issue, we touch on what we call Unique Value Proposition or Unique Selling Point and its importance in the sustainability of our careers and creative practices.
Spoiler Alert - It’s not only for sales.
Note: For the purposes of clarity, the content of this issue will refer to the publishing of fiction works (mostly novels, short story anthologies, and comics). For publication of non-fiction works, poetry, or others not mentioned here, I would advise you to try another article that caters specifically to the genre or medium you are looking for.
What is USP / UVP?
A USP or a UVP, directly translated, is a Unique Selling Point or a Unique Value Proposition. In short, the factor that makes you stand out from the crowd.
While interchangeable, USP is often used for products and UVP is often used for services.
Examples of USP / UVP:
Ummet Ozcan, DJ and musician, mixes progressive trance with his skill in throat singing and ethnic instruments.
Sherms Tan, artist and graphic designer, creates merchandise and prints based on Japanese Yokai and her twist on everyday life.
Jennifer Lynn Barnes, author of the Inheritance Games series and canon, is known for weaving puzzles into her mystery and thriller narratives.
On top of that, USPs / UVPs tend to be discovered rather than intentionally manufactured from the outset. A major commonality between many long lasting USPs / UVPs in creative practice, as observed, would be that these factors are borne from either the creator’s personal interests, skills, alignment, or some combination of the above three.
I often mention that the best Singaporean novels I’ve read are those that read like the author did not have a checklist of Singaporean-ness to insert into the manuscript. And that comes from this statement -
By virtue of you being yourself / Singaporean, the work is already you / Singaporean.
Note: It’s a bit of my belief that almost every story is a story local to the author’s environment. So ironically, rejecting who you are actually shows in your work - think being known as Singaporean is “cringe”? Your story can read “cringe” to others. Angry while cooking? People who eat your food can tell.
Must USPs / UVPs be where I’m from / what I do, then? Not necessarily. Must USPs / UVPs be 100% Original, then? No.
Then why is it important? Cheesy answer - Because there’s only one you around. There might be hundreds of people on TikTok singing puns, but there’s only one You who sings puns in three different languages. The more detailed answer that can be translated to practical steps -
What does USP / UVP have to do with creative practice?
Let’s get this first factor out of the way - SALES.
Of your skill, your story, your brand, your practice, your products. Do you know what inspires confidence in agents / publishers / customers? People who know what they’re selling and who they want to talk to.
And even if you want to get sales out of your mind, having your USP / UVP at the top of your head will help you. How? It increases your self-awareness, your grasp on your skills and interests, and helps you with that part of yourself where you peg your being onto your work. Knowing your USP / UVP as a person means you are so much more than what you produce, how much you earn, etc…
From there, the second factor that has to do with your USP / UVP would be the ease of finding your target audience.
General public is not a target audience.
Saying your work is for everyone / as many people as possible, as long as they can buy my books means your work is for no one.
How then, would you be able to find your target audience? If you do not like that term, how then, would you be able to find your tribe? The people who “get you” and are aligned with your work, your values, who you are over time?
Knowing your USP / UVP as a practitioner and in your work helps you with finding your people with this simple (easiness may vary) statement - if you know what you’re trying to say, you’ll know / learn about who you’re trying to say it to. And how best they can look for what you have to offer.
Ultimately, knowing your USP / UVP can only benefit you by helping you learn about yourself. Without your own twist on things (subconscious or not), your creations will not be unique.
“But I’m a WRITER! A CREATOR! I don’t want to think about marketing and sales and all the icky business things!”
And that’s fair. So here are some mindset considerations when it comes down to those questions that you dread but will be asked (“Please tell me about yourself.”), because publishing is a business:
Being aware of yourself is important - there’s no point in beating yourself up and we all know that an inflated sense of confidence does not help either. Even if you’re not 100% aware of yourself, knowing what interests you and where you stand on your values are good places to start.
While they help with sales and marketing, your USP / UVP is to help you get a grasp on what you have to offer with your creative practice. It’s meant to serve as your compass to the people who are searching for your message.
Rejection will still happen. Sometimes, it might even have nothing to do with the quality of your work, how you look, what networks you have. Sometimes, things have nothing to do with your USP / UVP. In business, alignment and timing play a huge part in decisions. What matters in this situation is how you handle the rejection - are you going to stop and blame the rejections? Or are you going to continue with your creative practice because that’s what you want to practise regardless anyway?
Knowing what you DO NOT want to be presented as or share with your audience is helpful - as long as you ultimately decide what you want (Recap on last issue!)
Unique Selling Point: The factor or aspect that makes your practice, product, or service unique / stand out in the marketplace. This is usually a tangible, practical aspect.
Unique Value Proposition: Similar to USP, but with the added aspect of values that align the creator to the audience member. Your audience member may not “need” your product / service, but they may support you because the unique value you bring to their lives works for them.
Target Audience: Your tribe. The ideal crowd who will understand your message and support your products / services.
What Can I Do as a Practitioner?
Can’t decide or discover your USP / UVP now? Think you don’t have one? One of the tactics I chanced upon was this 10 / 10 / 10 method - 10 things I loved doing as a child, 10 things I am curious about, 10 things I like to do and continue doing now. Try it.
If the above-mentioned tactic does not help, why not take a look at the work you have produced (published or not). This gives you a better glimpse of the kind of product or service you provide, and the common thread that goes through them. For example, if you realise that you like combining short comic strips with your prose, and that it has worked well for you, why not lean into it?
You do not have to announce your USP / UVP to the world. Using the knowledge of your USP / UVP to bolster your craft or give yourself a clearer path towards presenting yourself or putting yourself into the industry may serve you better.
Note that your USP / UVP can change - you report to yourself first and foremost. And if you can stand behind your USP / UVP, why not?
Remember that there’s no such thing as a “correct” USP / UVP. The Hunger Games concept written word-for-word may not work now as it worked for Suzanne Clark those years back. While fundamental quality is needed (e.g. grammar, character development, active story), it is a fact that regardless, alignment to agents, editors, and audience will still be a factor in your creative practice. And how that affects you as a creator depends on how much you peg your value as a creator on external validation (Recap of last month’s issue again!)
I hope you will be able to glean something helpful from my reflections moving forward as well!
And that’s it from me this round! If you like what you’re seeing, have any questions about publishing that you would like me to look at, or just want to say hi, do drop me a comment or send me a message. I would definitely like to hear from you.
Keep the pages turning!