You may be familiar with the name Derek Halpern. He is the author of Social Triggers, which has quickly become one of the most respected online marketing blogs in existence. He sat down with Corbett Barr of Think Traffic a couple of weeks ago, and they got to discussing the secret of his rapid rise to online fame. The result was a video that no blogger should miss:
Every now and then, a highly influential bloggers stands up and preaches the value of a blog’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP), like Derek did here. Most small to medium size bloggers look up, shrug their shoulders, and carry out about with their business. They do so at their peril.
The Value of Your USP
There is only so much you can do to convince people of the importance of any given aspect of blogging. But on a macro level, there is literally nothing more important than finding your USP and making the most of it. Not viral headlines, not copywriting, and not conversion – nothing. The blogosphere is extremely crowded, and although blogs that tread over old ground can achieve traction given time and a lot of marketing, it is the blogs with a strong USP that thrive in a short space of time, and attract a huge crowd of loyal supporters.
Find that hard to believe? The evidence is all around you. Social Triggers itself is a prime example – a blog that entered an extremely crowded market, but was able to succeed on the basis of its unique approach to the psychology of marketing. Smart Passive Income is wildly successful blog because of Pat Flynn’s personality, honesty and integrity (rare qualities in the internet marketing niche).
Alternatively, look at it from a logical angle. If you own a brand new blog, but are not adding value, why would anyone be compelled to read your content? People need a reason to give your blog the time of day. Defining your USP is defining that reason.
Perhaps the reason that most bloggers do not take time in the formative stages of a blog’s development to define their USP is because it seems rather difficult. Not only that, it is intangible. If you create a wonderful blog design or purchase a stunning premium theme, it is there for you to see. However, the value of an effective USP does not become apparent until your blog starts to gain momentum, which can take weeks or months.
The alternative excuse is simple ignorance – a startup blogger may have no idea that they need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.
Regardless of the excuses, bloggers without clear focus and direction will be tearing their hair out before too long, as a mere trickle of visitors hits their blog. If you do not take time to find your USP, you may waste weeks or months of your life working on your blog, and be so jaded by the whole experience that you lose any passion you once had.
How to Find Your USP
The main stumbling block in finding your USP is that you have already decided what you want to blog about before you have analyzed whether or not you can offer value or differentiation in that market. A startup blogger is likely to be strongly swayed by their emotional attachment to a particular topic. Whilst having passion for your topic is an excellent trait, passion alone will not create success.
The other stumbling block is a lack of confidence. Many startup bloggers simply feel that they have nothing new to add. But nothing could be further from the truth – although the blogosphere is far more crowded than it once was, there are opportunities everywhere you turn.
Take Twitter Journal Club as an example, co-founded by Natalie Silvey. In simple terms, the blog is a journal club for medical professionals, and actually acts as a hub for a periodical Twitter chat at #twitjc. The format already existed – but it was offline, and localized to individual hospitals.
Natalie spotted a gap in the market, and provided a solution that the medical community was crying out for (even if they didn’t know it). The journal club was launched in June 2011, and has already attracted an enormous amount of attention. Most recently, Natalie has been invited to London and Dublin to speak on behalf of the British Medical Journal and the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Whilst that example is technical in nature, the principle is extremely straightforward. There was a demand for information and community, and Twitter Journal Club met it. In order to find your USP, you need to recognize information gaps.
You may feel that this is impossible – that there are no untapped niches left. But in reality, there are more topics, interest groups, hobbies and pastimes in existence than you could ever possibly know about.
The key misunderstanding is that you need to tap into a broad audience, but that is not the case at all. A highly focused blog will achieve recognition far more easily than a blog that attempts to cater to a wide audience.
Don’t think book reviews – think online book club focused solely on romance novels. Don’t think fashion blog – think summer dresses portfolio blog (it is always summer somewhere). How about an online community for theatre orchestra violinists? Do not be intimidated by what you perceive to be a small market. Not only are you likely to attract a larger audience by targeting a more focused nice, you will attract a far more engaged audience.
Competition, Differentiation and Originality
A successful USP fits into one of three definitions:
- Competition: the niche is open enough to support another blog.
- Differentiation: the new blog offers a different approach to a familiar topic.
- Originality: the new blog establishes itself in a poorly-served niche.
An example of the first definition is Sparring Mind, which is steadily growing and will become a highly respected resource before too long. This is despite the fact that it tackles the exact same subject matter as Sparring Mind. Derek Halpern was the first on the scene, and people were crying out for the content that he produced. There was room for more of the same.
And Social Triggers itself is a good example of differentiation. Online marketing is a highly saturated niche, but Derek was able to set himself apart with his unique approach (that quickly became a strong niche in its own right).
Finally, Twitter Journal Club is a great example of originality. Before this blog existed, there was no online resource of a similar nature. It literally broke new ground on the internet. That happened in 2011, and it will happen countless times in 2012.
It Aint Rocket Science Folks
Some bloggers stumble upon a USP by accident. Others think long and hard about their long term strategy before they even buy a domain and install WordPress. Either way, we are not often dealing with geniuses. Focusing on the intangibles of successful blog development can easily set you apart from the crowd, because most people simply don’t do it.
Whilst the barriers of entry to blogging are extremely low, successful blogging is much like learning to play guitar. It is pretty easy to pick one up and strum a chord or two, but nailing Little Wing is another matter altogether. Moreover, it becomes a whole lot easier if you practice in the right manner, rather than mindlessly hitting the strings in the hope that you will eventually produce a good tune.
Time To Brainstorm
We listed a few examples of potential blog USPs above. They are pretty easy to come up with, but the key is in having the knowledge and passion to match.
So take this as an opportunity to shamelessly plug your own blog. Let’s open this up in the comments section – tell us the topic that your blog covers, and what your unique selling proposition is.