Do You Have A USP?
Most coaches have no idea what a USP is. I don’t blame you, for most of my coaching career I didn’t either. Your USP is your unique selling proposition – it’s what makes you different from the rest of the industry. Even though we know this is what every successful business, organisation and multi-national does, most coaches don’t allocate the time to do this exercise because they don’t know how. It’s time to change that.
Imagine not being able to explain why a seated chest press isn’t different to a seated row – to the layman they move along the same plane and look similar in execution. How would you feel as a coach or trainer trying to grow a business that thrives? What most people don’t realise is that your clients are wondering what makes you better than the 10 trainers that also use the same gym, and if you don’t know exactly what makes you different, then you’re in with a chance to attract the wrong people into your business, produce sub-par results, and feel like you’re stuck chasing your tail.
Without being able to articulate or differentiate who you are, what you do, and why you do it, you’re like everyone else. Having a USP changes that. This article brings everything that matters together to help design your USP.
The USP has a few critical purposes. It helps your ideal customer know exactly who you are, what you do, and why you do it. It should clearly articulate the problems you solve, the methodology you deploy to do it, and the ultimate prize at the end of the tunnel. It should also give them an opportunity to take the next step with you – whether that’s to have a phone call or face-to-face meet up (there are benefits to both will work dependant on what type of product and service you’re offering).
It will provide the framework for designing your website, your advertising material, and will be reworked and re used every time you write, present or introduce yourself in front of a camera, audience or individual who might benefit from working with you. Despite this, when I asked over 250 coaches if they had a clear USP that I could digest on one of their advertising platforms, only 21 could point me to a finished product. This isn’t because it’s not valuable, but because people always find excuses not to do the hard work that actually moves the needle. Training more and more clients doesn’t make you more successful, it just makes you busier. Your reach, results and revenue is what makes you successful. If you can reach an ever-expanding audience, deliver incredible and predictable results, and generate revenue where you actually profit, then you will start to enjoy the freedoms that you actually want – doing more of what you love, living more life, and making more money.
Before we start, it’s super important to practice this in front of people. Unless you get feedback, you won’t know if it actually makes sense to people other than you. We highly recommend doing this exercise with a friend or family who can help you cut through your fancy words and get straight to the point.
Designing Your USP
Your USP has 7 steps, and, the most successful ones usually follow the same formula. This formula is not my own; it comes from some of the best coaches in the industry – Dent Global. As part of one of their modules, they go through this framework. I have adapted this for coaches.
Each part, needs to be addressed if your USP is going to flow and do what it’s supposed to do – which is give your ideal customers the confidence to take the next step with you.
1. The Basics
The basics is exactly what it sounds like. Can you effectively articulate exactly who you are, what you do, and what makes you special (your specialty)? Is your first sentence about you long winded and confusing? Or, is it direct, straight to the point, and clear?
This is what our own used to be back before we learned about effective pitching.
Athletes Authority is a high performance facility that makes sure we don’t let athletes rely on talent alone. We also coach coaches to adopt professional systems so they can improve their skillset.
We thought it was great. For a while, it was even the tag line on the front page of our website. In reality, it sucks. It’s confusing, long winded, and doesn’t actually effectively articulate exactly what we do.
These days, The Basics for us look like this:
Athletes Authority is a gym that specialises in athlete development and coach education.
Simple, to the point, and it’s pretty obvious what we do.
When I’ve done this exercise with my mentees, I’ve found almost everyone struggles with this. Yes – everyone. So if you’re now thinking about your own, and can’t put your finger on it, that’s ok.
Here are some examples of how we’ve transformed The Basics with our own mentee clients.
|Hi my name is Marlee and I specialise in coaching athletes who want to look good on camera, hold their character and move more freely.||Hi my name is Marlee Barber and I train actors so they’re ready for stage and film.|
|Hi my name is Mark and I am a strength and conditioning coach that facilitates athletes who want to be harder to kill to live out their dreams.||Hi my name is Mark and I coach fighting athletes in the gym so they’re harder to kill.|
|Hi my name is Jon and I train junior rugby league athletes so they can live out their dreams.||Hi my name is Jon and I am a strength and conditioning coach specialising in junior rugby development.|
The Basics should be basic. No one wants a confusing explanation of what you do. They just want to know what you do. Hopefully you can see how we’ve transformed some of the above to make it easier to understand, or in the very least, more clear.
So let’s try this for yourself. Fill in the blanks.
Hi my name is ______________ and I am a ____________ (trainer/coach) who specialises in ___________________________________________________________________________.
Once you think you’ve nailed it, make sure you ask yourself ‘Is this simple to understand?’ Test this with 10 people and see what they think too.
Have you ever been asked what’s your background in this? Or, what have you achieved? Or, how long have you been doing this for? These are all questions by your potential client that they want assurance of your authority. They want to know your credible.
Until you know what really makes you an authority, you might babble about your university degree, or your passion for health and fitness or whatever else comes out in your mouth as your confronted with the question about how good you are. And unfortunately, knowing how to manage this question is something you’re never taught at Uni or College.
Authority is made up of four pieces. They do not have equal weighting, and I have categorised them in descending sequential order of priority.
Nothing will ever be more important than the results you produce for your clients. If you’ve got them, you should be leveraging them. Your results should be abundantly apparent not only in your testimonials, but your USP, too.
In my experience helping 500 women drop 3 dress sizes…
In my experience taking a failing rugby team to three consecutive premiership titles…
In my experience working with national powerlifters…
In my experience coaching bodybuilders to over 50 medals on stage…
In my experience giving over 1000 men the confidence to take their shirt off…
However, if you’re new to coaching, then you won’t have results. It’s likely however, you’ll have the next best thing – insights.
Insights are your personal experiences dealing with the problems of your ideal client or being someone close to someone who has done the same. One of our mentee clients, and we’ll call her Jan, was unclear why she was an expert to work with those with chronic metabolic disease until she shared her insights into her deeply intimate experiences with her Mother and Grandmother.
Jan had finished an Exercise Physiology degree. This gave her permission to work with diseased state clients, something that is quite rare in Australia (it takes four years of university to have the privilege). Despite having the recognition (another form of authority which we’ll go over shortly) she didn’t quite understand how she was the expert yet.
As we dug a little deeper into her insights, we found out about Jan’s Grandmother, who’d suffered from Type II Diabetes for the majority of her life. Despite wanting to be helped for a long time, she got help too late. Poor control of the condition led to peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and the only solution was to have her leg amputated. Soon after, Jan’s Grandmother was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, which ultimately made her blind.
Jan’s experiences didn’t end there – her mum has Type II diabetes as well. Growing up, Jan saw her mum want to change, but the driving motivation wasn’t there. She didn’t understand, until she saw it in her own Mother, the effects of diabetes.
If you take your shoes off for a moment and jump into Jan’s, you can see how these very unique insights give her authority. She has seen first hand the effects of type II diabetes, and now, has a passion that very few EP’s have to make a difference to those with chronic disease. She intimately understands the problems of her target audience/niche/ideal customer, and can really connect with them. This insight is authority.
As you know, our insights are similar. We are so fortunate to be able to work with coaches all across the world to help them make an impact, and we do that because we’ve had the experiences of starting at the bottom of the ladder, working our arses off every rung of the way, and still making a tonne of mistakes along the way. Now, we want to help coaches understand the difference between doing work, and doing the right work, in order to get ahead, get noticed, and make an impact.
If you’re one of those proud University types, you might be wondering how insights could possibly be considered more important than a tertiary education. It’s a fair assumption and I certainly don’t blame you – I used to think that way too. Especially after I was inducted into the Executive Dean’s List for academic excellence at my University graduation. Yes, it sounds a little high and mighty doesn’t it? It also doesn’t really mean much, does it?
To further illustrate the point, have you ever been to a pretty disinterested doctor at your local medical centre. He did 7 years of study to get there. What about a really average Physio, Chiro or Osteo that you wouldn’t recommend to your worst enemy? It took them 6 years of study to get that piece of paper too. Being recognised within academia for a qualification doesn’t mean anything in the real world.
In fact, i’ve worked with mentee clients who have had over 10 years of experience as a trainer or coach but only have a Cert IV in Personal Training, who would walk all over a tertiary graduate. With all that said, recognition, in the absence of results and insights is better than nothing. It certainly adds some robustness to your authority, even if it is somewhat dependent on other factors.
On the other hand, recognition that does add value is being published in industry leading magazines/websites; speaking at industry conferences, or being awarded by your industry for excellence (if you get trainer of the year, then that is definitely worth something to your authority).
Being associated with brands more recognised than your own is a big ticket that isn’t usually available to those who haven’t already had some success in the industry. For Athletes Authority, being associated with professional teams like the Parramatta Eels, GWS Giants, sporting brands like Lululemon, and industry partners like SKLZ, GymAware, Fusion Sport and Eleiko, and federations NSW Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting Australia comes with time. However, these associations are worth their weight in gold. If you have strategic partnerships, they might be worth mentioning in in your authority piece.
It’s time to get clear on your Authority. Under each subheading (results, insights, recognition and association), write down everything you can think. Share those examples with other coaches, and, your target market, to see what stands out to them the most. Ideally, you’d like to have two or three key authority things you can mention. As an example, here are ours:
In our experience working with the Parramatta Eels and the GWS Giants, helping 5 athletes get professional contracts in the private sector, and mentoring coaches worldwide, we’ve….
We’ve leveraged associations and results, because in our experience, that is what makes the most impact with our peers and target market. Being associated with professional sport is not only every strength and conditioning coaches dream, but, makes us seem pretty expert to our athletes, too.
Once you’ve identified your three key authority pieces (if you have three), re-create the sentence above and put it after your line of who you are and what you do. It should look like this:
Our names are Karl and Lachy and we own a gym called Athletes Authority that specialises in athlete development and coach education. In our experience working with the Parramatta Eels, the GWS Giants, helping 5 athletes represent their country in the private sector, and mentoring coaches across the world, we’ve…
Do you know your customers problems? How many could you list within 3 minutes? If you’re a coach that is already attracting clients and getting great results, you probably already know the main problems of your target market. If you don’t, look out for an article where I help you understand the customer story – it’s hard to do the USP without doing that first.
If however, you know what they are – great. Add this after your sentence which speaks of your authority…
‘We’ve/I’ve identified that [my target market] has three major problems: [insert here].
It should look like this:
Our names are Karl and Lachy and we own a gym called Athletes Authority that specialises in athlete development and coach education. In our experience working with the Parramatta Eels, the GWS Giants, helping 5 athletes represent their country in the private sector while mentoring coaches across the world, we’ve identified that coaches have three major problems: they feel stuck, undervalued, and lack the right knowledge and experience’.
The method is your solution. It’s what you do to help your customer move further away from their problems and closer to the ultimate prize. It’s the step by step formula or the strategies you employ that each contribute to solving the major problems that your client regularly experiences, and can’t figure out for themselves. The method is your product you stand behind.
All the best coaches in the world have one. Louie Simmons wrote a book called The Westside Barbell Book of Methods, and his gym still operates to those guidelines to this day. Chad Wesley Smith has has a method too, it’s called the Juggernaut Method. Lachlan’s first book he ever read (I’m serious) was Body For Life by Bill Phillips. Standing behind a set of methods is what sets you apart. It’s the leg work that isn’t sexy, but will stand out like a sore thumb once it’s done, documented and out there for all to see.
Even if you think you’re so far away from having your own method, the reality is you have one anyway. It just isn’t on paper yet. Simply ask yourself, if I got a new client tomorrow, what is the first thing I’d help them with? What’s the second thing, and the third thing, and so on. You’ll get to the end at some point when they are no longer experiencing their problems and are enjoying their prize. Here is an example:
I’ve designed a system for training that makes sure nothing is left to chance. I teach a solution for mastering your mindset so your self-doubt, low esteem and self-consciousness stops holding you back; a nutrition protocol that makes it possible to still have a social life, and a philosophy for training that makes you feel strong and capable in the gym.
So, what’s yours? Feel free to adapt what I wrote above to suit your market. As another example, here is ours at Athletes Authority.
We’ve designed a 6-step method that consists of 6 A’s: Awareness, Assessment, Application, Accountability, Authority and Achievement. Our method helps coaches become aware of what they want, why they want it, and who you want to serve. We help our mentees design a unique system for training and a strategy for raising profile, marketing yourself, and giving back to the community.
The prize is broken up into two parts: what are the opposite states to the problems they’re having, and, what is the ultimate prize if they get those things.
On first inspection, you might think this is obvious – for transformations it’s weight-loss, for powerlifters it’s strength, for team athletes it’s bigger, faster, stronger; in the majority of cases, you’d be wrong.
Weight-loss clients don’t actually want weight-loss, that in itself won’t make them happy. What they actually want is to feel good naked and take their shirt off at the beach and not second guess themselves. Powerlifters don’t want to get stronger, they want to compete and win. Team-sport athletes don’t want to be bigger faster and stronger, they actually want to represent at the highest level of competition.
So what are the prizes you actually offer? If your client’s problem is low self-esteem, the chances are the prize is confidence. If they’re problem is generic training programs, the prize is individually designed, specific training programs. If the problem is confusion, the prize is clarity.
Go ahead and list the three main prizes that contrast the problems and then from there, identify what they actually want. It’s usually only one thing.
For coaches, the ultimate prize is to make more money doing what they love.
Prize 1: _____________________
Prize 2: _____________________
Prize 3: _____________________
The Ultimate Prize: ____________________________________________________________________________
This doesn’t need much explanation. Your why is the glue that holds your product and passion together. Once it’s shared, it’s what makes the customer go ‘ahh – I get it now’. It’s usually deeply intertwined with your ‘personal affinity’ that we spoke about in the customer story. In fact, you should be able to draw upon your personal affinity to directly explain why you do what you do.
Like I mentioned before with our mentee client ‘Jan’, her why is tightly linked to her own experience. When she tells people why she wants to help people with diabetes take control of their health, it’s obvious that she is doing it for the right reasons. There is no denying her motivations. That is the point of your why.
7. The Process
By this stage in the process, it’s a great chance to give your reader, or listener of your USP, an opportunity to take the next step with you. In fact, they probably want you to give them an opportunity to do just that. By this time, assuming they are a qualified lead, or someone who you can actually help, they want to see what the next step in the process is. So give it to them.
This part of the USP is easy, and will sound similar for most coaches.
If you think I might be able to help, then I’d love to find a way into your diary for a no-obligation strategy call.
Let them know that you appreciate that any exchange of their time is valuable. Agreeing with what people are thinking is a great way of disarming someone’s concerns. If you find yourself thinking ‘Great, another guy who wants to call me and pitch to me.’, then the person on the other side of the line probably does too. By acknowledging how important their time is, they’ll be more prepared to share it with you.
‘Because I know your time is valuable, I’ll make sure I give you a really clear strategy for how to tackle the next 90 days so you start to build momentum with your training, regardless of whether we work together.’
This keeps the conversation ‘other-orientated’, something we’ll look into in a lot more detail when we get into mastering the sales process.
If you decide at the end of the conversation that I am the person who you want help from, we’ll make sure we get really clear on what you want, why you want it, and everything that is going to prevent you getting there. We’ll establish new ways of thinking, new habits, and start to create a new identity that is more in line with the goals you set for yourself.
By giving them a walkthrough of what it will look like to work together, they already start visualising that. You begin to place yourself as the authority in their mind. It’s a very strategic way of helping you rise to the top amongst all the noise.
After we’ve spent some time working together, you’ll be much further away from <insert problems> and much closer toward <insert prizes>.
That’s it! Design your own ‘process’ along this formula: find a time where you can get in their diary, offer a lot of value, propose the scenario of you two working together and what that would mean, and finally, clearly articulate the outcome if they were to take that step.
For your reference, here is our USP in full when we’re pitching to other coaches.
“Our names are Karl and Lachlan and we are the owners of Athletes Authority, a gym that specialises in helping coaches stand out in the industry. In our experience in professional sport coaching the Parramatta Eels and GWS Giants, and working in private sector producing industry experts, we’ve discovered that coaches who are trying to stand out usually suffer from the same three problems: feeling stuck, undervalued and confused about how they are going to stand out. We’ve developed a proven method to help remarkable coaches get noticed, and by the time our mentees have implemented the systems we teach in our mentorship, they are making more money, making a bigger impact, and living more life.
Lachlan and I have been coaches our whole lives. Even though we are in a position of influence now, it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, we both started our careers at the bottom of the ladder. We’ve climbed our way to the top, but made a lot of mistakes in the process. We believe that a wise man learns from his mistakes, but an even wiser man learns from the mistakes of others – there’s just not enough time to try and figure it out yourself. We’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by some incredible mentors, and sifted our way through most of the white noise in the industry to find out what works. We don’t want success to stay a secret because we believe we all deserve to make an incredible impact. The Authority Mentorship does just that.
If you’re interested in taking the next step, let’s book in a time to map out what we could do to help. We can look at the current problems you’re experiencing and how we might be able to apply our methodology to help you get to where you want to be. If you decide to start working with us, we’ll make sure we know the intricacies of your situation, and get you clear on what you want, and why you want it. We’ll then get to work making sure you create the time to do the stuff that will actually make an impact, and you’ve got a clear path as to how you’re going to get to where you want to be. We’ll be there every step of the way and our accountability systems are second to none. By the time you finish working with us, you’ll be making more money, doing more of what you love, and living more life.