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What’s so different about you? What sets you apart from your competitors’ products and services?

Though these seem like simple questions to answer, they are often the subject of much mental contortion for marketers to answer. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many skilled marketers to find answers to these questions, and today I’ll share three tests you can use to find your answers.

Only We, by Mark W. Schaefer

Mark SchaeferMark W. Schaefer, author of The Content Code and many other books, asks you to fill in the blank:

“Only we…”

This is harder than it sounds. “Only we” forces you to identify what is unique, and it’s a struggle. Think about every claim you make on your website and in your social media bio. “Only we provide superior customer service”: is that a valid claim? Probably not. Millions of other companies can make the same claim, and a fair number of those claims are valid.

What is true only of you?


The Tombstone, by Tom Webster

Tom WebsterTom Webster, author of The Mobile Commerce Revolution, and many other publications, wants you to ask your customers the following question:

If [brand/product/service] were to die, what would you miss?

You must ask this question of your customers. Do not attempt to answer it for yourself, because you cannot know what your customers truly think about you. You can guess, and you might even make some educated guesses, but your opinion and ego will bias the data.

If you want to find some deep insight, ask this question of all your customers, then sort the answers by your best customers, your average customers, and your worst customers. See how the answers change.


You should now have two lists. You should have your list of unique selling propositions about yourself from Mark Schaefer’s question, and you should have a list of most valuable traits from Tom Webster’s question. From these lists, create a refined list of unique selling propositions which appear on BOTH lists, then apply this next test.

First, Best, Only by Todd Defren

Todd DefrenTodd Defren, CEO of SHIFT Communications (my employer), often asks our clients to identify what about them meets two or more of the list “First, Best, Only”.

Take the refined list from Mark and Tom’s questions and rank them. Which unique selling propositions hit more than just only? Which are first and only, or only and best? Is there a golden unique selling proposition that is first, best, AND only?

If so, you now know which proposition will help you stand out best in the marketplace.

Take these tests and apply them to your marketing!


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