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How to write a unique selling proposition

Clearly communicate what differentiates your wine with this step-by-step guide.

What's a unique selling proposition?

A unique selling proposition (USP) is a statement that clearly communicates what differentiates you from the competition.

Being able to express the unique values and benefits of your wine in a clear and concise way is fundamental to any successful marketing or sales strategy – including wine exports.

For some businesses, creating an effective USP is relatively straightforward. Consider Dan Murphy’s, who communicate their point of difference via a ‘Lowest Liquor Price Guarantee’. Given how many wines there are on the shelves, however, it can be significantly more challenging for wine brands to stand out. You may also need multiple USPs to cater for different export markets, different target markets and different product ranges. But taking the time to work through this process will ultimately make it easier to find overseas buyers, market your wine and pitch to export partners. 

Here are some steps you can follow to develop your own USP. 

Unique selling proposition template

Download this template to help develop your USP statement.

How to write your own USP

Work through this step-by-step process, filling in the USP template as you go. The template helps you collate all your ideas on a single page. You’ll likely need to make multiple drafts and refine your work as you go.

Step-by-step guide

Deciding which wines you export to which markets is something that should be determined by your export plan. Smaller wineries may only need one USP to cover their entire export range. The larger and more varied your portfolio – and the more global markets you enter – the more USPs you’ll need.

Before you start thinking about what differentiates your wine from other brands, consider who your ideal customer is. It’s not enough to target a rough demographic. You need to understand who you’re speaking to, what they want in a wine and what influences their purchase decisions. 

Let’s say, for example, you're an organic wine producer looking to diversify your export business by entering the US market. Organic and biodynamic wines are in trend, particularly in California and New York, and your product has the potential to meet the demands of a sustainable lifestyle wine consumer. By researching your ideal customer, you might find: 

  • They seek authentic, natural wines from brands that are aligned with their positive social and emotional values. 
  • They are most attracted to high-quality wines that have limited production and/or distribution. They don’t want generic wines that can be found ‘anywhere’. 
  • Vineyard and winery practices are of prime importance, with a strong preference for minimal-intervention. 
  • Brand story is key. Having a unique brand story helps them build an emotional connection with the wine and its makers. 

By understanding your audience in this way, you can determine which messages actually matter. 

Organic, award-winning, low alcohol, old vines – the list of potential differentiators is unlimited. Start by listing everything you can think of, then group them into themes, cut and prioritise. If you need some inspiration, consider your competitors or similar brands. In what ways is your wine the same? How is it different? The end goal is to be able to match your most unique benefits against your audience’s needs.

Put simply, what makes your brand special? This could be based around brand values, such as environment and land management, social and community concerns or issues. It could also be about pedigree, your promise to the consumer, your brand story, or the legacy you want your business to leave. Think about the reason you get up every morning and do what you do, then consider how you can share that message in an inspirational way with your audience. 

Try not to default to family history here. Australia’s winemaking history only goes back a couple of hundred years, and you’re likely competing with European and even South American producers. Instead, focus on ‘ownability’. What’s a brand story that makes you unique vis-à-vis all other wineries? Wineries that have a clear mission and story and can succinctly tell that story to trade or consumers tend to get the most traction. 

Once you have a better idea of what your USP is, it’s a good idea to express it as a rough positioning statement as outlined in the template. This likely won’t be exactly what you advertise on your website or sales brochure, but it should help you clarify your USP, its audience and any specific differentiators that are worth highlighting.

Going back to the example above, a USP template could end up looking something like this:

Market: California

Wines/range: Reserve 

For: Sustainable lifestyle wine consumer

Who are looking for: Limited-release, high-quality organic wines with a brand story that resonates with their positive social and emotional values.

Our: Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

Are wines that: are made from 100% certified organic carbon positive fruit, nurtured using sustainable viticulture, followed by minimal intervention winemaking.

We are special because: We are the only carbon positive winery in our region. Our wine comes from the heart of the land and soil rather than the mind of the winemaker.

Now you have a USP outline, take your time to condense your wording and create a simple USP statement you can test in your target market.

USP: Example Wines’ reserve range is made with 100% certified organic, carbon positive fruit. So you can enjoy wine that’s good for the planet and the palate. 

Contrived though it may be, this example demonstrates how the USP matches the wine’s qualities with the customer’s wants. This same producer would need to approach a USP quite differently if entering a market that cares more about awards and prestige than it does about sustainability. 

Industry best practice

Consider these industry dos and don’ts before refining your own USP. 

  • The wine industry is rife with generic pitches that don’t actually differentiate the product. Avoid overused terms such as family, artisan, hand, technology, tradition, estate, innovation, premium, quality and passionate. 
  • Likewise, avoid using words that may negatively impact your brand image. This includes terms such as drought, financial struggle or succession plan. 
  • Focus on facts, not adjectives. e.g. ‘Winner of 5 trophies and exporting to 10 countries’ is far more convincing than ‘premium wine from a legendary family’. 
  • Remember not everyone is a connoisseur. Steer clear of viticulture and winemaking jargon. 
  • Consider using a point of reference for quality using wine ratings such as Halliday Wine Companion. 
  • Keep in mind that most people won’t be familiar with Australian geographic locations such as ‘Barossa Western Ridge’, in which case it’s not worth mentioning.  
  • Be culturally aware. For example, it’s important not to patronise Chinese consumers. Comments such as ‘my wine will change the way Chinese people look at wines’ will make you look arrogant. 
  • Keep the language simple if you plan to translate. Names, locations and slang terms are almost impossible to translate. Wine descriptors can also be difficult. 

Selling wine online

To consider ways to apply your USP in real terms, check out this two-part webinar series from Wine Australia. It offers guidance on the US e-commerce landscape and tips for growing your social media presence.

This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.