Why You Need a Killer SMP if You Want to Hit Your (Customer) Target

You have heard of the term USP – unique selling proposition. It’s what makes you and your brand unique – the reason why people should choose you over someone else. Claro.

But what the heck is the SMP ?

Well, it can stand  for a sub-machine pistol, a deadly weapon that hits people automatic-style.


But there’s another SMP that that’s just as dangerous…

and it’s the single-minded proposition – the most important thing you can say about your brand or product. It’s the reason why it exists in the first place – the most important value it provides to me as a customer. It  can be summarized in the following question:

What value does your product/brand bring for me ?

It’s usually the core benefit that improves my (business) life in a considerable way.

So, why the hell do you need it ?

Well, a good SMP is like a good logo – it’s your brand essence compressed into one concise from that’s memorable and spreadable.

If you need a whole paragraph to describe what value you offer, it’s going to be sooo much harder for people to picture and spread it. But if you nail it down in one line – you have a pitch that everyone gets.

BTW – most online entrepreneurs (and even bigger brands) suck at single-minded propositions – they try to cram every offer under the known universe:

I’m a graphic designer and offer the following design services: brochures, ebook covers, prints, web-apparel-logo and xzy design.

Zzzzzzzz. Wow. A gallon of sleeping pill milk would keep me more awake than this crap line.

It’s generic, lacks focus and feels more forgettable than a new Simpsons episode.

The goal of a grrreat and effective SMP is to NAIL your offer in one clear & concise line.

I hate hate hate to refer to Apple again, but this example of a kick-ass single-minded proposition is simply TOO good:

Back in the day, when most mp3 players  boasted with data features and facts, Apple chose the unconventional way and promoted it’s first iPod with one single line:

One thousand songs in your pocket.


It’s simple + visual = sticks in your brain like super-glue.

No abstract data of mbit storage that no one can picture – noooo, a THOUSAND fucking songs in your pocket.

But enough with the Apple example – how about my friend Miguel.

He runs a little online media studio called Grumo Media and promotes it with the following SMP:

“We create awesome demo videos”

Nothing that blows your head into epic proportions, but it’s clear like a crystal in the sky:

you know EXACTLY what Miguel’s studio offers.

Remember, clear beats clever ANYTIME. If your SMP makes me crack up, but DOESN’T tell me what your value is, you have blown it. Confused people don’t buy.

Also – in the examples above, the single-minded proposition also serves as the tagline. This is double-effective, because a tagline or slogan is usually the first line of text that you see associated with a brand or service.

Now that we learned why a SMP rocks socks off – it helps you easily get your value offer across – we can create YOURS…

How to create an effective single-minded proposition :

1) Umbrella term. Think about everything your offer product-and-service wise. No matter how different they are from each other, you probably can find an underlying line that sums it all up.

  • If you’re a designer, what’s your speciality / style ?
  • If you’re a writer, what’s the underlying link in all of your books ?
  • If you’re a marketer – which part of marketing do you focus on ?

For me, it’s standing out online and breaking through the clutter. So all the services and products I offer – whether it’s visual storytelling design or consulting/eguide, fall under that motto of standing out, breaking through the clutter so you can reach the right customers that luv to buy your stuff.

The line below is sooo important I had to use ALL-CAPS:


Specifically, remember the following points :

2) Clarity. Ahh, like the astral projection of a zen monk, you want to be crystal-like-clear with your SMP. No ambiguous word choice, no confusing spelling or grammer. “A thousand songs in your pocket” “I help you stand out online” “We create awesome demo videos”. A clear bullet that rips through your prospect’s brain. Burrrrn.

3) Simplicity. The MORE you have to pack into your SMP line, the less effective it will be. Using a line like “Our food is sustainable, healthy, freshly-baked and tastes delicious blah blah” is messy and generic. No one’s gonna remember that and care for what you stand for. Aim for ONE, single-encompassing offer that includes everything you offer. Yeah, it’s hard-as-hell, but come on, you’re a fucking entrepreneur.

Soo, what’s your SMP going to look like  ?

And share this post with your peers that need to hone theirs !


  • Filip

    haha, I love the mix-up with the gun and the single-minded proposition – it sort of sounds like a tagline for your site and blog, and that is always the hardest thing to do.
    Damn, I’m still not clear about “nailing” my line – I just have so much to offer !
    Maybe I should hire you ;)

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Hey Filip. it’s FUCKING hard, man. 
      Seriously – I keep reworking mine – again and again and again. I think it’s a process that keeps evolving – nothing’s EVERR fixed.
      And yeah, if you want to hire me, you know where the contact button is.

  • Mauro D’Andrea

    Hi Mars, thanks for this post.
    I was just thinking about my SMP in these days (after few solicitations by Marcus Sheridan).
    What I thought was exactly what you expressed in your post: 2 lines is too much, it loses in immediacy.Also, I agree with you, the SMP is an evolving idea, while we change and improve, it change with us.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      yeah, and the second line makes it feel as if you needed it to support the first.
      It’s tough to get it down – I’m still working on that myself. But we can get there if rework it enough.

      • Mauro D’Andrea

        I completely agree with you.

        And after 6 months in Tibet with the monks I reached the one-line SMP :)
        Now it’s time to improve it.

        Thanks for pushing me to find it, Mars.

  • http://silverhuang.com/ Silver Huang

    You missed out one point Mars ;)

    4) Guts.

    You need guts to state your SMP like you own it. 

    It’s one thing to know your SMP. It is another story and challenge completely to own it. Because more often than not, we question ourselves, doubt ourselves. We fear ourselves.

    Like it or not, our greatest demon is we fear to be great.

    The best SMP isn’t just one that’s accurate, simple and clear about what we provide, it’s one that states and bares who we are to the world.

    That’s what I feel makes making a good SMP truly tough. It’s not just about what you do, it is about knowing who you are. And owning it. Proclaiming it.

    Doing it right will make us feel vulnerable and open to judgement for our audacious presumptuousness to be who we are.

    That takes guts.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      well said, Silver (btw – luv that name !) 
      For me, “guts” is like a prerequisite for anything worthwhile you want to accomplish, that’s why I don’t mention it as often anymore.
      But you also put that “meta” level in your SMP, which is interesting. Personally, my SMP is not stating the my real mission in the world (they’re different) – it’s really more a biz line that I use now for the services that I offer now – my SMP is going to change, but my mission in life is not.

      • http://silverhuang.com/ Silver Huang

        Hmmm good point Mars, it’s true that for you, guts is already a default prerequisite for anything and everything that you do ;)
        It’s interesting that you mention that you separate your SMP from your life mission, and looking closer again, I can totally see that now.That raises extremely interesting questions for myself as up to this point, I have not considered the two to be different.It changes my perspective, adds an additional dimension anyway, and may just be the missing perspective ingredient I need to nail my own SMP, as I’ve been working on that the past two days.

        Awesome! Thanks for that! :)

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  • http://www.30yearoldninja.com/ Izmael Arkin

    Well put Mars. 

    I hear USP all the freaking time, but this is different. Just going through this post helped me recognize my SMP. It is simple and to the point. 

    I help people pursue their dreams. 

    It may sound a little bit crazy or odd but it is the truth. I used to live in America. I was stuck in a job I hated but impressed all my peers. I was a teacher in the inner city and moving up the ladder to soon run my own school. But I soon found myself overwhelmed and depressed. So, I did some deep soul searching. I rediscovered my childhood dream: to become a ninja. 

    So over a 3 year period, I quit my job, moved to Japan and am now training in martial arts full time. I write about my experiences in hopes of inspiring and encouraging others to follow their dreams. 

    Great post man. 

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      A Ninja ? Wow, that truly is a childhood come true, nice man. Since I used to be in Japan myself, I can only imagine how challenging it can be over there – KUDOS for doing that, Izmael !

      And yeah – you’re already clear about your SMP, so the only other thing you have to worry about now is your USP haha ;)

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    Brilliant stuff Dorian. I always talk about your USP – Unique Selling Proposition and `What’s your special sauce’ but this is a new term I can now throw in with confidence that people will get it and apply it to their business.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      yeah, it’s part of the USP – and a part that I have overlooked for a looong time haha.

  • Kay

    @Izmael, I remember you! I had given you feedback on your site on the 48Days forum a while back.

    This is a good concept, of the SMP. I’m a web designer, and I think mine has to do with making people independent. I’ll mull this over in my dreams tonight!

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Nail it down, Kay, I believe it’s super vital in attracting your right customers.

  • Linda Wilson

    Hello again, Mars.

    This is an idea I like, but I’m not sure if I’ve cracked it yet in relation to my new little venture. May I be cheeky and ask what you think, please?

    I’m trying to introduce clinicians (people from a health or social care background, regardless of discipline) who are working independently to blogging as a means of marketing their services. How does ‘Marketing for Professional and Independent Practitioners’ sound?

    It’s not very sexy, but then most of them aren’t either….. oops, I should say that doesn’t mean them as individuals. Not that I assess my clients in terms of their sexual attractiveness, you understand!

    There’s a saying where I come from – when in a hole, stop digging. Think I’ll put my shovel down now…

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Hey Linda, lol, it doesn’t have to sound sexy, but do you think clinicians really know what marketing means and how it can help them ? I would clarify it even more.
      something along the lines of “Helping professional and independent practitioners get more business/clients” (I don’t know the exact expression for your field)

      The term marketing only makes complete sense to marketers, for everyone else, I’d always go for a “get more business/make more sales” line.

      • Linda Wilson

        Thanks, Mars – that’s really helpful. I’ve been wondering what to put on my Home page. I think that will do the job nicely.

        Sorry for the delay in responding, but I haven’t quite worked out how to find my way back to comments unless I get an email telling me I’ve received a reply!

        Kind regards,

  • http://www.facebook.com/tommydarker Tommy Darker

    Mine is “Let’s Make Independent Music A Science”. Guess what the project is about.

    Really nice stuff Mars, I noticed your articles are solid and concise. Great ideas can only be made clear in short texts, while longer ones are to analyze ideas more in depth.

    We can discuss a lot about SMP and USP, as I strongly believe that minimality is the key in success – whatever you’re dealing with. Times of long copy and cocky words is long gone. Glad you brought that up :)

  • IntrepidNavigator

    Very Nice.

    If I may add to this, and simplify the thought. An SMP is the USP (the unique selling proposition) + (key consumer/Target Audience insight), written in one single minded sentence. So, it’s not just about US, but it’s also about THEM.

    A lot of SMPs look/sound like USPs (just about us), but the magical SMP is right in between the strongest thing you want to say about yourself (or USP) and a deep understanding of what the consumer deeply wants/can resolve with your services (the key consumer insight).

    eg: Selling ‘Night Safari’ tours, targetting parents.
    The SMP – “Bring their bedtime stories to life”.

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