This probably rings a bell, right? A company spends several months (or years) developing a product until it finds the most original, technologically sophisticated, or advanced solution, but then when they start marketing it, they run into problems. No matter how loud they praise their R&D department’s excellent work, and no matter how much they invest in showing off their meticulously creative ads, their actual sales don’t reach the anticipated results. Why? Because they’ve forgotten all about the golden rule of consumerism or shopping: people don’t buy products; they buy values that they understand.
People don’t buy products; they buy values that they understand.
A few years ago I heard a brief thought in some movie that I always bring to mind whenever I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes (which I normally do at work when I help businesses better understand their customers). It goes like this: “Why do people think their problems are more important than anyone else’s? Because it’s their problem.”
It’s human nature to blow our problems (and desires!) out of proportion and spend lots of money resolving (or fulfilling) them. This applies to both private and business purchases (that is, to both B2C and B2B customers), but more importantly, there’s also an almost inversely proportional correlation between the importance of a problem and the price of a product: the bigger the problem the product is supposed to solve (or the greater the value the product provides), the less important the price of the product is to the customer.
The term “value” is one of the most frequently misused terms in today’s marketing world. The true meaning of value lies in a compromise between the benefits customers receive from the product and the price they pay for this product.
If companies want to win customers, they need to stop behaving egotistically
I’m not saying that a decent amount of confidence has no place in marketing and sales. I just want to highlight the gap between the typical salesperson’s thinking about the “solution they can offer their customers” and the customers’ thinking about the “benefit they can receive from a specific solution.” Once you know how to fill the gap between these two views, which are generally quite far apart, you’ll know you’ve created perfect marketing.
To explain this with a banal example: ever since I moved to a new apartment last December I’ve had this unsettling feeling whenever I spent the evening home alone. When I recently decided to buy a new front door, it wasn’t the information on the high-quality wood the door was made of or the special Black Friday deal the supplier was offering that drew my attention. Why? Until one of the providers approached me by saying how safe I’d feel when my apartment had a new door, I hadn’t even thought about buying his product at all!
What may be a little less motivating in this regard is that, in order to transform your way of thinking, you’ll have to intentionally distance yourself from your product (within the context of its properties, functions, capacities, and so on) and move closer to your (potential) customers. Even though this shift seems logical and simple, it’s a step most of our business partners have problems with—and yes, I admit that sometimes even we, the FrodX team, are tripped up by this.
How to present your products or services so that they convey value for customers
The following steps may serve as an introduction to this way of thinking:
- Get to know your customers well. if you don’t know their needs and desires, you’ll never really know for sure what value represents to them, nor how and where you can communicate this value to them;
- Create a list of various (elements of) values. Bear in mind that some customers recognize value in economic terms, others in terms of comfort or safety (such as my front door), and still others recognize it within the context of their social life, and so on. Consider all possible viewpoints and try to outline all the different values your products or services can bring to various customers;
- Collect data. This especially applies to cases where we, for example, want to communicate the value of the purchase in terms of the money saved. In order to come across as credible and authoritative, equip yourself with relevant and accurate data;
- Test your value model and learn from mistakes. Bill Gates once said that success is a lousy teacher. Muster your courage, test your model, and learn from both your successes and mistakes.
P. S. An even safer route is to consult experienced experts that can help you find the right messages for your (potential) customers. We’re pretty good at this. 😉