Delivering tangible value based on audience needs is the secret to marketing/communications effectiveness – oh, and great content.
Regardless of what we choose to call the current “era,” it’s important to recognize that enthusiasm for marketing (and communications) to be purposeful and deliver value instead of product propaganda is not new. Derivations of this strategy have been called by many names over the years by academics, trade journalists and thought leaders. Customer centricity, 1 to 1 Marketing, Relationship Marketing, Loyalty Marketing, Segment Marketing – all share the common tenets of identifying high value audience segments, understanding their needs and (wait for it…) serving them so that there’s a mutual value exchange – your perks & products for their dollars & loyalty.
From this origin came the travel industry’s frequent flyer programs, service gold standards like Zappos & Amazon, e-mail marketing (ad nauseam), and an infinite number of strategic initiatives that were funded, revered and in many cases later abandoned. Abandoned for any number of reasons like the fickle nature of marketers, the rally to get “back to basics” during economic volatility, over investment haphazard trend adoption, and one very common pitfall – – a lack of tangible value.
In traditional product/brand marketing and communications, value isn’t as much of a stumbling block – we’ve got a new product, it’s better than all the rest because of an extra-special sub-feature or ingredient, we scream it from the analog and digital mountaintops. Today though, that isn’t enough. When we take it to the mountain we actually find ourselves screaming at the center of a noisy football stadium trying to get attention. Among those who are willing to listen – well, they talk back and they poke holes in our messaging with pesky details about their past experiences with us, what their friends say and how their favorite blogger rated our products.
Along with our weakened ‘awareness’ marketing investments we’re also busy fending off competitors down-funnel with deals and sales and coupons and rebates to compete. It’s exhausting.
It used to be that value prop planning and discussions of fulfilling a market need happened as part of business or product planning. Later it was accretive, a strategy to combat product commoditization – now, it’s an imperative for driving marketing and communications impact. The good news is that there are many dimensions upon which to construct a value proposition to drive engagement – but where to start? The first step is admitting we have a problem and then…..
1) Understand what our target humans value (hint: analytics)
2) Select one or more of the options below that are most suited for the business we’re in & products/services we offer – and MOST likely to lead to a relevant value exchange
3) Design content & experiences that convey that value
Value Drivers (not mutually exclusive):
- Utility – helps me “do” something
- Education – makes me smarter, feeds my brain
- Entertainment – makes me laugh, inspires me
- Access – connects me to other like-minded individuals, experts or celebrities
- Altruism – helps me give, facilitates my sense of purpose
- Emotion – elicits a visceral emotional reaction
- Exclusivity – rewards me, makes me feel special
- Promotional/Informational – often a (one-way) message – note this works as a value driver only when introducing new innovation
- Financial – sale, rebate, get-the-9th-one-free, coupons
Examine any of the most successful converged media initiatives and you will find that they are grounded in some sort of value exchange where both they and the audience benefited. It’s not easy or natural when coming from a 4P’s mindset, but it’s the new normal nonetheless.