Updated: Sep 26, 2018
In 1973, I met a Mayo Clinic doctor who changed my life forever. Not because of the care I received, which I’m sure was exceptional, but because of a lesson I didn’t even understand yet. It was a lesson on value. I was a young child then and only remember that the young resident noticed a ring on my mom’s finger. Not just any ring, it was a ring from the Naval Academy, class of 1960…his class. It was a ring that the wives of classmates wore.
Despite graduating from the same class, this resident and my dad did not know each other. But because they shared the same Navy values of honor, courage and commitment, there was an instant recognition and mutual respect between the two. Marketers hope to create this same sense of value with its customers. In my previous two articles, I talked about vision and voice. If you have created an inspirational vision and shared it through a commanding voice, your next step is to show the value of your products and services. Value has three levers, and none are about price.
Listen to your customer. When you ask the right questions, your customers will tell you what they value and why. In fact, if you followed the steps in my vision blog, your customers have already told you what is important to them, why solving those issues is important to them, and how you can be more valuable to them. If you are still searching for this information, you have many ways to listen:
Talk to them. The hardest part about talking to your customers is to actually let them talk. Sometimes it’s better to hire a neutral third party to talk to your customers.
Listen electronically. What questions do your customers send you? What comments do they share on social media? What emails do they ignore and which versions do they open?
Survey them. Survey questions can be brief and topic related like the ICD-10 surveys I discussed in the voice article. Surveys can also be longer and more broadly focused. Identify the solutions in use, pain points not being met, future goals, technology and operational challenges to reaching those goals. You can even ask about willingness to pay to solve a problem, and the preferred price. Not the price question will be directional at best.
Create advisory groups. If you are defining high-level value, this should be an executive level advisory group.
Map your product to that value. Once you know what problem you want to solve for your customer, your next challenge is to solve it. Sometimes that’s as easy as changing the messaging for existing solutions. Sometimes, you need to develop something new, which gives you the ability to build value right into the product.
In 2010, I led a healthcare reform advisory group with existing customers. Through a series of conversations, our team discovered that many of our customers’ concerns were solved within the current products. To help them understand the value of existing products, we developed and launched a series of content pieces that “voiced” the capabilities and demonstrated the value the customers sought. At another company, we had to build something new. We used the advisory board as a test group to validate the concept, beta test the solution and then be the first to use the solution. The customers understood the value of the solution because they were the co-creators. They also became the best “voices” for the value.
Put a number to the value and share it. Your third step is to measure and share your value. Put the value in terms your customers understand. If your Chief Operating Officer persona is measured on cost savings, share cost-savings measures that your customers consistently achieve with your product. If care outcomes are important to the Chief Medical Officer persona, build a series of case studies that show how your customers impacted and measured care.
Once you can put quantifiable values against your solutions, share it with your target market. Create a series of downloadable content pieces that highlight those values. Ultimately, the audience you are targeting dictates the type of content pieces including: infographics, white papers, research (or insight) reports, webinars, videos, case studies, direct mail, telemarketing scripts, emails, tweets and more.
One of my most successful marketing programs leveraged some existing statistics. Making the Case was a program that highlighted five measures that our products typically achieved. We challenged prospects to compare their results in a short survey. They then received a report that showed how they compared to their peers (including our own customers). In one market, 25 of the 37 target companies engaged in discussions with us. In another target market, the pipeline grew 36% in 60 days. The value was too obvious, and pointed, to ignore.
Bringing it home. You might be wondering what all this has to do with the Navy. The Navy values of honor, courage and commitment are as familiar to a Navy family as its white uniforms. Follow these steps and your solution value might also become as recognizable.