There isn’t the luxury of time when it comes to marketing a brand and incorporating your efforts into a growing number of channels.The Brand Business
I started my marketing journey by building an agency, Rethink Media. It was as clear to me then, as it is now, that in such a technologically fast-paced, consumer lead market, any ‘sane’ businesses should align themselves with the best and brightest marketing expertise out there, the professional agency.
However, the reality amongst many businesses and brands (one in the same) is a complete disregard for the value of collaboration and professional partnering, particular and quite bizarrely in the bit that matters most…
…Brand, Marketing and Sales.
In that order too, because ‘selling’ by itself does not outweigh the brand and marketing demands of a business. Prioritising these two functions is a fundamental shift in the mindset of brands, successful ones at least, and the way in which they engage with the consumer, i.e. prioritising the value given, over the transaction taken. Think of this practice as being the new DNA of brand, aka 51/49.
In this article I’ll discuss a few of the frightening truths behind ‘partner prevention’ as I like to call it. Perhaps frightening would be better defined as suicidal, because it’s a highly destructive behaviour that marks the end for many businesses.
I’ll also tell you why ‘the rise of the freelancer’ lead me to a make a fundamental change in my business strategy, it’s a big shift and it may surprise you.
Let me begin by stating the obvious, in that you cannot do what you have always done. The mere suggestion implies a status quo, of which there’s no such thing, change is constant and inevitable. Even if there were, it would be inconceivable amidst the uncertainty of today’s economies and markets to rely on it.
It’s equally inconceivable that any business would rely on a legacy sales and marketing strategy (loose terms) from the bygone days of reps traveling the length and breadth of the UK in Vauxhall Vectra’s, other countries and vehicles apply.
Today the cost and nature of these resources would be bad enough, but it’s the cost of time and reach, two of our most valuable business assets that are at stake here. Simply adding a sprinkling of that new-fangled social media thingamajig won’t make things right either.
How we create attention around our products and services (the brand) is vastly different from the way we used to do things. This includes huge amounts of digital content distribution, real time ‘intelligent’ communications and the cost-effective opportunity to place your brand directly in the hand of the consumer, in the form of mobile technology.
While this technology has made the consumer infinitely more visible and accessible, it has also introduced significant complexities in the way we position and deliver our communications, aka marketing.
As challenging as how and where we communicate with the consumer might seem, both in the technologies and platforms, it’s what we communicate to them that presents the greatest of these challenges.
Positioning your message so that the content presents itself to the right audience at the right time, is crucial for increased engagement and conversion. Getting the content right is the difference between keeping the targets interested or not.
I’m scraping the surface here and coming off point somewhat too, you can get a more in-depth narrative for the imperative of implementing a modern cross channel communications strategy, by reading one of my previous articles entitled ‘Destination Abs, the pinnacle of marketing fitness’. The article offers more detail on today’s cross channel consumer reality, link below.
There is a significant amount of work required to live up to today’s hyper mobile, technologically savvy consumer expectation. A vast number of businesses lack the vision and expertise to adopt and implement a modern and thoughtful communications strategy.
This is where the brand and marketing partnership comes in.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the sort of skills you can expect from a competent brand strategy and marketing partner.
Agencies that are capable of executing high quality brand, marketing and direct sales strategies, will employ a heady mix of Creatives, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, Web Developers, Programmers, Planners, Writers, Producers, Directors and Data Managers/Analysts.
This mix will vary still, depending on specialisms such as direct mail, tv, radio, outdoor advertising, social media, influencer marketing etc (emphasis on etc).
For internal brand communications work, you may also require some PR & Communication expertise, such as Communication Directors, Change Managers, Employment and Engagement specialists.
These categories are the tip of the brand building iceberg and depending on your individual requirement you may need to partner with numerous specialist agencies for the very best insight, ideas and execution.
Yet, with this in mind, many businesses insist on flogging outdated customer strategies or institutionalising their marketing resources, or even worse having none at all.
As for the rationale behind this somewhat bemusing behaviour, I reckon I’ve experienced the vast majority of situations by now, of which I’m happy to share a few.
Let’s start with the first and most common excuse I hear from heads of business for not using a professional marketing service, it’s a real beauty.
1. The classic copout.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the classic statement “I’ve had a bad experience with a marketing company so won’t use one again”.
Yes, there are some less credible suppliers out there, just like there are some questionable eating establishments, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never dine out again, or that just because something didn’t work that time, it means it doesn’t work at all.
When someone tells you that they’ve had a bad marketing experience, it may be true, and it may have cost them a good deal of time, money and opportunity. However, it could also be code for ‘I got someone to do me a logo and they charged me real money for it’.
It’s just as likely that the person saying it hasn’t had a collaborative marketing experience at all, we may never know. But either way, any successful, sustainable business is the result of having a good product and even better marketing strategy (aka brand building strategy), of which professional partnering is key.
The true measure of this comment is likely to be the true measure of the person making it, so you may want to cut the pleasantries short and bid farewell at this point. Remember, you can’t sell to the unsellable.
2. Their ambition is your reality.
This one comes in a few of flavours, some of which are perfectly reasonable.
When I first meet with a potential client to discuss their marketing strategy, I start by asking them what their personal and professional ambitions are, this assumes they are the senior decision maker. It’s not a habit I always adopted, but I realise now just how important it is to get a measure of the cheque signers’ aspirations before any other discussion.
The fact is you will always be at the mercy of the guy or gal that controls expenditure. If their sights are set on short term gain, either for themselves or the business, and a quick exit strategy, then you can bet any talk of customer loyalty and lifetime value is going to fall on deaf ears.
If the customer is in it to make a quick buck and move on, then you may want to move on too. alternatively, you can turn this situation into a more sales orientated conversation of ‘how can we help you make money fast’.
3. It’s just naivety.
This may come as a surprise, but a ridiculous number of business leaders make terrible decisions, take it from me, I’ve bought enough of the t-shirts to last a lifetime. Although there will be countless excuses on hand to account for these ‘errors in judgement’ the majority are simply the result of naivety and a lack of experience, judgement, wisdom etc.
Unfortunately for the marketer, a lack of understanding or appreciation for the benefits of partnership and collaboration, will all too often top the naivety list.
I agree there’s a job to do in educating the customer on the benefits of implementing a thoroughly modern marketing strategy, and the skills necessary to support one… but come on people, it’s 2018 (or beyond) and if you find yourself explaining the benefits of marketing in general, then the business is already lost, in more ways than one.
I simply will not give this person any more credit beyond what I have already stated. It is absolutely essential that the key decision makers in business have a reasonable understanding and appreciation of modern marketing principles, and the necessity to build their brand in a way that maps to consumer expectations. In other words, we don’t live in caves and there is no excuse for ignorance.
4. Commitment and Consistency – the dark side.
I listened to a great audio book recently called ‘Influence’, written by the author Robert B. Cialdini. Apart from being a fantastic listen that I highly recommend, there was one chapter in particular that struck the proverbial cord with me, mostly because of my own observations dealing with customers. This chapter concentrated on the human traits of commitment and consistency. On the face of it we recognise these two conditions as being positive characteristics, that bring with them reliability, dependability and generally doing what we say we will do, often.
However, what Cialdini goes on to explain, is that “Once people make a decision, take a stand or perform an action, they will face an interpersonal pressure to behave in a consistent manner with what they have said or done previously”. In other words, we are highly susceptible to ‘stubbornness’ and an inability to ‘rethink’ our past decisions.
It’s an unfortunate reality that many decision makers, at all levels of business, will consistently champion their actions based on past decisions, irrespective of the current rationale. For the marketer this situation is compounded by legacy successes, such as “we made a lot of money selling in traditional media, through coupons and vouchers”. That may well have been the case, but perhaps this and many strategies like it aren’t working anymore, hence the general decline in profitability and sales for many longer standing businesses, no exceptions.
One area in particular that I see the interpersonal pressure of commitment and consistency coming into play, is that of recruitment, and the institutionalising of resources. Let’s be honest, if there’s one practice that businesses have been historically prolific in, it’s the act of recruitment, and understandably so. However, the last 15 years has seen a massive shift in the demands and requirements for businesses to successfully market and position themselves with the consumer.
A failure to accept the depth of this requirement is what leads to the fantastical job descriptions we see all too often, as businesses navigate their historic ‘comfort zones’ with the recruitment criteria of myth and fantasy. The reality of course is a need for modern businesses to form expert marketing partnerships, now more than ever.
5. What were you thinking?
This is short and sweet and obvious, I’ve learnt to avoid selling marketing services directly to in-house marketing personnel. For obvious reasons these employees are the most likely to rebuke your partner touting approaches. It is essential for the marketer to pitch their services as high up the organisational ladder as possible, those are the people that need to buy into the value of the service. You will rarely infiltrate the institutional ranks of the in-house marketing team without a decree from the higher powers.
For all that I believe to be true on the subject, I’d like to make it equally clear that I’ve worked with companies that employed some fantastic marketing directors, but only where there has been an organisational edict on the value of seeking out and nurturing skilled supplier relationships. Under these circumstances there is a respect and appreciation of the ‘power in partnering’. Managing these relationships is exactly how the modern marketing director can deliver real value to their employers.
I accept that I’m presenting what appears to be a pretty macro overview of the challenges faced by marketers and customers alike. Of course, there are other factors that come into play, both for and against professional partnering…but not many.
Clearly, I’m a passionate advocate for partnership and collaboration. It allows brands to double down on their core competences and trust in the expertise of others when the requirements fall outside of their own. After all, how many of you perform you own surgery, rhetorical question I hope.
The next chapter.
But what happens when the marketing agencies themselves fall victim to the same constraints that I have passionately argued will face organisations that opt to internalise their marketing resource? This is exactly the situation I found myself in recently. First and foremost, it occurred to me that I was no longer enjoying my work, nothing to do with hard graft either, that’s something everyone should do and be proud of, whether employer or employee. Initially I put it down to the activities themselves, like managing the staff, selling, planning, strategy, copywriting, briefs, proposals, analytics, performance analysis, reporting, brand building, finance, marketing, policies, procedures, wages, overheads … I’ll stop there because this would become a very long list.
In reality, these or similar activities are the tip of the business owner’s iceberg, and although I was definitely outside of my ‘passion zone’ with a number of them, they weren’t responsible for my sudden and rather extreme angst. What had happened in fact was that I had inadvertently created my own marketing institution and the constraints that come with it, in terms of capacity, scalability, versatility and skillset, worse still that I knew it. In truth my agency was now sailing dangerously close to forbidden waters, like fitting square pegs to round holes because it mapped conveniently with our physical and intellectual circumstances, the worst kind of customer value proposition.
To appreciate my sudden change of heart, you will need to understand a new and rapidly emerging shift in the current market. In the same way as we have witnessed huge shifts in consumer behaviour and the rush of brands to meet them, there is an equally exciting revolution taking place on the frontline of the labour market, with the rise of the freelance business model, aka Freelancer. Unconstrained access and availability to remote talent, skills and diversity, means bottomless scale and scope in how these resources can be leveraged. Freelance services can be aligned perfectly with the customer’s brand, marketing and direct sales requirement, budget too. Under this model we’re back to fitting square pegs into square holes again, any shape you want for that matter.
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t always this way; my agency’s marketing proposition was perfectly suited to the majority of businesses and vastly superior to anything they could implement themselves in technology alone, let alone the skills to deliver on it. Employing and managing the resources ourselves as the marketing experts made perfect sense for our customers, the best and brightest minds need feeding not starving. This brings us back to my point on change and inevitability, I was clear in my view that there’s no such thing as ‘status quo’.
I can’t and never will decry my personal belief and passion for how business should be conducted, with customer obsession at the very core of it. Similarly, when aspects of the market change and become relevant, be them buyer, supplier or resource opportunities, I too am going to rush out and great them, because it’s the best thing for my customers.
Rethink Media’s existing business model no longer reflected my belief on providing best customer value, simply put I could see there was a better way of doing things. I unashamedly recognised that we needed a fundamental shift in strategy, one that mapped to the rapidly emerging benefits of the freelance marketplace, and an unfettered ability to deploy the ideal resource at any scale for our customers. With this in mind I began the process of building freelance relationships and systematically reduced my staffing, all the while offering the same work opportunities to ex-employees, along with the provision of the best desktop machines and software.
The rise of the freelancer brings a huge whitespace on price too, either because of the varying cost of living between countries, exchange rates, supplementary nature of income, reduced overheads, lifestyle and expectation etc. Keep in mind that the freelancer marketplace is global, and don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an unmanageable or intangible one either, far from it. The first thing you realise when you explore this space is the vastness of talent that’s available to you and the ridiculously finite criteria that you can apply to the selection process. You might feel a little shamed at how proficient the majority of the foreign freelancers are in their grasp of the English language too, reading, writing and spoken word, so very little problem there.
In terms of ability and proof, freelancers have been prolific brand builders on social media and other platforms, such as ArtStation and Behance from day one. These platforms have massive reach and content searchability and are the perfect showcase for creative talent, art, illustration, branding, printing, packaging, video production, logo design, web design, app development, digital marketing and countless other disciplines. It’s interesting too that a number of agencies are positioning themselves on these channels in a similar way to the freelancers. Irrespective of them having full time employees, I see more agencies using the word ‘freelance’ in their bios, which is a very clear indicator of market acceptance and an increase in demand for the benefits of freelancer engagement, often predicated on price. In terms of payment, the general rule consists of an amount paid in advance and the balance paid on acceptance/completion. Outside of the UK, currencies will vary, which is perfect for a company PayPal account.
I continue to focus my own skills as a brand, marketing and direct sales expert, on developing existing accounts and creating new business opportunities, as well as my passion for building personal brand. The difference now is a renewed confidence to think, advise and act at scale. I have zero interest in what suits my own resource and can concentrate on the activities that represent best value and best practice for the customer, something I’m hugely passionate about. The freedom that I’ve created through this new business model allows me to spend precious extra time on my own brand strategy, as well as satisfy a growing demand for brand consultancy work (consultant being another word for freelancer – the irony). As for my expanding network of fab freelancers, they get a regular supply of well-paid work and a very capable man on the ground to do the sales and customer liaison work for them.
Best of all, I can confidently say that my business model is once again entirely predicated on my belief, and my business is growing.
It is an absolutely certainty that the face of traditional labour as we know it is going change at an almost incomprehensible rate. Technology removes barriers and can eliminate friction at a number of levels. Whatever you may have thought unfeasible or impossible previously, is entirely feasible and possible in the future.
A final thought: Rethink the journey to achieve your destination.
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Destination Abs, the pinnacle of marketing fitness.
Today’s Cross Channel Reality
There isn’t the luxury of time when it comes to marketing a brand and incorporating your efforts into a growing number of channels. Consumer touchpoints are no longer entirely limited or controlled by the brand owner since it’s the consumer who is driving demand for control over content and choice in how they engage with it.
A huge increase in customer controlled devices and access to information channels means new challenges for brands and marketers alike, something that requires a fundamental shift in strategy. Although there’s a change to the frontline landscape, the core objective remains the same, how to divide and conquer the consumer in an understanding and meaningful way.
Customer-corporate relationships are now formed and driven across a whole host of information channels. No sooner have you become aware and responded to the challenges of one marketing channel than two more pop up and it’s back to the drawing board. The consumer is not one bit sympathetic to your plight either. Technological innovation has given rise to a growing customer expectation to receive relevant, rewarding and consistent content at every touchpoint and in real-time, including channels of:
4. Search Engines
5. Direct Mail
6. Social Media
. . . along with Telephone, TV, POS Advertising, PR, Word of Mouth and a bunch of other channels.
It’s important to note that these new channels aren’t being created with the luxury of a controlled and timely integration into your current marketing efforts. Far from it in fact, since it’s the consumer’s requirement for convenience, control, choice and real-time connectivity that is driving channel demand. Remember that famous movie quote from The Matrix, “I’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”, the question today is “what are all the rabbits getting up to inside the hole?” and “which hole?” Clearly, it’s a marketing imperative to have clarity on this activity; how did they get there? as well as what they did and why, and will they be coming back to purchase or how can we make them come back?
Let’s take a moment to consider all those consumer carrots too and what happens when one of them results in a sale or conversion. We need to know which touchpoint was responsible for the conversion, but more importantly, where did the customer’s journey begin and where did it take them. Without this level of insight, then it is impossible to replicate that success.
One thing is certain; irrespective of which touchpoints the customer responded to as part of their journey to purchase, they expect the company behind generating these touchpoints to be aware and ready to greet them when they arrive at the checkout, e.g. an email offer that results in a mobile response and an eventual in-store redemption.
A cross channel approach to marketing requires each organisation to adopt the relevant channels as equally credible pathways to engage with the customer. Taking a considered and careful approach to integrating marketing touchpoints allows you to create a single, comprehensive real-time view of the consumer through data collection, aggregation and analytics. This is called a ‘Single Customer View’. It is this level of insight that allows you to target the customer requirements with pinpoint accuracy in terms of content relevance, availability and the channel via which the content is delivered.
Integrating the channels so that you are able to deliver a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints is key. Buyers are in clear control of their journey and quick to move beyond a brand that is not engaging with them in the most convenient or relevant way.
The challenge is to meet consumer demands for control, choice, convenience and real-time availability head-on, by adopting a marketing strategy that allows your brand to rush out and greet them, and that means having plenty of doors to knock on.
It’s uncanny just how well the subject of marketing lends itself to the analogy, until you remember that successful marketing goes hand in hand with a good understanding of human behaviour. Keeping that in mind, integrating cross channel marketing into your organisation is a journey that has a thoroughly fantastic and rewarding destination. We call this ‘Destination Abs’, it represents the pinnacle of marketing fitness.
Why abs? Abs are the physical embodiment of a well-performing business. We can draw countless comparisons between the personal pursuit of those hard to get abs and the organisational pursuit of an outstanding marketing strategy.
From a human perspective, developing core strength and improving core stability benefits your overall daily performance. With a stable core, the rest of you is likely to be stable too, since other well-performing parts of the body are required to support this development. Core exercises teach your body to react in performance or life situations, quickly and easily. But to effectively strengthen the core you’ll need to start with exercises that cause your body to become unstable or adapt. That’s a valuable part of a fantastic journey to a great destination.
Now apply this same notion to a business or brand. Picture a business with a ‘whole of body’ approach to its marketing strategy, and imagine that at its core are the results of this activity.
Building a cross channel roadmap will help you understand the critical transformation areas for successfully adopting and implementing this level of marketing automation into your organisation. Before you can do this, however, there are five key areas of focus that will need to be addressed first.
Your gym represents the ideal environment to support and adapt your abs objectives; the gym is your business. Have a think about your own expectations when choosing a gym membership. Does it exude the values of ‘health and fitness’, is the equipment fit for purpose, does it employ fitness experts and do they demonstrate these same values? If not, would you accept this as a being a suitable environment to achieve your performance goals?
This is a fundamentally critical question, because integrating a cross channel communications policy into any organisation will have an effect on traditional marketing practices and require business-wide support and adoption of your marketing strategy from the TOP down. This ‘buy-in’ will be essential for agreeing and supporting change in the following areas:
• Traditional Marketing Practices
• Sales Activity
• Customer Services
• Product Development
Establishing fitness goals allows you to set the criteria for measuring and comparing cross channel marketing effectiveness. This process of recording and analysing performance data is essential to developing your marketing strategy and gauging return on investment (ROI).
You will need to establish measurements and criteria for gauging campaign effectiveness across multiple channels and then attribute marketing success to one or a combination of those channels. Basically ‘what do we want our abs to look like?’ and ‘which exercises are producing the best results?’
In most situations, your organisation will need to trust data analytics over instinct because of volume and complexity. However, analytics from marketing data must be meaningful and aligned with your business goals and customer value. The successes of internal staff (e.g. customer service) will need to be measured and factored into channel performance too, including customer value and customer experience.
More marketing channels means more data opportunities, requiring the technology to capture, store and process large amounts of information across multiple touchpoints. Think of this as your fitness record, in the same way, that you would record your performance in the gym and use that information to refine and improve your training. A sophisticated marketing automation platform is required to store vast amounts of data that can then be intelligently organised around the customer for improved decision making. Intelligence gained from this data will be key to:
• Improved Efficiencies
• Increased Conversion
• Channel Optimisation
• Campaign Optimisation
• Response Attribution
• Product & Service Development
• Improved Targeting
• Measuring Campaign Success
• Understanding Behaviour
All that time spent in the gym developing your abs wouldn’t be much use if you never got to see the results. Similarly, access to an advanced analytics platform allows you to view the results from cross channel marketing activity; this is a reflection of marketing gain and helps you align future marketing strategy and planning to the customer for improved results.
As new data emerges from your marketing activity, it is imperative to use customer insight to develop the existing cross channel marketing strategy, planning and performance. By developing multidimensional personas that are actionable in any channel and combining them with a sophisticated touchpoint management software, you can deploy triggered, responsive communications that ensure the customer experience is always relevant and timely. Customer data needs to be captured from all touchpoints so that it can be integrated into a single platform, this includes information from:
• Marketing campaigns
• Customer research
• Web behaviour
• Demographic attributes
• Purchase history
• Product affinities
• Channel use and preference
• Browsing insight (click, open, response)
• Customer Service history
• Loyalty behaviour
• Customer lifecycle
• more . . .
Broad customer data can then be aligned to form an improved strategy, planning and intelligent campaign delivery across marketing channels and touchpoints.
There’s no way to achieve cross channel marketing perfection without having the right equipment.
Rethink’s advanced marketing automation platform is capable of creating, executing, managing and monitoring multi channel initiatives; it’s the backbone of a sustainable cross channel approach to strategic marketing. Costs are cut and performance is improved as we target the right message in the right place to the right customer.
In conclusion, consumers are jumping from one marketing channel to another, often unaware and uninterested in the marketing efforts of the companies trying to engage with them. To effectively meet their needs, brands must create cross channel marketing programs that are able to identify the consumer, gather data on their activity across all channels and then profile this data to more easily target them with the most relevant offers, via the appropriate channels and devices.
The benefits to your organisation will include happy, loyal customers, improved sales and conversion, improved efficiencies and lower costs. “Rethink the journey, achieve your ‘abs’ destination.”
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The A-Team… maybe the best Customer Value Proposition in the world, how’s your sucka?The Brand Business
The A-Team, maybe the best Value Proposition in the world. How’s yours sucker?..
If you’re familiar with the exploits of Howling Mad Murdock, B.A. Baracus, John ‘Hannibal’ Smith and Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck, aka The A-Team, then you’ll remember this too…
“If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire The A-Team”
…and cue music.
Many of us can recall the opening narration to the iconic 80’s hit TV series The A-Team.
But what if I told you that in those 23 words alone, the producers had unwittingly created the greatest Customer Value Proposition ever?
You might reply, “Wot you taking about fool?”
Before I state my ‘Howling Mad’ case and unlock some secrets, let’s take a broad look at customer value propositions (CVPs), what they are and why it’s so important to have one.
A Customer Value Proposition is a statement that communicates a ‘promise’ of value that an organisation will deliver to its customers. It also creates a ‘belief’ on the part of the customer or prospect that value will be experienced if they chose to work with you.
It describes your target audience, the problem you solve, and why you’re distinctly better than the alternative.
A good CVP incorporates a quantifiable combination of Relevance, Positioning, Cost and Value.
While the very best value propositions are psychological masterpieces that invoke the emotions of Scarcity, Opportunity and Exclusivity.
Imagine 20 words or so (the fewer the better) that create such a strong belief in the value of doing business with you that there’s little to no alternative in the mind of the audience.
…that’s what I call an ‘A-Team Message’!
Alex Osterwalder’s book Value Proposition Design says that a value proposition:
“Describes the benefits customers can expect from your products and services.”
Sounds simple enough, right?
Not so, because the creation of an outstanding customer value proposition or unique selling proposition is one of the most difficult tasks an organisation will undertake.
But it’s critical you have one and nail it too…bummer!
Finding a unique value proposition usually involves a new way of segmenting the market.
And a novel value proposition often expands on the market.
Your value proposition should include the positive outcomes of engaging with your business, product or service.
It should be written in the language of your customer, and presented in a way that will resonate with them.
A well-formed value proposition describes, in customer-centric language, which of your products and services is going to deliver the desired benefits.
Keep in mind that each of a business, product and service will have its own unique customer value proposition.
Be sure to target: Relevancy, Quantified Value, Unique Differentiation
Your value proposition explains how your product or service meets the customer’s requirement – Relevancy
And describes the benefits your customers will receive – Quantified Value
It should position your business, product or service in relation to the competition – Unique Differentiation
Now let’s jump back to my original claim that the A-Team had the best value proposition ever. I’ll break it down and hopefully demonstrate just how effective a world-class ‘value message’ can be in shaping customer perception.
Breaking down an A-Team message:
1. “If you have a problem” – Tick off ‘Relevancy’.
The A-Team helped ‘good and deserving folk’ defend themselves against pretty unsavoury characters, aka ‘the problem’. By presenting this as a question, they are segmenting the audience for relevancy.
2. “if no one else can help” – Tick off ‘Quantified Value’ and ‘Differentiation’.
This is a genius double whammy of a quote. What they are actually saying here is “if it’s the type and scale of problem to warrant the A-Team then no one else can help”. Once you read a statement like this then everyone else is a ‘B, C or D-Team’.
3. “and if you can find them” – Tick off ‘Scarcity’ and ‘Opportunity’.
It gets even better as they pull the psychological trigger of ‘while stocks last’ and ‘limited quantities available’. This prompts the natural human emotions of commitment and urgency.
4. “maybe you can hire The A-Team” – Tick off ‘Exclusivity’.
This is the veritable ‘home run’ of the proposition. The premise here is that even after satisfying all of the other criteria, discretion remains with the brand, or in this case Hannibal and crew. It’s not a tactic we see every day but it’s an incredibly effective way of creating ‘demand and desire’ for something.
You may have noticed that there’s no mention of ‘Price’ in The A-Team value proposition.
Strange only until you consider that the effectiveness of the customer message negates the reliance on cost, in fact it barely factors.
After all, everyone else is a B-Team, remember?
Targeting an A-Team message for your own value proposition or as the formula that underpins a start-up product or service is ridiculously effective and equally challenging to achieve.
But target you must!
Having a strong value proposition that resonates and engages with customers is the backbone of your offer to market. It won’t just explain, differentiate, and encourage – it will increase sales!
Top Tippy Tips:
Here are 7 top tips for developing a great value proposition:
1. It’s not just about clarity – create your proposition to be compelling.
2. Avoid a functional description and seek to engage emotionally.
3. Make sure your proposition is 100% customer centred.
4. As a statement it should stand on its own two feet, with little to no explanation.
5. Generally it should be jargon-free. There are exceptions, particularly in tech, but exercise caution.
6. Ensure it is written in a tone of voice that your customer audience feels comfortable with.
7. Implicit in the value proposition should be your product/service differentiation.
A customer value proposition should resonate throughout your branding and marketing activities, as well as with your employees.
One problem however is that according to market research, only 10-15 percent of executives rated the sales calls they received from businesses as providing enough value to warrant the time they spent on them.
Which means that 85 to 90 percent of all sales calls are perceived as communicating no value – a staggering failure rate by any measure.
In short, most value propositions are poorly conceived and ineffectively delivered.
The reason customer facing teams fail to articulate value is because they commit the 3 deadly sins of sales messaging.
1. Providing too much information
2. Not describing the value from the buyer’s perspective
3. Failing to identify how they differ from the competition
Chances are your customer value proposition is coming up shorter than you think. A customer value proposition should resonate not only throughout your marketing activities but in the word of mouth of your employees, existing customers, suppliers and business partners too.
And that means changing the way you develop and deliver it, everywhere!
So i’ll leave you with this…
“If you have a problem (i.e. your value prop), if no one else can help (we’re better), and if you can find us (try Google)…maybe (quite likely) you can hire The Brand Business.”
“I love it when a plan comes together!” 🙂
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Now for some A-Team Trivia:
• The series ran from 1983 -1987 and consisted of 97 episodes.
• Watermelons don’t kill, people do.
• Whenever Mr.T says he ain’t getting on no plane, he’s definitely getting on a plane.
• We pity the fool that ain’t got an A-Team message for their customers.
The A-Team were:
• Howling Mad Murdock – Dwight Schultz
• B.A. Baracus – Mr. T
• John ‘Hannibal’ Smith – George Pepard
• Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck – Dirk Benedict