The first question you should be able to answer when you start marketing your business is, as Bender (From the TV show Futurama) would put it so eloquently, “Who are you and why should I care“. Or in other words…
What is your value proposition? Why should clients buy from YOU?
Defining your value proposition
The truth is that people do business with you because you and your products/services add value to them. The key to successful marketing is understanding this value and how to communicate it. First of all, ask yourself some questions:
- Why do you sell to people?
- Why do they buy from you?
- Are you good at what you do?
- Do your skills match the needs of your customers?
The fact that you offer a particular range of products or services may not be the main reason for customers to buy from you. It could be the way you do business, how you engage with customers, add-ons or support that you offer. It is worth taking time to really think about your value proposition. You may come to realise that the essence of your proposition is quite complex and subtle, and may even surprise you.
Competitive Market? Find Your Niche
In a competitive market, the definition of this value proposition needs even more thought. Finding ways to differentiate your offering and to stand out from the crowd. In these circumstances, it is even more important to focus your efforts on the areas where the value you add is greatest. For example:
Despite the globalisation of many markets, all other things being equal, many people will still prefer to source locally. So focusing your marketing on your local area, and highlighting this in your marketing can pay dividends. But don’t fall into the trap of using “we are local” as your main message. You still need to be able to deliver as well as your competitors as few people will use you just because you are close by. But assuming you can deliver, then the fact that you are on the doorstep can give you the edge. It is also much easier to run and sustain a geographically focused marketing campaign both on and offline.
There is an old Saying “People buy from People”. On paper, you might offer exactly the same service as the competition, but your people will be different. In many businesses, the people in your organisation can be a massive factor in defining your value. Having a clear understanding what makes you different, and infusing the organisation with these values can create an environment that adds value. Our offices are right next door to the local Aldi Supermarket, so I am in there most days, and I think this is one area where they are different. I always get the impression that the people who work there enjoy their job. Whilst this may not be the case, they are trained to be friendly, helpful, and always look you in the eye when taking your money. This is one of the reasons I shop there. Again, they deliver good products & value, but so do other supermarkets. Its their people that make me want to shop there (That and the fact that its on my doorstep (See – “Your Location” above)
The 3rd way you can find your niche and add value is to specialise. Smaller companies can compete with the big boys by being a specialist. By focusing, and developing exceptional knowledge & service in a particular area, you can create a much stronger value proposition. A great example of where this works is travel. Smaller companies can compete with the major operators by specialising in a specific area of the world or type of holiday. For example:
We have worked with Aardvark for a number of years, and Bon-Voyage helped me to plan a Route 66 trip a few years ago, so I know both companies. Each has a thorough knowledge of, and passion for, their respective areas. This speciality allows them to deliver value in their specialist areas way above that which could be delivered by the major travel companies.
The power of research
However you decide to differentiate yourself and add value, don’t try to guess what your customers think, ask them! This can be done personally or, if you have a lot of customers, there are several online survey systems which are easy to use and some are even free. Feedback from a customer survey will give you insight into what your customers think and the results can make great marketing copy. Don’t forget that something that may be obvious to you may not be so clear to others. As well as surveying your customers, ask people (friends, family, colleagues etc.) what they think. You may get valuable insight from some surprising answers! Don’t worry about always ‘getting it right‘. In fact, often there is no right answer. No value proposition statement will work for everyone, and you can always change (or should that be evolve) your proposition over time, based on experience. The important thing is that you are working with a proposition that you are comfortable with and that works with others.
Publishing your value proposition
OK, so you have pinned down a proposition statement that you are comfortable with and that has resonance with customers, prospects and others, what next? You need to make sure your proposition is consistent everywhere you communicate it. Most businesses use some (or all) of the following:
- Social Media
- Advertising (off-line and on-line – including Pay per Click)
- Literature and Brochures
- Powerpoint Presentations
- Exhibition Banners
- Business Stationery
- Business Cards
This is your Marketing Collateral. Does it effectively and consistently communicate your proposition? Taking an overall view may throw up some surprising disconnects. Eliminating (or at least minimising) these disconnects will give the consistency that drives a powerful marketing message.
Communication of your proposition should be more than just selling to new prospects. Often there is too much focus on getting the order – sign up the new customer then move on to finding the next one. Your proposition goes beyond sales, it’s also about who you are, how you do what you do, why you do what you do, and ultimately its about communicating your value proposition, demonstrating the value that you add and making sure that your relationship with your customers is always developing and evolving, ensuring that it strengthens over time.