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valueprop

One of the hardest things I had to do early in my marketing career was develop a compelling and unique value proposition for the group benefits plans offered by the insurance company where I worked.

In a price-sensitive, highly competitive market, we repeatedly asked ourselves how we could demonstrate and differentiate our solutions and services.

Our business strategy team agreed that when compared to our competitors’ capabilities, we offered superior customized solutions, outstanding customer service and integrated solutions.

My marketing colleagues and I decided that none of these capabilities could be used in our value proposition.  Not only were these capabilities becoming buzz words, but we realised also, that since benefits plans are tailored to the specific needs of our plan sponsor clients, customization was the expected norm as was outstanding customer service.  Furthermore, with clients using the services of multiple providers, it was also expected that our benefits administration systems should be interoperable and capable of being integrated with other systems.

We understood that to be meaningful, our value proposition had to speak to a critical customer need and had to be perceived as a bonus beyond the price paid for our solutions and services.

Multiple stakeholders.  Multiple motivations and priorities.

Staying away from buzzwords was hard enough.  What was even harder was crafting a compelling value proposition that worked for several stakeholders  – the benefits plan advisor who negotiated the best plan with the insurance company on behalf of the employer/plan sponsor client, the plan sponsor’s finance and human resources leadership teams, people managers and employees.

All of these stakeholders had different motivations and priorities.  Not all of them were decision-makers.  Some were influencers and others were the end-users.  All of them were going to be influenced by the value proposition at some point during the marketing, pre- and post-sales cycle.

Five steps to create a multi-stakeholder value proposition

Our marketing team did eventually define a compelling, overarching value proposition that worked really well for all stakeholders.  Here is a five-step process, which I believe can guide the development of a value proposition for multiple stakeholders –

  1. Identify stakeholders and their role in the purchase process
  2. Define the pain points/key issue, usually related to their mandate
  3. Identify the solution benefits each stakeholder requires
  4. Determine how value is created for each stakeholder
  5. Identify a common theme on how value is created for all stakeholders, develop a value proposition statement that reflects the theme and stands out from the competition.

The BIG picture – finding the common theme

Identifying how value is created for each stakeholder should always lead to a value proposition that is based on an overarching theme that resonates with all stakeholders and that can be expressed from several angles.  For example, “wellness” as the overarching theme can be expressed in terms of financial and physical wellness.  Financial wellness resonates with the CFO and benefits advisor, and physical wellness appeals to the CHRO and employees.

Focus on what’s important – finding the tipping point for each stakeholder

To bring the value proposition to life, it is important to identify the tipping point for each stakeholder audience, and then clearly state the way value is created without diluting the overarching value proposition.  For example, the CFO decision maker will almost certainly select the benefits plan that is affordable and contributes to financial success.  Therefore, in the marketing pitch to the CFO, the benefits and outcomes of the “wellness” value proposition should be explained in financial terms, demonstrating how investing in employee wellness will produce a positive ROI that translates to fewer or lower claims experience and higher workforce productivity.

A final word

In addition to using the 5-step approach outlined above, it’s important to bear in mind the following tips, when determining how to bring the value proposition to life –

  1. Understand the current and long-term bias of the organization – e.g. cost avoidance, risk management etc.
  2. Have the prospective client define what success looks like
  3. Build momentum through communication tactics targeting the decision-makers prior to the final sales pitch

 

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.

http://www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

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Content-Marketing

With social media gaining momentum as important channels for marketing communication, and with technology tools now being used to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, we are in a new era of marketing.  Much is being said and written about modern marketing,  which by many definitions, boils down to creating and sustaining an engaged clientele and being able to demonstrate a positive, healthy return on marketing dollars invested.

The more things change, the more they remain the same

What’s not new or modern in marketing is that consumers have always wanted, and will always want, information that helps them make the purchase decision that’s right for them.  With social media, the internet and other digital communication channels brimming with information, it is estimated that 57% of the buying decision is made before the customer contacts the supplier.  What this means is that to be successful, marketers must provide easily accessible information that presents a recommended course of action that is relevant and valued by customers.

Cost and time constrained traditional marketing campaigns that rely on catchy slogans, tag lines and ad copy, have generally been difficult to measure in terms of purchase pre-disposition and customer loyalty. So welcome to the era of “content marketing,” which, as marketing guru Seth Godin said, ” is the only marketing left.”

The BIG picture

The proliferation of content marketing and the widespread use of social media to distribute content has impacted the way buyers buy and how customers stay connected and loyal to suppliers.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, access to information in various formats and through diverse channels offers the opportunity to influence and create engagement and new business opportunities among potential and existing clients.  Consumers and businesses want more than product information.  Marketers and salespeople need to do more than create nicely crafted value propositions and describe the benefits of  products on web sites, brochures and in multi-media communications.  The “more” is all about building relationships based on authenticity and trust. This, in my view is the BIG picture.

Content marketing, can and should be the engine that drives engagement, loyalty, trust and advocacy at all stages of the customer journey – from building awareness  and consideration, to the point of purchase and throughout the all-important post-sale relationship.  

What’s important

Content marketing is not about providing expert information that suppliers believe is relevant and what the customer ought to know or be educated about.  Even if this seems obvious, in my view, there is way too much information classified as content marketing that floods the in-boxes, social media accounts and mail boxes of  consumers.  What’s really important is that content marketing should be focused on the things that people really care about.  Content marketing should be kept simple as ABC…

  • Applicable and relevant to the target customer’s needs, based on insights from customer feedback;
  • Breakthrough commonly held ideas so that customers and potential customers can think differently about  their needs and pain points, leaving them open to the solution options advocated in the vendor’s content marketing; and
  • Credible, with testimonials and other proof points that demonstrate that the vendor’s solution or product really meets the needs of the customer and creates a trusting relationship with the supplier.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

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Image

Sometime ago an experienced marketer and former colleague recounted a discussion she had had with a senior board director of the financial services company where she once worked.  The director said that if he had his druthers he would stop the advertising campaign and use the ad budget to invest in higher commissions.  Higher commissions he reasoned would incentivize independent sales representatives to promote the company’s branded products over other brands in a highly competitive market.  Realizing that many financial products had become commoditized, he insisted that aggressive pricing and attractive sales commissions would create purchase preference among customers and build loyalty among independent sales representatives.   The expected result, the director predicted, would be an increase in sales volume and a higher ROI than the advertising campaign.

Although it is difficult to prove the correlation between advertising budgets and sales revenues, I could not imagine how the senior director could expect that sales representatives, no matter how richly compensated, would be able to increase sales volumes when their clients had no awareness of the brand of products being sold in an already crowded, competitive market.  Without a clear understanding of the brand’s value proposition, it would be difficult to create purchase preference among potential customers, even if the price was comparatively lower than competing brands.

Advertising campaigns and marketing programmes play a critical role in building brand awareness and publicizing value propositions.  This is particularly true when the creative execution effectively cuts through the noise of competing brands’ advertisements.

Business leaders tend to advocate engaging in price wars in the absence of a clearly defined value proposition for their brand.  This is a short-sighted view, which cannot sustain business success.

The BIG picture

The truth is, price wars are not sustainable.  Value is.

Price is where supply and demand meet.  Demand is influenced by value.  Value is the set of benefits that customers perceive that they gain beyond the price they pay for a product or service.  Value is generally where quality of service, convenience and emotional benefits such as peace of mind, safety and financial security come into play.  To be meaningful, value must fulfill a critical customer need.  Value creates demand and nurtures customer loyalty.  Customer loyalty is the basis on which sustainable business success is built. To me, this is the BIG picture.

Customers, whose purchase decision is based solely on price, are not loyal to brands.  These customers shop around and patronize whichever brand is winning the price war at any given time.

It is true that commodity retailers are by default, very often engaged in price wars.  However, successful commodity retailers understand that sustainable business success is built on customer loyalty and value propositions that are not based solely on low prices.  Gasoline retailers are a good example.  Their value propositions are generally based on the quality of their products and on safety and convenience.  To build loyalty, most of them offer rewards programmes that include the purchase of non-gasoline products.  Most gasoline retailers invest significantly in advertising campaigns that promote the loyalty programmes and value-added services.

Focus on what’s important

Business leaders who understand the difference between price and value direct resources to invest in the things that customers value.  They invest time to clearly define the value proposition of their brand.  They invest in advertising to promote awareness of the value proposition that differentiates their brand and products from the competition.  These business leaders also realize that investing in value requires providing training programmes and resources to ensure that all employees are equipped to bring the company’s value proposition to life in the way they serve and interact with customers at every customer touch point.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

http://www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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In an earlier post, I highlighted the need for departments to work together to make organizational change effective.  No one would object to this.  But the notion that there could be synergies when Marketing and HR work together seems counter intuitive.

Marketing involves identifying and meeting wants and needs of people.  To do this, marketers need to be up on the latest trends, creative, adaptive and strategic.  They’re seen as always having fun, standing in the spotlight and having the ear of senior executives.  On the other hand, HR involves the development of strategies, policies and programmes to manage people and promote a healthy corporate culture.  HR practitioners aren’t often seated at the senior executives’ table.  The perception is that HR is always on the receiving end of instructions from upper management to hire, fire, manage performance and deliver those training programmes which are the first on the chopping block when budgets are cut.  If you really believe this, you would say that HR and Marketing are polar opposites!

Before the objections start to pour in, let me point out that although their mandates are different, Marketing and HR Departments do share similar and very important roles – that is, getting people to do what is best for the company – whether they are clients, prospects, the general public or employees.  More specifically, Marketing and HR departments

  • are involved in incentivizing people,
  • reinforce consistent messages,
  • measure engagement,
  • provide proof of a value proposition, and
  • undertake activities that impact the delivery of the corporation’s strategy.

So, why is it important for both Marketing and HR to work together?  The answer is simple.  Employees are the key to business success.

Marketing develops and manages the business brand to create awareness of products and services, build on-going customer loyalty and contribute to business success. It’s the employees who represent the company and its products and services to customers and as such, they influence customer loyalty and business success. To ensure that employees understand what the business brand stands for and enthusiastically promote it, Marketing and HR must work together to ensure that employees are equipped to deliver the business brand promise to customers.

Some specific areas of Marketing and HR collaboration can be:

  • Recruitment and on-boarding activities – should reinforce consistent messages and provide proof of the corporation’s value proposition to employees and clients

 

Meaningful connections between the values of the corporation and the values of target recruits ought to be consistently communicated in recruitment advertising and bring these values to life in on-boarding and on-going organizational development activities.  Marketing should to be in a position to provide insights and research on the values of demographic groups the organization hopes to attract as potential employees and the reasons why they are likely to be a good fit.   As well, Marketing should be able to provide HR with guidance to select the right media, position employee and recruitment messages, adopt the appropriate style of communication and select the call to action channels that are appropriate for the target audiences.

  • Performance management, training, recognition and reward programmes – incentivize employees and impact the delivery of the corporate strategy

It is important for Marketing and HR to ensure agreement on the resources, skills and behaviours that support the delivery of the business brand and corporate strategy.  Real inputs that Marketing can provide HR include customer research and feedback on specific areas of interaction such as service, communication, in-store experience, loyalty programmes etc.  HR and Marketing can jointly identify what matters most to clients and determine the required skills and content of training programmes to support employees in the fulfilment of client needs in ways that reflect the business brand promise and achieve the corporate strategy objectives.

  • Cross-referencing employee metrics and marketing metrics – measuring engagement of employees and customers/target customers

Both HR and Marketing use surveys to measure engagement albeit of different groups – employees, in the case of HR and customers /target customers in the case of Marketing.  It has been proven that employee engagement directly impacts customer satisfaction and financial performance.  High levels of employee engagement correspond to increases in customer engagement levels – even when there is no direct customer contact.  More specifically, the quality of product development and the creation of the corporate reputation are the outcomes of employee engagement and ultimately influence customer satisfaction.  By cross-referencing results of customer and employee engagement surveys, HR and Marketing can identify areas in the company and/or customer segments for improvement and potential solutions to address the challenges.

Make it happen!

Aligning the efforts of Marketing and HR in the areas cited above begins corporate senior leadership recognizing that business success is wholly dependent on their employees’ capacity to deliver on the company’s brand promise.

When identifying areas of cooperation, it is essential for Marketing and HR to look beyond departmental objectives and focus on aligning their roles and efforts in relation to corporate business strategies and objectives.

Once the areas of cooperation and alignment of roles have been identified, both departments need to create forums for collaboration and communication comprised of persons with the expertise required to do the work.

 

This blog was written for Your Workplace and published on 11 March, 2013.

 

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