Understanding and establishing value in business marketing

undefined“… a new breed of marketer who prefaces their title with the tactical term ‘digital’ has inundated our discipline with under-trained, overly tactical mangers who have already selected their ode of execution long before any research or strategy has been even countenanced.

- Mark Ritson: Tactics without strategy is dumbing down our discipline, Marketing Strategy

It’s the greatest challenge of any marketing company. How does one define value? Can value be measured? What are the products and services provided by a marketing company actually worth to its customers?

The ability to pinpoint, define and characterise the value of products and services to customers has never been more important. This is partly due to the fact that, thanks to the Internet, social media and a myriad of online news and content platforms, the world is awash with potentially ‘free’ competition. The threat from what might be termed adjacent marketing opportunities has never been greater.

The biggest challenge in today’s marketplace is therefore to persuade customers to focus. To focus on the particular messages, capabilities and services that they really want to market, and also to focus on the concept of total value, as opposed to becoming fixated on acquisition price and project cost. After all, any company can generate noise, and attract attention, but how many can honestly say that they know how to successfully channel and target the direction of their content?

Defining value

Value in business marketing might be defined as the intrinsic worth of the provision its services in terms of the reliable and responsible stewardship of a wide range of technical and creative services. We are not, of course, talking about ‘units’ of benefit for every pound or dollar spent, but rather engaging in marketing services which allow client companies to connect with others and the further extent to which that marketing products and services permit companies to improve the expression of their brand within target markets.

For a marketing company to successfully deliver value to its customers, it must consider what might be termed ‘total’, or holistic value. This might include the reputation of an organisation, employee communication, product marketing, and technological advantages. This total, or holistic value presents progressively minded business marketing companies with the opportunity to support and promote every reputational element of client companies, offering the proverbial ‘inside out’ approach, whereby employees are marketed to and communicated with, as much as a company’s critical external stakeholders are marketed to and communicated with.

Value in marketing can therefore be defined by both qualitative and quantitative measures. On the qualitative side, value gained is drawn from the perceived value composed of emotional, cultural and environmental factors, which make up a client company’s supporting eco-system. On the quantitative side, value is the actual gain measured in terms of financial numbers and percentage gains.

Building value models

‘Research’, data gathering, comparator analysis – all of these activities might be lumped into what might be termed ‘field value assessments’, which requires marketing companies to draw together as much direct research from their clients as possible.

This might be further supported by survey questioning, focus groups and workshops. All of this work will be helped significantly by the quality and composition of your in- house teams. Strong domain knowledge, the offering of particular technical skills and an ability to win trust and grow relationships quickly are key supporting elements to this body of work.

Getting underway with building your value proposition

It’s axiomatic that the most difficult customer value model that a marketing company will build is its first one. As any novelist will tell you, it’s always writing that first page, indeed that first word, which is the hardest. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the value of a marketing offering for a particular client may appear monumentally difficult. But it can and must be done.

A key first step, already alluded to in this article, is putting together the right kind of team. The team might include people with specific product knowledge, sector domain knowledge, and of course creative leadership skills. Having sales-minded people involved is also key as they will hone the commerciality of your company’s approach from the get go.

Selecting the right market segment to target is the next step. This is the much-needed point of focus referred to earlier in this article. Because a marketing company will need to conduct its research with at least two and perhaps as a many as a dozen client partnering companies in order to build its value model, identifying companies with close collaborative relationships with the client will be key.

At this stage it is important to establish a financial approach to this intelligence gathering. For example, a marketing company might offer to provide the resources to gather the data at no charge to the customer with the purposes of getting closer to the client, and thereby enriching the relationship. For many companies, the promise of research findings may be worth paying for and in which case the financial relationship begins in the research and not the marketing phase of the relationship.

Generating a list of value propositions

Value propositions are those elements of a marketing offering that help to promote the benefits of the offering in a client’s eyes.

These elements may be technical, economic, service, or social (i.e., networking) in nature and will vary in their tangibility.

As it is generating the list of propositions, the marketing team should consider the entire life cycle of its offering(s) in question, from how the customer works with the marketing company, to devising and promoting (internally and externally) campaigns, to the longevity and scalability of marketing products and services. This is the ‘built for long life’ approach to building and sustaining a relationship with a client!

Creating value-based sales tools

Marketing companies can use these value models to promote their own services to a broad range of clients, and not merely as development tools for individual client relationships.

-Case studies

For example, a series of value ‘case histories’ might be created to illustrate the cost savings or added value that a customer receives from its use of a marketing company’s offering.

Content marketing is important, so is a marketers’ ability to forge a narrative. The research that you undertake, the conversations you have with your client, will go into a body of evidence-based material which can be used to strengthen your client’s brand, a help further shape its narrative.

-Creating a powerful narrative

In looking for outcomes, business-to-business customers require a compelling, complex and multifaceted proposition comprising features, products and services. There’s also a strong element of emotional fulfilment, which can be met by strong content and a powerful core narrative. Business-to-business marketers need to be able to knit these components of the proposition together in order to make the ‘outcome’ they are looking for defensible and compelling. Once achieved, this, too, becomes a powerful tool in its own right.

The real value of ‘value marketing’

Perhaps the most compelling reason for establishing a firm ‘value marketing’ approach is that it makes your company inherently resistant to market forces, such as recessions and industry slumps. With a firm grasp of value, and an ability to offer strongly researched, differentiated services, when there is pressure on price, a company can respond by demonstrating that it has something different to offer—something that will provide superior value

Assessing and truly understanding value in business marketing is the beginning of the firm establishment of your own company’s brand and ability to reliably win business, confident of your own reputation.

by Chris Warde, Client Services Director at Merchant Marketing Group