It’s one of the first lessons I learned in sales and marketing. Don’t tell me what your product can do for me. Don’t tell me how it will improve my business, or how it will drive my bottom line. Tell me only how it will make me feel: because this – this feeling – is at the heart of every sale. It all boils down to your ability to convey the way in which your product, or service, will make your customer feel good. And that’s not just in some vague, ‘obviously-everyone-just-wants-to-be-happy’ way – rather, it’s to do with how your product specifically (and crucially, no-one else’s) can make them feel better than they did before, about a very particular aspect of their lives.
Value is everything
Enter ‘marketing quotes’ into Google and you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of inventive ways that people have described how they understand marketing. But for me, the most interesting, and in my view the most accurate ones, are those that talk about value. Value really is everything in marketing. It’s the job of your marketing team to show – through the great content they produce – exactly how your products and services add value to your potential customers’ businesses. (In fact it’s such an important aspect of their role that some experts say that marketing is actually the job of everyone in your business – Hewlett-Packard founder David Packard says that ‘Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department’. I agree).
But what do we mean by value in this sense? Well, it could be financial value – a product that actually saves people money. Or it could be value in terms of how it improves their processes and systems to the extent that their business runs more smoothly as a result. Whatever it is, it’s crucial that as marketers we identify quickly what value means to them, and then seek to explain how what we do will bring them exactly what they want.
It’s also interesting to then expand this idea of value, and link it to something that Steve Jobs once said – that ‘Marketing is about values’. Clearly, ‘value’ – in the sense of ‘benefit’ – and ‘values’ as those things that a company stands for, don’t have the same literal meaning. But they are linked – and marketing is where they come together.
The importance of feeling you belong
For potential customers, what your company represents is hugely important. It could be what sets two otherwise similar products apart – and it also feeds directly into your brand. How? Well, your brand identity works on an emotional level, connecting and resonating with people via their emotions rather than their completely rational side. They fall in love with a brand, become loyal to it, and choose it over other competitors. So where does marketing fit in to all of this? Well, for me, it all links back to the power of ‘feeling’ that we touched on at the beginning – and the importance of explaining how your product will make people feel, rather that just what it will really do for them.
For example: a pair of top of the range super-lightweight Nike running shoes won’t make you actually run like London Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge – but perhaps they might make you feel like you share a bond with him when you pull them on. And this is where, once again, value becomes all important. What does your potential customer really value? What do they really want?
If they have come to you wanting to buy running shoes, do you think that they really believe that you will be able to sell them something that will actually make them run like Kipchoge? Obviously not – and they would spot a salesperson a mile away who said they had a product that could.
But what that customer really wants – and what would really add value to their running experience – is to feel like they are a part of something greater. They want to pull on a pair of shoes and feel that they are a member of a whole community of other runners – including Kipchoge – people who share their ambitions, their tastes and their lifestyle.
Again, this is where the value often lies for them – not in the technical features of the product itself, but in what that product represents. This then, is the great challenge of marketing: to get that feeling across, and to provoke a positive response in your potential customers. Value means many things to many people, but it’s essential that your marketing always speaks to people directly about the things that they really, really want.
I’ll leave the final word to Craig Davis, who was once the Chief Creative Officer at marketing communications experts J. Walter Thompson, who defines marketing’s mission perfectly:
“Stop interrupting what people are interested in, and be what people are interested in.”