Why should your company transition to value-based communication?

Alan Emmins & Kristian Holden
April 2020



Why value

It’s an outside in, customer centric approach, but still, what’s in it for me? Everybody’s talking about it, everybody’s engaging in it, but what really is the value of value?

It increases your odds of winning the business

It increases the scope of the business

It closes the deal faster

According to SiriusDecisions and Forrester, 67% of buyers have a clear picture of the solution they want before they engage a salesperson*. CEB and Gartner equates that to buyers being 60% of the way through the sales funnel before they engage a salesperson*. Basically, if you respond to these leads with features, or problem solution selling, you are preaching to the choir. These customers are no longer weighing up different solutions, they are weighing up which suppliers of their chosen solution will deliver the most value. According to Qvidian, 58% of deals end up with ‘no decision’ because sales has not presented value effectively*.

Once a buyer has identified a solution to a serious problem, a strong value story will drive their eagerness to get that solution in place. The value story should help customers understand that every passing day without that solution is negatively impacting the quality, performance and profits of their business.

What barriers can I overcome with a value-first approach?

Alleviate price pressure – from short-term cost to long-term value. 

We want to move customers away from looking at a physical product or a list of features and questioning whether it or they are worth the price. Instead, we want them to picture a desired outcome that will increase the capabilities and efficiencies of end users, and drive competitive edge for the business.

Connect with customers – from educated guess to validated reality 

We need to go beyond positioning products as solutions to problems and needs we believe to be important to the category. Instead, we want to anchor solutions to prioritised needs as identified by customers, highlight individual gains, performance gains and business gains, all while speaking in the customer’s language.

Differentiate from the competition – from comparing ‘what’ to demonstrating ‘why’

We must stop pushing our own favourite features and simply highlighting functional gains against competitors when we have them. We need to pitch new and improved realities that are impossible to reject, and that drive urgency around the need.

Other great add-ons to running a value-first transformation

Align sales and marketing - The process demands that sales and marketing are involved and working together, but the benefits go beyond the project.

Category opportunities - Value work can also present potential new subcategories that enable competitor lock out and optimised campaign planning. 

Drive sales excellence - Once you have transitioned communication to a value-first approach, a value-first ‘way of selling’ is within easy reach.

Value: a strategy, a tactic or an Standard Operating Procedure?

Why is value communication the new black? Because differentiating features are rarer than ever, quality production is cheaper and faster than ever, and market entry is easier than ever. You can no longer compete reliably on these parameters.

Understanding your target group’s challenges, behaviours and aspirations, as well as their points of influence, is no longer a best practice. It’s a minimal requirement and a core driver of success.

It’s not just how you create value: it’s how you minimize risk by ensuring your offer is promoted and delivered in total alignment with how your target group perceives and measures value. 


Why should your company transition
to value-based communication?

Types of value

Economic value

Perceived value

Relational value

Experiential value

Social value

Perceived Value
Perceived value is literally about changing people’s perceptions of the value they receive. It is achieved by shifting mindsets away from what a thing does to why the thing is important to them. It focusses on improved outcomes and new realities that can be achieved with the thing, that couldn’t be achieved without it. It’s a before and after story, where the majority of the focus is on the ‘after’.

While it begins with solid insights and value drivers, it is communication based and therefore (market research permitting) the fastest and easiest route to value. 

Relational Value 
Relational value requires that the relationship delivers value for all parties. It’s a true partnership, where customer and supplier work closely together to solve specific performance and/or business challenges and where both parties gain from the solution.

As a result of its ongoing nature, you can add value or lose value as the relationship moves forward. It requires a blend of sales skills, category expertise and long-term ambitions. While perceived and experiential value play a big role in relational value, so do the less obvious, intangible benefits. When it comes to relational value, strong sales-excellence capabilities are essential.

Experiential Value 
Experiential value goes beyond product to focus on all interactions with all customer stakeholders over the entire customer journey. 

Experiential value is a shift from short-term goals (unit sales) to long-term goals (repeat sales). It is achieved by going beyond value exchange (single interaction) to targeting customer lifetime value (through multiple interactions). Done well, it works as the glue that ensures the customer remains loyal over time, through product iterations and launches. It is often co-created. Experiential value is anchored in strong journey mapping and service design. Without them, you are still focusing on short term, and not long-term value. 


Why should your company transition
to value-based communication?

Understanding Value Propositions

A value proposition is a concise promotional statement that clearly articulates why your product or service is important. It’s a promise of an improved reality for the customer – and it’s the main reason a customer should choose you over a competitor. It’s not a statement about what your product is or how it works and it’s not a slogan.

Here are four key principles for a great value proposition.

Sell an outcome the customer desires

Deliver a solution to a real problem

Deliver a proposition that nobody could reject

Be tracible back to the product and its features

Value propositions can be for a category or a product, but in both cases the value proposition should establish a ‘why now’ sense of urgency.

We’ve done the work, we have an amazing value proposition, what do we do with it?

Value propositions have traditionally been seen as internal, the end result of marketing and research that is used to drive product development, campaigns and communication. Traditionally very formulaic, value propositions were not seen as a piece of external communication in and of themselves, rather, they would form part of the creative brief.

After a decade of developing value propositions and value communication frameworks for B2B companies, we have evolved our opinion on this. We believe that the investment it takes in time and money to develop a value proposition demands that it is crafted to such a level that it could be used externally as the lead value-first message. 

It does need to be backed up by a value story that establishes how the value is delivered. It also needs a tailored message bank, so that the communication can drill down and align to the specific needs of specific customer segments. 

So, while it can be used to brief in a creative campaign, it can also be used to transform all existing communication and assets from a product/feature focus (what we do) to a value-first focus (why we’re important to your business). As a minimum, it should result in updated sales collateral.

5 things that must happen once the VP is signed off?

Core marketing and sales collateral should be updated with a value-first approach

Sales reps should be trained in value-first selling with new collateral

Production of a value-first product film (#1 preferred format for web, sales presentations, conferences)

Web content should be updated with a value-first approach

Launch value-first SoMe campaigns

Basically, no matter how strong the value you create, it's still not going to sell itself. It needs to be pushed out there.

5 common errors that reduce the quality and usability of your value proposition

Taking a marketing only approach on an initiative that involves much of the organisation

Failing to get upfront internal alignment on what value is, and slipping back to positioning

Not understanding the cultural change you are asking people to go through

Thinking value markets itself, it doesn’t and so all marketing initiatives need to be actively aligned with the new value-first approach

Thinking value sells itself, it doesn’t and the sales reps need to be fully trained and fully motivated

What do we know about it anyway?

&Robin may only be a year old, but the partners have been working together for 5 to 10 years and have all had a strong focus on value propositions and value-based communication. Those experiences were brought together to develop our current value proposition process, tried and tested over a number of years, and recently refined and updated to take value communication to the next level.


Why should your company transition
to value-based communication?

Want to get together and talk value proposition specifics?

We love talking value, and would love to brainstorm your challenges, your concerns and your curiosities about all things value.

*Kelly, S., Danheiser, S., & Johnston, P. (2017). Value-ology: aligning sales and marketing to shape and deliver profitable customer value propositions. Palgrave Macmillan.

A transition from comparing ‘what’ to demonstrating ‘why’

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