It’s easy to focus your marketing on the tangible stuff: the cost of your products and services; the features and benefits; or your expertise and industry know-how. But that’s not enough. Customers want more than a value proposition. They want to work with companies with shared-values.
A focus on share-values will be a growing trend in 2011. You can already see the conversation moving that way. A recent Ad Age article, “Purpose-Driven Marketing All the Rage at ANA”, discussed the growing trend of big brands looking beyond straight sales messages. The article quotes Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s Brand-Building Officer, “There’s a lot of cynicism and distrust in the world of big institutions, and companies really need to share with people what they value, what they care about.”
Consumers are cynical. A century of trumped up advertising claims coupled with the bailouts and bankruptcies of the past two years has taken its toll. Consumers are looking for value for their dollar, but they also want to buy from reputable companies with expressed core values.
What does your company stand for?
“What does your company stand for?” is often a flippant question. It’s something consultants ask, and is tied to mission and vision exercises. But don’t take it lightly. Your customers’ desire to work with a company with shared-values is a golden opportunity to differentiate your brand. It’s an opportunity to talk to your customers about your passions, what you stand for and why you do what you do.
The key is to be authentic. For example many companies have jumped onto the Green bandwagon, because it’s the “in thing.” That’s a mistake. Customers can see insincerity from a mile away. Rather, focus on your true passions and interests. Go back to the original reason the company was founded. What challenge or problem was the business designed to solve? What kinds of customers did it want to serve? Why did you craft your products and services the way you did? These questions will lead you to the true values you can share with your customers.
Create shared experiences
The challenge of bringing values to life is they require more than words. You have to do more than simply state them. Your customers have to experience them to understand them.
Interface Global has built its brand as an environmentally sustainable carpet manufacturer. As their website states, “Interface’s dedication to sustainability has evolved into the company’s Mission Zero™ commitment — our promise to eliminate any negative impact Interface has on the environment by 2020.”
Manufacturing carpet is inherently unenvironmental. The products are loaded with chemicals and manufactured substances. But the company’s founder, Ray Anderson, bucked the trend and focused the company on manufacturing as environmentally sound as possible. They took their core values, and brought them to life in their brand, their value proposition, their marketing collateral and their operations.
It’s a compelling story that clearly differentiates them from a host of other companies in their category.
Don’t forget about your value proposition
As much as your customers want to know your company’s values, they still expect value. They aren’t going to buy anything that doesn’t meet their needs.
The idea of “acquiring customers” doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t acquire customers, because they have no problem changing vendors or switching products. If a competitor offers a better price or a compelling innovation, they will switch. Your customers will choose the company that best fits their needs.
You always have to strive to innovate and deliver your customers the best bang for their buck. Just don’t stop there. The opportunity to differentiate your brand and create customer engagement is in your shared-values.