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Monday, October 13, 2008

Creating Value or Spinning For Energy

MarketingProfs offered a fascinating webinar last Friday 10/10/08 titled Marketing in an Economic Meltdown that examined from multiple perspectives how best to create value during rough times. It was moderated by Michael Goodman and included wisdom from:

+ Gail Z. Martin discussing why "free PR" is more important now than ever before...

+ Jay Hamilton-Roth asking can you take the crisis and turn it into gold?

+ Joy Levin promoting market research on a slim-to-none budget...

+ Frank Hurtte explaining how best to present your value when the stakes are high, and

+ Ruth Stevens describing how to cut the budget: 5 rock-bottom cheap marketing tactics that work.

I anticipate having to listen to the recorded session again as several messages resonated, all of them having to do with value.

Frank Hurtte's comments were particularly provocative and had me rethinking the other presenters' messages. He asked "What value do you provide customers?" With economic changes come behavior changes. Given today's economic environment, it means you have to explain how your product decreases risk.

The lesson of value [this reminds me of Chip and Dan Heath's "Curse of Knowledge" from Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die] is to not assume that customers understand your value. You may offer technical features, great service, improved image and fast delivery -- but how does all of that translate into value for your customer? How does it increase revenue, decrease costs, reduce risk or better use assets?

When times are tough, people go back to evaluating everything based on the most basic currency. Here money. Therefore, we must translate our value into that same currency, creating a formula that makes sense for individual customers.

It comes down to presenting value and constantly reminding customers "here's what we've done for you lately and here's how we plan to drive new value for you."

Apply that to Gail Martin's comments relating to marketing communications and public relations. Gail talked about extending value - showing how to use products for other benefits [e.g., think of all of the uses for humble Baking Soda and how recipes demonstrate how to combine several products for something greater than the sum of the parts] or enhancing value with seminars, articles, and press releases or through vertical partnerships. Can you proactively suggest solutions?

Jay Hamilton-Roth's comments further supported Hurtte's comments about how to present value. He referred to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, whereby unless lower needs are met, people can't focus on higher ones. Times of crisis are -by definition- emotionally unstable times. We fear for our safety. Consequently, marketing must create value by addressing the need for safety and decreased risk. He recommends focusing on needs rather than wants; on small rather than big luxuries; reframing in terms of lower hierarchy levels; dividing and conquering and measuring.

I'm still working through the notion of value and how best to communicate it in terms relevant to my customers. The challenge is that there is no longer a 'one size fits all' solution. It will vary.

However, these two stories had me rethinking assumptions:

+ Today's issue of Around the Net in brand marketing by Thom Forbes comments on a Bill Moyers interview with George Soros about the source of all of our economic woes. Soros suggests that the solution to our excessive consumerism lies in creating value around redefining energy...

+ That came on the heels of a morning TV news story about something I've wondered about when I see the rows upon rows of treadmills in action at the gym: converting all of that effort into energy. Well, I found an online reference to Conn. Gym Uses 'People Power' To Energize Building. Fitness Club First Of Its Kind As Exercise Bikes Create Electricity which must be the same story. Talk about reframing how a gym creates value for you, how your physical effort creates value for the gym, and how our consumerism can generate energy and recharge the economy...

From spinning for energy, to creating value for our customers - it's a matter of rethinking our assumptions about what we stand for in the eyes, minds and hearts of our customers.

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