Why value is so important in marketing


Marketing is built around a simple concept:  exchange.

Yet it's a concept that most leaders have never been taught. Here's how it works:

You have something I want (usually money). I have something you want (a product or service). We agree on things like price and exchange what we have. Simple enough?

But what happens if one of us doesn't fulfill their end of the exchange? What if all they are concerned about is receiving?  Do you soon feel cheated, used, or manipulated?  That's subtraction – where the focus is always on taking, rather than on giving anything.

But do all businesses operate that way?  Not at all. When you study market leading companies, you find that they spend a lot of time and effort adding to their customer's lives.  Southwest tries to make plane flights fun with humor – and by emphasizing being on time. Ben & Jerry's spend a lot of time and effort making great ice cream – and also do some good in the world with a portion of their profits. Dell has figured out how to allow their customers to customize their personal computers – while making the experience easy and affordable.

Great businesses find ways to add to the lives of their customers:  value, convenience, support, knowledge, or some other quality that matters to the person buying the service. While ordinary and short-sighted businesses are often far too concerned about taking from their clients.

Let me give you an example. Here is a bank I still do business with – why I'm not sure. They provided me with a credit card years ago when I started out and I continue to use it only because I'm either too loyal or too lazy to switch. Originally, the rates were fair, along with their other charges. I even got rewards checks every quarter without doing anything, and there was no annual fee. That's all changed.

Here's what they get out of me now:

  • Credit card annual fee (-)
  • High monthly interest rate (-)
  • High late fees (-) plus a ding on my credit score should I ever miss the due date (-)
  • Loan rates – highest possible (-)
  • Deposit interest rates – lowest possible (-)
  • Inconvenient hours (-)
  • Difficulty in speaking to a human being (-) and inflexibility when you do (-)
  • Rewards – they cut them out; following complaints, put them back in, but now I'll have to go online to redeem from companies I don't care for; all very complicated (-)

How does this play out in the mind of their customers? It's not hard to figure out. How about this:

Perceived Goal of Bank:  Squeeze all the revenue possible they can from me. Give me  back the bare minimum – service, hours, value.

My Response:  Feeling used, with limited connection and loyalty, and vulnerable to switching to another bank.

Bottom Line: This bank is far more interested in subtracting from my life than adding to it.  It's become a selfish, one-sided relationship.

Interestingly, when a bank does break out of the traditional mold and extend hours, offers low or no cost services, I often hear other bankers complain. Many competitors openly admit they hope the other bank somehow does itself in. I'm not kidding.

But this isn't every bank. Some are very different – and they are often leading their marketplace.

What might a market-leading bank do?  They might try to better understand that real relationships aren't one-sided. No relationship that is primarily one-sided will last long, much less thrive – especially in this highly-competitive marketplace.

They know there's real lasting value and satisfaction that comes from giving back – to customers and the community. So they not only work hard to give value, a better customer experience, and quicker, faster, easier service to their customers – but instead they find ways to add to the lives of their customers.

Isn't that expensive and difficult?  Others don't seem to be doing it.

Or is it very smart? Does it make customers happy, appreciative, content, less resistant to moving on, and more likely to tell others?

What's that worth...?

Re-posted and updated – from our archive