In today’s content-crazed, fragmented world of social media, video, apps, text and technology overload, as a marketer, it’s real easy to get off track with your marketing when new tools and methods are constantly being introduced what seems like every week. Research shows that consumers are connecting with varying digital channels more and more.
How does a marketing team stay focused on the right strategy when they are being bombarded with new ways to expose their brand all the time, and when consumer habits change frequently? Quite frankly, there is no easy answer. However, the search for the answer is evident in marketing circles in all industries and market segments. I believe one of the missing pieces to a strong marketing strategy is a clearly defined explanation of “value” and how it is misused and misunderstood.
Understanding Brand Value
Often, brands, regardless of who they are, create a list of distinctives and/or exclusive selling points (ESPs). This is not a bad idea. In fact, without these, the marketing messages are not focused and key messages that resonate with potential consumers become nearly impossible to create if distinctives and ESPs are not identified. Both of these typically stem from product and service features, advantages and benefits the brand states are best for the customer. But here’s the missing link some marketing teams miss. Distinctives and ESPs are sometimes very similar to their competition and are not positioning the brand as superior to the competition. In essence, they are just defining the brand and in some cases may not create differentiation at all. A brand’s value proposition should state why your brand exists and answer the question, why should the customer purchase from you instead of the competition? Make a list while answering these questions. If the answer to these questions is similar to the competition, it negates your value proposition.
"Brands may claim advantages that actually provide no benefit to target customers" – HBR'S 10 MUST READS On Strategic Marketing
Understanding Customer Value
Since customers are the revenue drivers for your business, try taking this approach to discern the customer value drivers for your business and take a look at them juxtaposed to the brand value list you created above. First, you will want to start with gaining insights from your customers. You know these insights are accurate when they are well defined, and proven to be the greatest value to the customer, currently and for the foreseeable future. Documenting these and aligning them with revenue growth is also very important.
TIP: The brand value proposition is great. However, you must also have a customer value proposition that is perfectly aligned with the brand value proposition list in order to ensure the right mix of both of these is performing. Otherwise, you will miss the mark with your marketing and your customers.
When the brand and the customer value propositions align, they will create a potent mix of brand equity, loyalty, and strength.
Understanding Where Brand and Customer Differ
We just talked about where the brand and customer meet or have similar value propositions. Here we need to identify where they are totally different. Why you ask? When the marketing team understands more about their customer, it helps to paint a clearer picture of who they are and aren’t. Marketing content strategy and creation becomes simpler and more targeted when certain key messages are removed from the mix. The points of difference, once they are clearly defined should also be documented and communicated to all customer-facing employees in the company. Harvard Business Review calls these areas of difference as points of contention.
How Your Closest Competitor Factors in
It’s always important to continually do your research on your competitors. Like you, they are changing and evolving to improve and if you’re not watching them, they will surprise you with new and exciting products and services that will quickly steal customers and market share. When this happens, it can in some cases cause your business to be reactive to try recapture some of the lost share and customers. However, this can and will be costly because your plan will not be on your terms. All the more reason to keep a close eye on your closest competitors and identify the points of difference as well as the points of similarity. Once you know these, you will be able to pivot R&D, products, services, and marketing to better serve the customer, thus creating increased value for them.
“You can use social media competitors’ research to identify gaps in the rival brands’ offer and use this insight to improve your own services.” – Brand24
When the convergence of customer expectations and brand attributes are being communicated, the commonalities can reveal some very exciting trends that sometimes are not expected. Monitoring your competitors can also reveal trends that can be helpful when looking for similarities and differences. It’s the differences that will help you develop key messages in your marketing that also create separation. You want this. It can be very interesting to watch what trends emerge and become evident in the market when this happens. Convergence is the critical point at which every business should be closely aware and should also strive to analyze the hidden gems that are nestled within both customer and brand value propositions.