Imagine you are a salesperson about to wrap up a sales call with a major account. Over the course of months, you have worked your way up the ladder and are now meeting with the executive buying committee responsible for the final purchase decision. After a smooth presentation, you field two final questions:
- The COO asks, “Can you demonstrate what the return on investing in your solution would generate for us across a 3-year time horizon?”
- The Chief Legal Officer follows her colleague by asking, “Our board needs to be confident that every vendor aligns with our mission statement and values. Can you prove that in the case of your company?”
Solid sales professionals should be able to answer these questions. The best salespeople will have already answered these questions over the course of their presentation:
- What are your organization’s values?
- What is the specific value you can provide to the buyer?
- How does the former strengthen the case for the latter?
One letter makes a world of difference. Values-based marketing and value-based marketing are two distinct yet critical concepts for marketing and sales teams seeking to differentiate themselves against the competing alternatives. In this blog series, we will explore both, as well as ways that incorporating organizational values can strengthen a value message and boost commercial outcomes.
What is Value-Based Marketing?
Value Marketing (or Value-Based Marketing) can be defined as communicating your solutions’ value across every customer touchpoint. The primary vehicle of value communication is the value proposition. When executed well, strong value marketing messaging and campaigns communicate your value proposition to targeted B2B audience segments, inviting them through the early stages of the customer journey by engaging with your content and initiating sales conversations.
A value proposition is understood by most marketers to be a simple, one-to-two-sentence statement articulating the qualitative benefits of a B2B solution. While value statements are an essential component of value marketing, they are insufficient in conveying differentiation in compelling enough terms.
Any company can make bold, unsupported claims about their solution’s impact on the customer. Well-designed value propositions, and by extension, great value marketing campaigns, articulate three layers of value, backed up with supporting evidence, in a disciplined manner across all marketing channels. The three layers of value are qualitative, quantitative, and financial, with each playing a critical role in communicating your solution’s value.
Consider the following examples:
- Qualitative: How your solution addresses customer challenges/problems.
- Example: “Our adhesive solution generates less waste.”
- Example: “Our HVAC solution is more energy efficient.”
- Example: “Our remote patient monitoring system reduces inpatient readmissions.”
- Quantitative: The quantitative impact your solution has on measured customer KPIs/ problems.
- Example: “Our adhesive solution reduces scrap costs by 10%.”
- Example: “Our HVAC solution reduces energy consumption by 25% on average.”
- Example: “Our remote patient monitoring solution reduces Tier 1 readmission rates by 20%.”
- Financial: The specific financial impact your solution has on your customer’s business results
- Example: “Our solution will save your company $2.50 per manufactured unit on scrap recycling.”
- Example: “Our HVAC solution will save your facility $5-6m/year on energy costs.”
- Example: “Our remote patient monitoring solution results in $30m/year in system-wide savings due to reduced readmission.”
Elsewhere, we explore best practices for value marketing by weaving all three value layers into different forms of marketing content across customer journey stages. By leading with customer value delivered in quantifiable and measurable terms, value marketing heightens differentiation against competing alternatives. In this framework, features and benefits matter to the extent that they drive the solution’s impact on the customer’s bottom line.
In the examples above, there are likely multiple value drivers that are similarly quantifiable. Likewise, the stated value drivers (as well as additional ones) may have benefits that are difficult to quantify. Reduced scrap costs and energy savings may have implications for the sustainability goals of the B2B buyer. Improved remote monitoring may improve patient satisfaction or help healthcare facilities achieve staffing-level targets.
A holistic approach to value marketing can unlock additional layers of customer value to communicate to the buyer by either a) adding to the total differentiated value delivered or b) augmenting the estimated financial impact with non-financial but measurable results that support other core objectives of the buying organization, such as customer satisfaction, regulatory compliance, or ESG targets.
What is Values-Based Marketing?
When introducing Apple’s “Think Different” campaign in the late-90’s, Steve Jobs famously remarked, “Marketing is about Values.” He observed that because buyers have limited attention spans and are drowning in noise, companies – even the world’s leading brands – have a limited window to shape how they are perceived. In his view, connecting Apple’s brand to a deeper core value was critical, instead of competing on hardware or performance capabilities. Inspired by other successful examples, such as Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, Apple was able to revive a long-neglected brand and set the stage for several successful product launches, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, that resulted in their becoming the world’s first trillion dollar company.
This is a singular example of the power of values marketing (or values-based marketing), defined as a marketing strategy designed to appeal to your customer audience’s values, ethics, or aspirations.
Values-based marketing wasn’t invented yesterday. Consumer brands have long understood the importance of connecting their products to value propositions that transcend their basic functions – dating back to the dawn of modern, psychology-driven marketing and advertising. Decades of research have shown that buyer decision-making is closely linked to the degree of emotional connection and trust they have with the brand. And with overall ad spend totaling almost $300 billion in the US alone in 2023, these companies continue to place faith in their power to influence minds.
The values successfully articulated by these brands vary in form and relationship to the core offering. Coca-Cola’s famed Hilltop ad, with the jingle “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” was designed to connect to the flower generation on an emotional (if not practical) level. Similar themes are seen in the value message for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, values that are reflected in their corporate social responsibility report and spending.
Many companies today have values messages around some of the biggest challenges of our time. Lego incorporates sustainability and education into its corporate messaging. Patagonia marries its outdoor clothing and equipment offerings with a message of environmental stewardship and preservation. Some values marketing messages are less aspirational and more personal in scope. Amazon has a mission statement aspiring to be “the Earth’s most customer-centric company” and aligns its operating strategy around maximizing customer satisfaction and retention. Regardless of scope, this focus on maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty is the common thread that unites all successful values-based marketing campaigns.
One key caveat is that many of these examples of values marketing are specific to the B2C world, where brand relationships are focused on the individual customer who may not need to do any math to build consensus around a business case for a purchase decision. In our next post, we will explore how values marketing concepts can be successfully applied alongside value marketing in B2B.