So we’ve got our hook and lines set up. Now for the sinker!
This was an approach I developed through working in various companies in marketing, sales and consulting roles. I call this bit the real cake (remember it’s a layer cake?). The hook is the topping, the lines are the cream and jam, the sinker is the cake (remember Captain Cake?) which is the key ingredient.
What are “value-adding solutions”?
By “value-adding solutions” we mean solutions that have a positive and quantifiable impact on our customers’ businesses. They are solutions that, for example, reduce operating costs by 15%, increase cross-sell by 10% or improve service speed by 5%.
At ABC Corp, we have a whole spectrum of solutions that do this. They are functionally rich, technically advanced and supported by a broad range of complementary services. They are also backed by a successful, global organisation that is operational in over 100 countries.
Why are we adopting the value-adding solutions approach?
Our problem – and the objective of the value-adding solutions marketing exercise – is how to articulate the benefits of our solutions, their value, in a way that is attention-grabbing, meaningful to our customers and that differentiates us from our competitors.
In our customer meetings, presentations and sales support materials, we already include customer benefit statements such as improving productivity, reducing costs and minimising risk – rather than just focusing on product and technical features. However, just think how much more powerful these statements could be if they were short, sharp, quantified and corroborated by our customers. This will be the result of applying the value-adding solutions process to your program.
How will we measure the value of our solutions?
All businesses are monitored using a range of quantifiable performance measures such as, for example, profit, share price and customer retention. In ABC Corp terms, the measures covered in our three-legged stool. Managers are measured according to their contribution – or otherwise – to these measures. It is our objective, then, to establish how managers at our client institutions are measured and to tailor our marketing messages according to the tangible, proven value our solutions deliver in supporting their goals.
So, instead of focusing on product and technological capabilities, the value-adding approach explores the issues that concern our customers and the reasons behind their purchase. Once we have established this, we can tailor our product messages accordingly.
Value-adding can only occur in a business through quantified, bottom or top line improvements effected through Money, Customers, People and Risk impacts. These are the key areas we will explore. So, taking each in turn, what types of measures come under each category?
This category includes all improvements in Operational Efficiency (process speed, accuracy, reduced duplication of effort, optimum use of staff etc); Cost Reductions (reduced service costs, reduced sales costs, more efficient processes); Income Generation Opportunities (increased cross-selling, increased fee-based services) and all other measures that impact a company’s financial strength.
This category is all to do with improvements in Customer Retention, Acquisition, Customer Relationship Management, Profitability, Loyalty, and the Accuracy, Speed and Convenience (multiple channel access) of Service.
This measure relates to all positive impacts our solutions have our customers’ own employees, including: the Use of People, their Satisfaction, Morale, Loyalty, Turnover, Ability to Share Information, Career Development and Training.
This focuses on the “uncertainty of the future” and covers the ways in which our solutions can reduce technology and business risks for our customers. Today’s fluid and competitive markets mean that businesses are frequently having to undergo change to stay ahead of the game. Change is not only painful; it also involves risk. “De-risking” change for our customers, then, is of significant value. Our use of industry standard technologies, domain knowledge, project and change management expertise, and our ability to deliver the “whole product” facilitates this.
Possible risk containment measures include the Ease/Speed of Introducing New Technologies, the Ease/Speed of Launching New Products and Services (reduced time-to-market), Reduced Risk of Project Failure, and the ability to be More Responsive to Market Forces.
How accurate do our value-adding statements need to be?
The figures we use to quantify our value-adding statements do not have to be absolutely accurate. They will be our best approximations, gathered using our combined knowledge and based on a number of implementations. They are not contractual guarantees. However, all these statements do need to be corroborated by our customers.
Why state the value of our solutions?
There are a number of key reasons why we have introduced the value-adding solutions marketing methodology. Some affect ABC Corp, others impact our customers. All are of significant benefit:
- The first reason for conducting this exercise is Competitive Differentiation. We increasingly need to find new ways of talking about our solutions that make them stand out in the crowd. All our competitors use benefit statements. However, very few are razor sharp, quantified and supported by customer testimonials. The value-adding solutions marketing process delivers this, giving us a very strong competitive differentiator.
- Enhanced Customer Relationships: The value-adding solutions process gives us another reason for talking with our customers, building on the relationship and exploring their evolving needs. This not only enhances our credibility with them but could lead to additional sales opportunities.
- Consistency across IS Programs. The value-adding solutions approach gives us an opportunity to leverage the combined value-add within the Information Services organisation. As we will be going through this process with all our programs, the resultant sales support materials will be consistent in their look, feel and sales approach.
- Powerful sales support materials. One of the results of the value adding solutions methodology is the generation of attention-grabbing sales support materials. These will clearly and consistently articulate the value of our solutions using statements of 10 words or less (door openers that are short, sharp and snappy). In addition, we will also produce video-based customer testimonials – one of the strongest sales support tools available.
- Focuses program investment. In addition to demonstrating the value of our solutions to prospective users, this process also generates the value propositions necessary for gaining ongoing internal investment.
What do we need from you?
Client references as substantiation of our claims and solutions, focused upon the value-add and the credibility, capability and value statements we discussed before. The objective is to collect the following information:
- The issues facing our customers. Who buys? What are their concerns? How are they measured? How do they talk about their problems?
- Our customers’ critical success factors and key performance indicators
- The value of our solutions to our users
- The reasons why customers and prospects should believe us.
What do we need from your customers? Well, having developed the hook, we now need quantified benefits statements, we need to provide customer corroboration for them.