Intro – What is the Value Connection and Why is it Important?
The ability to connect with customers is of paramount importance to organisations and is often what differentiates great organisations and brands from plain, mediocre ones.
So what is the Value Connection? It is the connection between buyer and seller, based upon the crucial concept of value – something which we all perceive differently.
What is Value? The Value Map
So we need to connect with our customers and create the best possible relationship. But what role does value play in this?
Value is a combination of tangible and intangible elements. Why do you want to buy the latest model of a particular car? Is it for the quantitative factors such as measurable fuel efficiency or passenger capacity or is it for the qualitative factors such as the elegance or quality associated with the car through its brand and the self-actualisation achieved through ownership? Or a mixture of both?
The value map helps us understand the value of our organisation’s offerings in terms of two factors – the benefits as perceived by the consumer and the cost of ownership. Market leaders, naturally occupy the region of such value maps which depict the most benefits for the lowest cost.
What is ‘Connection’?
The buyer seller relationship is a dynamic thing and can range from an emotionless, functional purchase of something commonplace and insignificant to an involved, long-term process based upon trust, interpersonal investment, research of alternatives, prolonged decision making, deep consideration at every stage and the development of a very necessary relationship with the seller.
Implicit in this relationship is a connection between buyer and seller. The connection is comprised of what the customer can see, feel and hear and is the basis of very powerful customer loyalty. It is something which is developed not only by your organisation’s brand but also by the behaviours of your organisation’s customer-interfacing functions which may take the form of a one-time transaction or an ongoing provision of service.
The creation and maintenance of this connection requires passion and a service-oriented mindset and is applicable no matter how or where you serve your customers, for example in a traditional retail environment, an ‘inbound’ customer service call centre or an ‘outbound’ sales centre.
How Did we Get Here? The Evolution of the Paradigm
It all begins with the most basic of approaches to the buyer-seller relationship – the transactional approach.
Next is the technology approach which focuses solely on innovation and the technological aspects of the product or service, leaving little attention paid to customer needs.
As the paradigm evolves from the previous two, quantitative approaches, we arrive at the value based approach. This approach to understanding the buyer-seller relationship is based upon understanding and working with the benefits as perceived by the customer – a ‘next step’ beyond the mere features or price of the offering.
Finally, by better understanding the customer’s experience and further evolving the qualitative aspects of our relationship with the customer, we develop the connection approach which is concerned entirely with the customer and what they feel during their experience with our organisation, focusing on providing a differentiated, value-added experience which touches a deeper, emotional cord and thereby serves to bond the customer with the organisation in a meaningful, commercially beneficial way.
Generating Value Connection in B2C
The creation of a value connection and the generation of real ‘customer intimacy’ requires collective effort throughout the organisation.
Skills such as emotional awareness and assertiveness are useful when dealing optimally with customer complaints but so are technical solutions particular to the customer-interface including skills such as merchandising, trade marketing and category management.
Lastly, the organisational vision and customer-orientation cannot be translated into well-organised responsive departments and processes without top-tier direction and management. A value connection must cascade down from the top in order to ensure that the entire organisation is aligned and working coherently with this aim in mind.
Generating Value Connection in B2B
Business-to-business relationships are typically very different from business-to-consumer relationships – they are often more involved, closer and span across a much longer period of time – think months or years rather than minutes or days.
This time however, the sales process takes a different format with sales teams focusing upon entities at the scale of a company or group and requiring often more persuasive and commercially intelligent skillsets plus technical sales capabilities such as territory planning and productive key account management.
It can be argued that business-to-business relationships naturally comprise a greater element of value connection than many, simpler business-to-consumer relationships typically do. However, with increasingly automated supply chains following strict schedules and SLA’s it is important to note that these apparently deeper, longer term relationships are becoming modular and de-humanised and as such are losing the very essence which once elevated their customer-connections over and above simpler business-to-consumer relationships.
Generating Value Connection Through Marketing
Regardless of environment, there is one constant which applies to all when selling is involved – marketing. It affects and supports what every organisation does from front line promotions and branding to the manner of staff and the internal coherence of the organisation which becomes evident to customers during their interactions with staff.
Understanding the principles of value connection and how to build customer intimacy should be a key part of every marketer’s raison d’etre and as such, marketing people need to understand the principles of marketing including operational, value-based marketing and strategic marketing, plus how to build customer insight and build customer-centred brands.
Technical aspects are important to provide an understanding of core life cycle management, upon which to then execute successful initiatives such as customer-centred public relations and digital marketing exercises.
Lastly, these core marketing skills can be further developed by improving their very foundations – skills such as business acumen, political intelligence and innovation. All of which build a bigger, more coherent picture in the minds of our people, thus empowering them to more effectively build genuine, lasting value connection with customers.
So we see that value connection requires targeting the correct customers in the correct markets where the best chance of delivering genuine value exists. We need to work to build strong, lasting connections which will bind us closely with our customers in a mutually beneficial, win-win relationship that is resilient against erosion by time, competition or other factors such as price and technical features.
Such a feat can only be achieved by shaping our organisation from the top-down, to be able to generate this value and form these connections – and all of this is made possible by our people exhibiting the right skills through their shared behaviours in a way which creates a lasting impact upon customers.