Uncovering new forms of value

Uncovering new forms of value

Figuring out what consumers truly value these days is not easy at all.  At the heart of every successful product or service is the concept of value that your company is exchanging with the consumer.  Those consumers will give you their money, time and attention in exchange for value.  I often coach companies for improving the impact of their sales presentations and I regularly see them struggling with defining a differentiating value set.  The question is: where to find inspiration?

Well, look at Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for inspiration regarding value in a B2C context.  Maslow talked about basic physiological and safety needs.  Once these are met, it moves on to psychological needs like belonging, love and feelings of accomplishment. And at the top of the pyramid are self-fulfillment needs, like achieving your full potential.   Imagine that you now think about a “value model pyramid”.  It may have different layers; different value categories like functional, emotional, life-changing and social impact.  

Functiontal elements of value save time, simplify things, reduce risk or effort, reduce cost, inform, connect, etc. Emotional elements of value give reward, offer fun, provide access to something, have therapeutic value, … Life-changing elements of value provide hope, self-actualization, motivation or belonging.  And social impact can also be a value element: the idea of self-transcendence.

Think about smartphones.  Smartphones are really just bundles of elements of value: you have your friends in your device.  You have tools that help you to organize your life, like calendars.  You have access to your money.  You have entertainment, through video or audio.  So it's easy to understand why smartphones have been so successful: they simply deliver on multiple elements of value in a way that is unprecedented in business history.  Take the example of creditcards.  OK, they give access to your money, but they offer also extra value through “rewarding you”.  A lot of credit cards indeed provide rewards as a driver of loyalty.  

Apart from B2C, working on business-to-business elements of value is perhaps more challenging.  When companies are selling to other businesses, there are often multiple decision-makers around the table: that what procurement professionals value, for instance, can be quite different from a business unit head or a project leader.

The minimum B2B sellers need to guarantee – think of it as the basis of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – is to optimize prices, meet specifications, comply with regulations, and follow ethical practices.  But that’s the basic minimum.  What about cost reduction, simplification, flexibility, responsiveness, expertise, risk reduction, configurability, marketability, network expansion, reputational assurance, etc. 

So the question is: how can your company expand its value proposition and stand out from your competitors? Abraham Maslow may be a source of inspiration...

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