I drove past a work van the other day in a parking lot. It belonged to a local electrician and the van was designed with a decal on the side featuring the company’s logo and a phone number.

Being in marketing and by force of habit I’m constantly evaluating the way businesses position their brand, the way they pitch their services, their fonts, logo design, all of that. I’m really fun at parties. At any rate, this particular van caught my attention because of the large words placed on the side of the van. It was the business’ slogan and it read: The most passionate electrician around!

On one hand, you might say the slogan worked. It caught my attention, I still remember it days later, and it was definitely different. 

On the other hand, I have no inclination to call this particular electrician next time I need an electrician. Why should I? What did I learn about him / her with this slogan? I learned they are passionate. Passion doesn’t equal value in the electric industry. Competency does, promptness does, reputability, diligence, low rates —all things I can think of that an electrician can brag about that would communicate value to the consumer.

Why do I bring this up? Because I think too often we market our businesses based on the things that are important to us. We think that consumers value what we value. And that is often not the case.

This electrician is passionate about their job, so much so that he / she thinks it is the most important thing that consumers want to hear. If this electrician put themselves in their customer’s shoes, they would find that passion is probably really low on the list of things that are important when it comes to electricians. 

If I’m hiring a teacher, I’m looking for someone passionate. If I’m hiring a speaker for a conference, I wan’t someone passionate. If I’m hiring a basketball coach, I want passion. There are certainly industries or positions where passion is very important to the consumer or to the employer.

The point is, know your target market. Whoever it is you are marketing to; whether that is B2B or B2C, know what would provide value to your audience. 

So how do you know what your audience values? In short, value is perceived when a consumer is able to contrast benefit with cost. A good practice is to ask yourself the question, how does my customer benefit by choosing me over someone else in the industry? Try and list 10 reasons. Then ask around or send a survey to people who might be in your target market and ask them, “which of these 10 things are the most important to you?” It doesn’t stop there though. If value is to be perceived, a customer should be able to easily compare the benefit with the cost.

In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than going to a high end restaurant where they leave the prices off the menu. I hate that! Sure the creamy goat cheese parfait with tart apricots topped with a seasonal fruit paired with a cherry financier sounds amazing, but what’s that going to cost me? It is hard to make a decision about anything until you know the cost involved and if a business can communicate this upfront while contrasting it to benefits, consumers can make a logical decision.

I recently bought a bicycle. I haven’t owned a bicycle in years. I just wanted something to ride to the park and back, and pull my kids behind me. Nothing fancy. I went to the store, and I knew nothing about what I was looking for. I’m not well-versed in the bicycle world. I started looking around at the different bikes and was naturally drawn to the price tag.

The price of the new bikes in this store ranged anywhere $110 to $550! Talk about a wide price range. At this point I started looking at signs on the bike. I wanted to know WHY people pay $550 for a bike, when they could spend $110 for a bike that looked very similar right next to it. Certain features, tires, shocks, brand reputation, build quality? There had to be a reason. After reading over the signs, I could see why some bikes were more expensive but I didn’t see anything convincing me based on what I needed for a little commuter bike to the park and back. But I also didn’t want the bike falling apart on me day 1. So I settled for a $150 bike.

To me, this is a good lesson in value, and a missed opportunity for the bike companies I was looking at. If you are going to charge $550 for an average looking bike, it needs to be blatantly obvious why your bike is worth $550. 

It turned out I was wrong. My bike broke less than a month after I purchased it. Thankfully I was able to return it, the build quality was just awful. I now know I can’t spend $150 and get a brand new bike that will hold up. 

What if the bike companies had made me realize this, or at least cast some doubt in my mind before spending only $150 on a bike. Would I have made the same mistake?

You see, communicating value to the consumer is essential in today’s competitive landscape. But don’t just take my word for it, the businesses in almost any industry that raise to the top are the businesses that are most effective at communicating value.

Look at Apple’s website:

Notice how front and center, you see two things. Cost and benefits. Nothing more than that. They establish how affordable it is for the consumer, by giving a couple of different payment options, then they list 4 benefits. Simple, direct, and you can be sure they have done study after study to know for sure that those are the 4 most important features to the consumer. 

Now look at Chevrolet’s website:

What do you see front and center? Cost, benefit. 

Here’s Hoover’s website:

Cost (5 easy payments and free shipping) and benefit. 

In fact, go to the website of any large brand and you will see, in some way they contrast cost with benefit. This is done to help the user establish value. Today, people are not fooled into buying things simply based on benefits. The internet allows every product or service to be easily compared and contrasted. Cost must be established and articulated tactfully, and benefits must outweigh them. Then the consumer will find value.

Josh Willink
Director of Marketing