Value Marketing Just May Quell the Consumer Revolution
Over the last few years, marketers have been mourning the death of various marketing theories, truths and channels out of one side of their mouths while declaring, "the consumer is in control" out of the other. But what does "marketing is dead" or "the consumer is in control" mean?
At Intouch, it means a few things. First, marketing messages have become nothing more than background noise. Moving a customer through the continuum from awareness to conversion to affinity has become increasingly difficult because marketers refuse to adapt to a changing environment built on conversation. Especially in the pharma industry, where having a conversation with customers becomes awkward due to regulations and the perceived risk of what may come out of that conversation. Frankly, one-way communications no longer serve the needs of customers. And, regulated industry or not, brands must recognize this.
That being said, customers are also much harder to contact. Now, more than ever, they have many resources at their disposal. People no longer sit back and watch TV. Sure TVs are still on between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., but during programming (not just commercials), people are actively doing something else—searching for information on their laptop, texting with a friend, updating their status on Facebook or all three. Multitasking and multiscreen viewing have become common amongst consumers and has made the marketers’ job of identifying preferred channels next to impossible.
For marketers it feels like consumers are in full-blown revolt, using technology to avoid our messaging. But, there is a silver lining. Our job has become more complex, but we are finding success as brands become a trusted source of information or provide value beyond their product. What consumers are looking for today are brands that fit their lifestyle down to the most granular details, brands that are willing to talk to them instead of at them, and brands that provide genuine value.
What is value marketing?
The philosophy behind value marketing is not new, nor is it revolutionary. It is simply providing value through a multichannel approach for your audience that serves their needs and encourages interaction with the brand. At Intouch, we have broken that definition down into four simple components:
Many marketers think about multichannel in the sense of providing a consistent message or repurposed content across various channels. That’s not quite how we think about multichannel in the context of value marketing. To provide value, you must not think about your brand’s marketing mix but instead focus on your audience’s channel mix. Value comes from utilizing the appropriate channels for your audience as they intend you to use them. This may mean that Twitter becomes a repository of press releases or a customer service outlet. It may mean a TV commercial is used to raise awareness about a patient mentor program. Those decisions are now easier based on customer preference and integrated marketing strategies.
Warren Buffett said, "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." So, what are you giving your customers beyond your product? Are you serving their needs? Do they see you as a faceless corporation? Or are you a partner they can talk to that will change their product based on customer feedback? One of the best examples of consumer-centric thinking is Starbucks’ "My Starbucks Idea." Not only does Starbucks ask customers to provide ideas for changes to the company and products, they listen and implement those ideas.
For many years, the only service provided in coordination with a product was customer service—a place for customers to lodge complaints or ask questions when they were having trouble. Granted, that is a valuable service, but there are so many more extended services that can be provided around any given product. This is especially true in the pharma industry where health and wellness as part of a treatment regimen is vital. And, as proven by Weight Watchers and Fitbit, some of those services may come at a premium once you have gained a customer’s trust as a resource.
To truly provide value to customers, we must go beyond the normal usage data or extrapolated sales lift numbers that we rely on as key performance indicators. We must get to the actual transactional data to expose relevant customer behavior. It’s not that today’s data points don’t provide good trending information, but the numbers are inflated and success is extrapolated from huge jumps in logic. If our goal is providing value, we must know the actual actions taken by customers so we can build robust CRM systems and replicate conversion, adherence and sales behavior across audiences.
Value benefits everyone
It’s easy to recognize the many benefits of value marketing to customers, but there would be no point to it if there were no benefit to the brand. And value marketing as a theory would be flawed if value weren’t a two-way proposition. So, what is the value for businesses?
There are plenty of "soft" benefits. Value marketing helps companies develop more impactful content and become a more informed resource for customers. It also allows marketers to create a more valuable and engaging experience for customers, or replicate certain consumer behaviors that lead to increased conversion. But all of these "soft" benefits lead to some very "hard" success metrics. Providing value to customers leads to longer lifetime customer value and sells more products over time. It increases customer satisfaction, reduces churn and helps grow the 20 percent customer base that brings in 80 percent of your revenue.
Although value marketing is not a new concept, many companies have abandoned it. Maybe it is time to dust off and update this old philosophy. It may just quell the consumer revolt and make your brand an irreplaceable part of your customers’ lives.