Value Focus: Which aspect(s) of your product should your marketing emphasize?

As a MarketingExperiments blog reader, I can already assume a few things about you. You’re an evidence-based marketer. You are an effective communicator. You have an exceptional understanding of marketing. You are skilled at analyzing campaign effectiveness. And you have experience in a wide range of marketing disciplines.

But if you were pitching yourself at a job fair, and could emphasize only one of these elements about yourself, which would it be?

Savvy marketer that you are, I’m guessing you would first size up the company you’re applying to — ask questions of the recruiter, take a look at the booth and read some of the literature — before deciding what value to highlight when presenting yourself.

The way you approach marketing your products and services should be no different.

 

Don’t bury the lead

Almost every product or service has several ways it benefits customers. Your challenge is to determine the value focus — which element of value will you lead with in your marketing.

You may highlight more than one element of value as secondary benefits on your website, in your print ads and in your email marketing. However, there likely is a place within your marketing where you have to choose what the primary value focus should be — the headline of your print ad, the hero space on your homepage or, perhaps, the entirety of an email.

Let me give you an example from my own customer journey.

 

Connect with customer motivation

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns

I recently purchased a Nissan LEAF. In looking at other cars compared to the LEAF, the car I chose offered many elements of value that Nissan highlights on its website:

  • Save money when you use the car — The car is 100% electric, so, as Nissan’s site says, you will “Never Pay For Gas Again. #KickGas” Another benefit is lower maintenance costs since it doesn’t need oil changes, belts, etc.
  • Nerd out — The car has a certain appeal to early adopters, just because it is electric. Plus, you can access several features (like turning the A/C on to have the car cool down before you get in it) from an app or through a portal on a website using something called telematics. It also has one of those wireless keys that you keep in your pocket when you start the car. Nifty. One headline on Nissan’s microsite for the LEAF is “High-Tech. Low-Impact.”
  • 100% fun — This is from a Nissan tagline: “100% electric. 100% fun.” This is kind of hard to quantify since some people will have fun driving a 4×4 pickup truck through a muddy field, which is a very different experience than what the LEAF offers. But I do find the car fun to drive, almost like driving an iPhone.
  • Save the planet — Since it runs on electricity, the car does not pollute directly. In fact, Nissan stamps “Zero Emission” right on the side of the car.

    Photo: RACC
  • Performance — Some carmakers sell their cars by screaming about a HEMI or horsepower or overhead cams. Nissan promotes “100% torque, 100% fun.” Because it’s an electric car, the engine doesn’t have to rev and shift gears to accelerate. It has instant torque. Now I’m not a car guy, so I don’t really understand or care about what that means. But for driving on the highway, acceleration is important. And for a small car, it does accelerate quickly.
  • Safety — Again, it’s a smaller car, so safety could be a concern. It does have airbags all over the place — popping out of seats and the roof. Though this would seem to be an important issue to car buyers, I didn’t see any prominent mention of safety on Nissan’s microsite for the LEAF. 

These are just a few of the possible value elements that popped into my head. I’m sure there are many more.

When I was at the car lot, the salesman was able to size me up, ask me a few questions and determine my motivation. This meant he could easily pivot from one value focus to the other based on my responses.

Nissan has a bigger challenge on its microsite for the LEAF. Which points should it emphasize most prominently?

The path Nissan has taken at the top of its microsite is not to include a value focus at all. In fact, there isn’t even really a headline.

 

The closest thing to a headline is “2016 Nissan LEAF®.” This does serve to orient the visitor that they are on the right page, but it doesn’t present any value.

The other two major emphasized elements do not focus on the value either. Rather, before presenting value, the LEAF microsite communicates the cost (in this case, the starting price of its base S model) and an anxiety reducer (in this case, range anxiety, by highlighting how far the car can drive).

Below the fold, the microsite starts communicating value with a rotating animation of six banners (what used to be known as a Flash banner) listing different elements of value.

 

Simply put, Nissan has not chosen a value focus for the LEAF on this microsite. (This is not unique to the LEAF for Nissan; this microsite is a template it uses for all of its car models.)

Now, one could make the argument that visitors to this microsite are already so motivated that they don’t need any value communication and their bigger concerns are price and range anxiety.

However, even if they are already motivated, you should reinforce that value once they hit the site. After all, a car purchase is a major decision, and you want to keep driving them up the funnel. It’s also a way to let them know the LEAF is the car for them. “Hey, we understand you. You’re among friends.”

Also, there are likely many less motivated car buyers who are just kicking the tires on several cars, and thus visiting many car sites. By leading with value (and the right value focus), you have the opportunity to turn those few moments of interest into deeper research about the vehicle you’re selling.

If we take a look at the nearest competitor to the Nissan LEAF — the Tesla Model S — we can see that its landing page does lead with value. (It might be a stretch to consider these two models competitors due to the huge price discrepancy — and therefore, possibly differing motivations of its buyers — but they are the two best-selling all-electric cars in the U.S. and comprise 58% of all pure electric cars sold in the United States in 2015.)

 

Like the LEAF’s page, the headline is pure orientation — “Model S” — however, the copy below focuses on value such as “Highest Safety Rating in America” and “Autopilot with Autosteer and Summon.”

 

How to determine your product’s value focus for your marketing

We’ve discussed how it’s important to communicate value in your marketing. But how do you determine what the value focus should be? Here is a simple process to get you started:

Step #1. Understand the product

Effective marketing merely clarifies the value inherent in the product, so begin with the product itself. What elements of value does it provide to customers? If you weren’t involved with the product creation, talk to product developers, business analysts or business leaders who were. Then read professional ratings and customer reviews of your product to get an outside perspective on how well the product delivers on that intended value.

Step #2. Determine the persona

As I said above, there are many reasons to love a LEAF. If I were running a print ad about the car in “Organic Life” magazine, I would focus on the zero emissions and environmental/sustainability aspect. However, if I were writing an ad for “WIRED” magazine, I would focus on the techie/early adopter aspect. Your products likely has more than one customer segment. Before creating the messaging for a specific customer touchpoint, determine which segment or segments you will be communicating with.

Step #3. Ask the customer

Interview current and previous customers. Those who didn’t buy. And those who are just in the segment you’re targeting who may not even know about your product. Participate in forums and LinkedIn Groups that are popular with different customer segments. Talk to customer service, sales and other customer-facing positions in your organization. Read the magazines, blogs and Tumblrs that your ideal customers read, listen to their podcasts, and monitor their communication on social networks. Conduct focus groups. These are just some examples of ways you can ask customers what element of value most resonate with them.

Step #4. Test

The customer is always right. But the customer doesn’t always know what he wants. So it’s not enough to just ask your customers about value. This data simply helps you create hypotheses to test with real-world customers to see which value focuses generate the best response. Test value focus in your email. Test in your PPC ads. Identify elements of value that could be the most compelling value focus, and then run follow-up tests throughout the customer journey to discover how to best message that value focus.

 

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, @DanielBurstein.

 

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