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Do you create values for your customers ?

I always tell my teammates: you must create and deliver values to the customers
They all agree, always! That’s so obvious.
But I’m always frustrated with the results.
Obviously, I must explain better about the values. The customer’s values.
How to create value for your targeted customer’s segments?

Your values? Their values?

Stay cautious when you hear somebody speaking about his company core values as an object to promote and sell to the customer. Commitment, efficiency, ethic, and others can be your company core values. They demonstrate how your company behaves …. but this is not what we speak about.

We speak about the values that generate money. We speak about the values your customers are buying.
So, don’t mix up your core values with the values your customers are buying.
Your targeted customers listen about real values for them. In other words, their perceived values.

I’ll try in this post, to reveal these values,  the values for your targeted customer’s segments.

How to define those values?

How to create value for your targeted customer’s segments?
The first and simplest way is to remember why you have created an outstanding offer. In other words, what are you delivering to your customers
Just as a reminder, an offer in marketing can be :

  • a tangible product(s) or virtual as a software,
  • a service or set of services,
  • solutions combining physical products, virtual products, software, and services.

So, you have created an outstanding offer.
Outstanding because it answers to the needs and pains of your targeted customers, in a better way than your competitors!
This sentence alone contains all the meaning of what you intend to deliver to your customers.
Keep it your mind, this is a driver of Business to Business marketing when creating a new offer.

Your offer is answering to the needs and pains of your targeted customers, in a better way than your competitors !

  • Firstly, it is for your target!
  • Secondly, it is solving needs and pains. It’s useful!
  • Last it’s having a competitive edge!

That’s simply the way to create values

Your offer can be described with a list of features.

What are the features?
Those are the attributes of your offer and the values of those attributes.

As an example of attributes and their values, let’s have a quick look at your smart-phone (which can be described with thousands of features) and name 3 of its attributes with their values.
Let’s say the size of the screen, the battery capacity, and the memory size.
For those 3 attributes, the values are given in inches, A.h and multiple of bytes respectively. Depending on the brand and on the model, those 3 attributes are going to be delivered with different values.

As example :
“Memory size of 64 GB” is a feature, or characteristic. It’s made of one attribute: Memory size, and a value: 64 GB.
My car is red! That’s one of my car’s feature, color being the attribute and red being its value.
These simple examples illustrate attributes and their values. Easy to understand?

The features of your offers are physical and measurable.
Of course, they are answering your target’s needs and pains.

High performances are not always values.

Take time to make a descriptive analysis of a product. List the features, all the features.

There are features that each and every competitor on the market is delivering and that every customer needs (I will have to write a post about what is a customer need).
Those features are compulsory. Moreover, that’s usually the features that describe the operations or functions achieved by your product.
Note that these features, not all but most of them, are not differentiating your offers from the competition. But you must provide them because your lowest target is to be at least at the same level as your competitors.
You have heard, or will hear, about “me-too” products. A very negative way to describe your product as being just the same as your competitor, just a poor copy.
You do not create value for your targeted customer’s segments by delivering me-too products.

So, to do better, why not use the values of your offer’s attributes as performances index?
Everybody will agree that the better is the value of an attribute, the higher is the performance.
Your car’s speed limit as an example. A maximum speed of 200 km/h is better than a maximum speed of 160 km/h?
It’s your car, for your daily commute to work, on speed-controlled road and highway … higher performance is therefore useless.

The better is the value of an attribute, the higher is the performance: Right and wrong!

A high performance that is useless or meaningless for a customer is just a waste of time and money.
There’s no reason to make products with higher performances than your competitor if it does not create real customer’s benefits, the benefits that your customer will buy.
It’s more efficient to make products that have differentiating advantages.

Do not create high performances ! Create the right performances

More features is not a value

The features, with their performance levels, must be perceived as a real value for your targeted customer. Therefore, you’d better know who are your customer ! (read about the segment in this post )

The right features :
– are compulsory for your offer to deliver its operation ( functionally, safely, easily, …)
– deliver performances level that matches your customer needs (life time, speed, environment, certifications, weight, ….).
Just sticking to these two assessments to create your product, gives you the feeling that your final product will be the same poor copy as your competitors. As a result, you are trying to add more and more features.

There are features that some of your competitors are delivering, but the customers do not really need them.
Those can be options sometimes or performances exceeding the usefulness. Those are almost useless features. Why do they exist?
Because there are still people who believe and promote that the more is the better. Or sometimes, because they can do it.

Hey! You are in business! You must optimize your selling price and minimize your cost!
Over performances, extra features and options are just losses if your customers are not paying for them. In other words, more features are not perceived values if the customers are not paying for it.
So be very cautious and strong about customer’s needs and values. Spending more in time, in design or in resources is a risk to your business if you can not sell those extra-features.

The right performance level is a value.

You may have already products with over-performances.
Then, when you maintain or re-design these products you must challenge the reasons-to-be of those over-performances.
The good reason “we always did like this” is a bad reason.

One day you will discover a competitor eating your market shares with much lower selling price than you.
All your expert will discuss and spend energy in reverse engineering to tell you that it’s not possible. Or they will show you that it’s lower price because the performances are lower so the quality is not so good!

I heard this so many times, and I want to kill this wrong belief: quality is not equal to higher performances. Quality is to provide the promises the first time and each time, and always in due time.

Coming back to this story of the lower selling price, the truth is elsewhere: you may face a smarter competitor that is delivering the just enough level of performance for its just defined price level.

Do not wait to discover this fact on your battlefield!
Anticipate to be the winner: know your customer’s real needs, understand his real perceived values … and deliver the right performances at the right selling price.

As an example, when your customer understanding and knowledge is demonstrating that the need for your product’s lifetime is 200 000 cycles, what the hell is the reason to spend money in creating a product that can last 1 million cycles?
There are tons of because :
your competitor does it? That’s the habit to do like this? The technology allows you to do it?
Do you have so much cash that you must spend it?

Wake up my friend.
When your customer knowledge is right, deliver the right performance at the right price is to deliver real value. While improving your own profit because you did not over-spend to create more than the real need.

The gold mine: the competitive edge.

How can you create value for your targeted customer’s segments?
There are features that none of your competitors delivers but can provide amazing answers to customer’s needs an pains. Those are your differentiation.
What can make your offer better than your competitor?
Your understanding of Who is doing what, how, when and why. The gold mine of is your ability to really discover these famous W’s.

Some may say that I’m wrong and the competitive edge is coming from new technology and innovations.
That’s not exactly like this.
New technology for the purpose of the technology itself has no value in B2B.
What is innovation in B2B while creating customer value?
It is: understanding the customer’s needs and pains and use existing or new technologies to create customer value. In other words, to answer needs and pains into an easier and more valuable manner.

When your targeted customers understanding is close to 100%, you have this unique ability to create a competitive edge.
Therefore, your offer will have features that nobody else can provide, and that are outstanding manners to solve customer needs and pains.
You know, when you hear “that’s so obvious, why nobody did it before? ” … here you are!

Features, Advantages , Benefits … Values ?

Is there an easy way to convert your offer’s features into values for your targeted customer?

Easy way?
No there isn’t any easy way. You must learn and practice every day to understand and challenge your knowledge of customer’s needs and pains. This happens when you interact with people at your customer’s. Nowhere else.

To simplify your life, I’d like to recall a training I had in the ’90s (oh yes, time is flying):
Features are the observable and measurable attributes of any product or service. Features describe your product.
Advantages are the way the features create benefits for your targeted customer. Advantages tell what your product is doing.
Benefits are personal gains your customers get from your products. Benefits are the reasons why your customers need your product.

Going through these 3 chained definitions can help you to name the values of your offers.
Look like easier to do, but it does not replace your customer experience.

People and Values.

I’d like you to take some steps back. A little bit away from your offers, from your product.
Then you see that there’s several human being, directly and indirectly taking advantages from the values of your products.
That’s important!
That’s important because your offer must also deliver values as personal gains, some benefits. What are they?
You will discover them along with my different posts, let me list the more important :
– Money-saving, your offer helps your customer to decrease his direct and indirect costs.
– Time-saving, your offer helps your customer to be more reactive and more efficient.
– Quality, your offer helps your customer to increase the quality of his own deliverable.
– Knowledge, your offer brings your customer a new valuable knowledge ( a knowledge he can turn into money)
– personal branding ( more and more important into our digital world) , your offer makes your customer recognized by his peers for his wise choices and decisions

Perceived values

I encourage you to create and maintain your list of customer’s values in a few categories, an easy way to use :
The personal gains – addressing human-beings and sometimes selfish concerns
The competitive edge – the gold mine that you, marketers as treasure hunters, are digging every day when listening and observing your customers as persona.
The features – offer’s attributes with their right level of values, challenging the over performances.

The value you give to something is the combination of the features, plus the competitive edge, plus your personal gains. That’s exactly the same for your customers.
In other words, this is what your customer gets when he will buy your offer.

How can you create value for your targeted customer’s segments?
Finally, what is the perceived value?
It is the ratio between what you get and what you paid.
In a mathematical way to write it, the perceived value is equal to the sum of everything you can get from an offer, divided by the price you have to pay to get this offer to be yours.

Value = What you get / Price you paid

This is a wonderful ratio because it is simple and obvious. Easy to remember!
This is the value that is perceived by your targeted customer.

Mathematically, this wonderful ratio demonstrates that the highest is the perceived values, the highest can be the selling price. As well as it shows that your price must be low if your offer doesn’t deliver enough.

What you should keep in mind: Delivering the right perceived value is generating more sustainable and higher revenues and profits.

You are welcome to share your thoughts and questions about the VALUE topic. There are so much to tell and share about it.
Simply leave your comments in the below form …

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B2B marketing Beginner Marketing Marketing basics Marketing definition

What is B2B Marketing ?

B2C, B2B or BtoB, B2B2B, B2B2C, just an extract from an acronyms list to leave the dummies outside of the expert’s discussion. That’s bad !
Like many other domains, the marketing and his folks have an incredible list of acronyms and expert vocabularies to protect their private backyard.
There’s nothing better than the usage of acronyms when you want to loose your non-expert audience.
I hate acronyms ! So, let’s kill them !

B2C ?

B2C stands for “Business to Consumers“. Therefore, B2C marketing is about the activities I described in a previous article, that target consumers as customers. marketing?
Basically you or me into our daily life, buying and using goods : from food to smartphone, from water to membership of fitness club…
I may write later about B2C, but the main subject of this article is B2B marketing , let’s speak about it.

Companies as customers
Photo by Rodney Minter-Brown on Unsplash

B2B?

Our key question, what is B2B marketing ?
B2B stands for “Business to Business” .
Then it’s about the marketing activities that target companies as customer.
Let’s list a few examples :
. Rolls Royce selling engines to Boeing, that’s Business to Business.
. Foxconn manufacturing iPhone for Apple, that’s Business to Business.
. SalesForce selling services and software, that’s Business to Business.

Business to Business is a huge market, covering many fields , from raw material to machinery and tools , from stand alone software to services, from energy generation to waste treatments. We speak of trillions US dollars.

Like Business to Consumers, Business to Business marketing starts and ends with customers.
It is  targeting your most relevant market segments, discovering and learning about the customers, creating and delivering values.

Who are the customers in Business to Business marketing ?

The customer is always the one who decides that the value your deliver is really a value for him or her.
The customer will buy, or will influence the decision-maker to buy.
Human beings involved in companies decision process are exactly the same who are  buying consumer goods.
If their behavior varies upon their role ( I mean as actor into an enterprise, or as a individual consumer) , their expectations are unconsciously cross-influenced by their two experiences.
The border between B2C and B2B can easily be drawn :  target is consumers on one side , target is companies on the other side. But customers are human beings and they cross this border all the time.

Market Segmentation in Business-to-Business.

What is targeting in B2B marketing ?
Photo by Simeon Jacobson on Unsplash

Business-to-Consumers market segments are usually done by  definition of social and cultural groups , impacted by level of education, age, receptivity to social media, income categories …. And you can put each and every individual in one of your defined box : the market segments.

Business-to-Business market segments are usually defined using other dimensions :
 – the category of industry type ( such as mining, electronic, automotive, chemicals ….),
 – the activity ( such as machine builder for segment/application X, building and structures for segment/application X, integrator for segment/application X, and much more).
You can always create your market segmentation by using very standards categories such those of NAICS : (one more acronyms to keep away ignorant) North American Industry Classification System.
Above all, be lazy ! No need to re-invent the wheel , use what is already available and adapt it to your own need.

The good market segmentation is the one that is useful for your organization

It’s not necessarily the academic one.
Useful for your organization, that’s common good sense : your peers understand the way you define each segment and it gives you powerful data to select the most attractive and achievable targets.
Your good segmentation is your foundation to target your winning battle-fields.

A classical mistake 

The mistake I always see : Marketer in Business-to-Business are defining their segments with industry classification.
However they always skip or disregards the social and cultural criteria.
After that, no wonder if a product that perfectly fits an industry in Europe, will never raise in the same industry in China !
I did make the mistake. I have to admit that I had to live several years in China to understand and take the cultural criteria into account
These social and cultural criteria can be strong differentiation and added values when creating new offers.

Understand who’s who.

who are the customers ?

More than in Business-to-Consumers, Business-to-Business marketing must take care of the people involved with your offers. I would say, impacted by your offer !
Marketers often tend to mix their targeted customers with a limited number of people, those they can easily interact.
You should never skip the guys who will implement , set, maintain or use daily the product.
Above all, customers-as-personas are one of the most valuable knowledge in Business-to-Business marketing,
You must always dig deeper and know who is doing what,how and why.
Therefore, you must take the necessary time to understand each and every persona concerned directly or indirectly by your offer.


Business-to-Business marketing is : dealing with people.

who is the real use of your product ?
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Coming back to the basics : the foundations of every organization are people.
Organization being often structure in a pyramidal way , it makes easy to list each sub-function and then categorize and describe the personas that marketers must understand.
Do not forget also to understand the customer of your customer !
Sometimes named as the end-users.
The values you create and deliver must address this end-user’s real needs and pains !
In our Cartesian logic education, we would build our personas-understanding from the top of the pyramid. From the C-levels, down the base of the pyramid : the workers or the end-user.
As a result, the understanding of the real user , or end-user, is influenced by what we discover and learn from the above levels. And our final picture is not the real one.

Who to Start with ?

When digging in customer’s need, please start by the bottom of the organizations.
Then you must start by the end : the end-users. The end is the beginning !
Start with the real user of your product.
Then learn from other levels to understand better the decisions processes and indirect needs that your offer must answer to.
Even if this looks like a linear process, from bottom to top, it’s not!
You must challenge your learning and knowledge’s : always come back to your personas end-user to check and value what you may have discovered. 

Real life vs objectives

Ideally, every companies would like their marketers to follow a timely defined process.
In a very summarized steps approach :
1- describe customer needs
2- create values
3- monetize the values

But the reality is quite different:
The marketers must discover and learn about their customer’s personas every day.
Each interaction with a customer is a unique and priceless moment. The unique moment to learn more about who is doing what, how and why.

Projects to create new offers, as well as to maintain and evolve existing offers, must be fed by marketing knowledge.
This knowledge is acquired along years of customer’s experience. Therefore, the marketing knowledge can not only be fed by  short campaign of interviews or customer-interest-check meetings.
What is B2B marketing : Business-to-Business marketing is dealing with people, interacting with the personas of your targeted segments.

Marketing needs time.

The activities I describe TAKES TIME.
But it’s the only  way to get robust offer requirements.
Marketing is delivering business opportunities from customer understanding ; those marketing facts are the trigger of offer creation and offer evolution.
Marketing facts are also the triggers for design thinking and co-creation.

Business-to-Business delivers values

Finally, marketing must deliver the values : Show and Tell .
The tools and media used can be very similar to those of Business-to-Consumers. But the how to
“show&Tell ” must take into account that Business-to-Business customers have a different behavior.
They don’t buy your product because of the product.
In fact they don’t care about your product!
They care that your created value is solving one or several of their needs or pain points.
The list can be long and embraces topics such as productivity, safety, return on investments, easiness, robustness ….
Therefore , your Show&Tell must speak more about customer than product.

Long-term but short-time ?

Business-to-Business customers are usually loyal and long-term customer, and remember : they don’t buy , they invest.
Therefore their decision can take time. Sometimes months, even years.
You must never skip those key facts when delivering your values to your Business-to-Business customers.
Messages must tell about how their issue is solved and communication Campaigns must last. Targeted media must be those your customers-as-personas are used to get … and have time to go through.

That’s a paradox in Business-to-Business Marketing :
Excited by the tremendous successes from brands acting in Business-to-Consumer, companies managers ask to copy/paste those successes in Business-to-Business. Awaiting for short-terms business results.
Business-to-Business marketer’s roles and responsibilities are to create the future , but the paradox is that they struggle under pressure for immediate actions and short-term results.

In a nutshell.

What is B2B marketing ?
Business to Business marketing is :
understand the needs then create and deliver values, to the various and complex organizations of companies, and to their own customers : other companies and sometimes consumers.
Therefore, Business-to-Business marketer’s value stands in their abilities and skills to listen and understand the real needs of the various personas along the decision chain, from the real end-user up to the c-level of the targeted customer segments.
It takes time.