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Apr 13
2006

Communicate Value to Your Customers

Posted by: Steve Marr

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As business leaders, we have faith in our products. And because we believe in our products, we might assume that our customers will too. We may conclude that anytime a shopper fails to buy it is because he or she just didn’t understand enough about the product. However, the reason may be that the product’s key advantage isn’t important to the customer, or that we need to improve how we communicate with our customers.

First, we must understand what our customers value, because not everything is equally important to every customer. For example, one car buyer may value safety and insist on driving a Volvo, whereas another customer values speed and therefore purchases a Viper. A third customer might choose the most economical car, based either on cost or mileage efficiency. Clearly, selling fuel efficiency to a customer who wants the fastest and most powerful car is pointless.


King Solomon writes, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out” (Proverbs 20:5, NASB). A key step in determining how to communicate value to your customers is to understand your competitive advantage—what you do well, and how your products rise above the competition—and then seek out customers who value those advantages. A good example of this is Bose, a high-end speaker manufacturer. They know that their products appeal to customers who value high quality sound systems, not those looking for the lowest price.


In the used car industry, one dealership may offer easy credit, so that virtually no buyer is turned down. However, the easy credit comes at a cast, usually higher car prices and higher interest rates. Buyers with bad credit are attracted by the available financing, but cash buyers and creditworthy buyers are turned off by the high prices. Another used car dealer sells at fixed prices, with no haggling. This is attractive to some buyers, but a turnoff those who believe they can bargain effectively and get a better price.


Second, we must successfully communicate our product’s advantage, based on the customer’s priorities, not our own. The apostle Paul writes, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, NASB). Understanding what your customers want will save you from wasting time chasing prospects who are looking for something else. An auto repair shop that specializes in used and rebuilt engines should focus on customers who are cost-conscious, whereas a shop that specializes in servicing high-performance cars would emphasize the quality of its new parts and the value of its staff’s expertise.


Third, demonstrate how your product or service meets your customers’ needs. This, too, requires an understanding of what is valued by your customers. For example, a delivery service might believe that it can offer lower per-delivery costs, reduced management time in supervising delivery people, and lower vehicle maintenance costs to potential customers who make their own deliveries. When they approach these customers, they may want to highlight the cost savings and ask the customer about headaches like managing the schedule and staff. They might also ask how much time is spent managing deliveries, and whether that time could be utilized elsewhere. Reducing management time is a major value to some customers, whereas others see little value in saving that time.


We need to be careful not to presume what our customers will value. For example, we might sell fish on the basis of promoting good health, but it still won’t sell to people who hate fish. Quicken learned this lesson when it came out with a great PC program aimed to help people plan for retirement. The package worked very well, but it just didn’t sell. Even though the program potentially could have helped millions of people, most customers apparently didn’t see the value of it.


The prophet Isaiah writes, “Present your case, the Lord says, bring forward your strong arguments” (Isaiah 41:21, NASB). When we understand how the benefits offered by our products and services correspond with what our prospective customers value, we can more effectively reach those customers. As a result, we will be able to close more deals and increase sales.

Steve Marr, Your Christian Business Coach

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